Frenchie Davis Talks 'American Idol,' New Album & More

[caption id="attachment_83351" align="aligncenter" width="607"]frenchie davis The incomparable Frenchie Davis. Photo Credit: Getty Images[/caption]

Thanks to XL Nightclub, we received the chance to sit down with the incomparable Frenchie Davis, who most know her from her abrupt exit of American Idol 8 years ago, and who recently resurfaced on The Voice this summer. But before and in between reality shows, Frenchie has worked on Broadway as Effie White in Dreamgirls, won a Grammy for her performance in “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and is releasing her first album, Just Frenchie, with the lead single “Love’s Got a Hold On Me.”

Later Saturday night, we got a chance to stand among the crowd full of bears and twinks and the gays in between to revere in the amazing vocals of Miss Davis. She was clad in a forming fitting black dress that showcased her vuluptuous curves, and her face was beat to the high heavens. The same place most of her notes went while singing. Frenchie sang "Love Takes Over," which she performed on The Voice making it to #3 on the iTunes charts. She had the crowd clapping their hands and snapping their fingers as she sashayed acrossed the stage giving vocals that many of these female artists aren't able to. Then she performed her song "Love's Got a Hold on Me," revving the crowd further. The experience was exilharating.

Read the interview below and discover how Frenchie feels about leaving Idol only to be a part of a new reality show 8 years later. She has many inspiring words for aspiring singers and people afraid to come out. But anyone will actually be able to take a nice piece of wisdom away. And get a look at what you can expect from her debut album. And be sure to check out her website for more.

Do you like speaking about your American Idol past?

I don’t dislike it. I don’t particularly like it either. It’s something that I’ve accepted as a part of what I have to do….

Can you explain why you left so abruptly, and how it changed the perception of you achieving your dreams?

Well I think everyone knows. It’s just a subject that’s been revisited so many times over the past ten years that I don’t think it needs to be revisited again…. It was eye opening. I definitely think that for a while I allowed that experience to frighten me. I think I let it scare me away from really wholeheartedly putting myself out there. During that time, Broadway really ended up being a blessing because it allowed me to do what I love everyday and not have to be out there out there. I think I let it scare the hell out of me a little bit, and I think for a long time that fear held me back from really trying to see what would happen if I wholeheartedly pursue a recording career.

How long did it take you to come out of that feeling of fear?

It was just a gradual process. Everyday I’m still healing from that experience. Even today. I’m not even going to lie. Because everyday you have to choose to forgive. Everyday you have to choose to be happy…. But so many of the other experiences that have come along have allowed me to see that there was always a purpose, and that all of it happens for a reason. The thing about living your life in truth is that it means the good truth and the ugly truth…. I was really just forced to come out of it when I was performing at a gay club in West Hollywood…. There was a woman having drinks in the audience and she turned out to be a casting director for a new show called ‘The Voice.’ She approached me after my performance and was like, “I’d really love if you would consider auditioning for this new show I’m working on….” She was convinced it was a really good thing for me.

Do you think if you would have stayed on American Idol, you would’ve won?

I don’t know. I think thinking that way can be dangerous. So I don’t even go there. I deal with what actually did happen. And how best to move forward from there because there’s a lot of shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I start asking those questions then I’ll start asking, if I were thin and white, would I have even been kicked off in the first place. I just think that’s a slippery slope and it’s a dangerous path. I try not to go there…. I believe that you kind of just have to walk the path that’s set in front of you and trust that something wonderful is at the end there for you….

Was it a way to redeem yourself?

No, redeem myself from what? I didn’t feel the need to have to redeem myself because at the end of the day I don’t owe anyone an explanation. It’s very easy for people to sit on a financially comfortable high horse and judge what someone does to pay their college tuition. But unless they’re going to write a ten or twenty thousand-dollar check to put an inner city child through college, then they really don’t have anything to say about my decisions….

How was it working on ‘The Voice?’

It was great experience over all. Being able to meet Cee-Lo and Adam Levine, and I’ve been a Cee-Lo fan since he was with Goodie Mob. I have some of his rap albums that I listened to in college. And to follow his career all this time and see the way he’s evolved and been able to transform himself, it’s been really inspiring….

Going back to working on Broadway, how did you get involved in that?

I was actually a theater major in college. I studied theater at Howard University in DC. So this was kind of always what I thought I would be doing. I was in drama club in high school. I was in the school choir. We grew up poor, but my mother would save money to take us to the ballet once a year or take us to see a professional production. It was important to my parents that they were able to expose to art and culture and things like that. We always grew up with art being a part of our lives as a way to enrich our education. It was always their philosophy that education is the guaranteed way to rise above and become something better. They always instilled that in us and incorporated art into that as well. So for as long as I could remember I always loved the theater and musicals. Little Shop of Horrors was my favorite movie when I was growing up. I would watch it everyday after school. And it’s so crazy how life comes full circle because Tichina Arnold is like my big sister now. I grew up watching her everyday on Little Shop of Horrors. Then my first professional job was playing that part with a theater company in Germany. Now, years later we play cards at her house on the weekends.

Explain the difference between life in the theater and being a Pop star.

There’s a discipline required when you do theater that’s not necessarily required to do other things…. When you’re in a show you have to deliver eight shows a week and there’s no autotune, there’re no do-overs, there’re no retakes, there’re no call and cut. Curtain goes up at 8PM and you have to nail that shit from 8-10 eight times a week. Non-negotiable. So there’s a discipline that you get just from having to do that, that I think is sometimes missing in the music business. I think that’s why I love the theater so much because it just gives you an artistic discipline that some artists just don’t have.

How did you enjoy playing Effie White in Dream Girls?

It was a great experience. It was fun. I made life long friends doing that show. Some of the friends I still call and kiki with to this day. Some of my closest friends are friends that I made doing that show.

Did they make you wear a wig?

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Honey, that ain’t gonna have no bald Effie. Child [laughs]…. It was fine. I’ve worn my hair a gabillion different kind of ways. I’m flexible.

Why the shaved head?

I just love it. One day I was cutting some color off and it was really short, and I loved the way it looked…. And I just fell in love with it. It’s easy. It cut my getting-ready time in half. Because now all I have to do is pick something cute to wear and beat face. And luckily I have good skin, so on a day I don’t fell like wearing makeup I just put on some moisturizer and a little bit of lip balm and be done.

This summer you kind of had a “coming out” experience. How was that?

It’s so crazy that people call it my coming out because I came out when I was sixteen-years-old [laughs]. I guess there’s significant difference between telling your friends and your family this is who I am and then allowing media scrutiny into your personal life. It’s like everybody knows. No one’s surprised [laughs]. Somebody tweeted that actually like, “Frenchie Davis came out and the world is utterly unshocked. So, what’s next?” Everyone who knows me knows that I’m attracted to men and women. But I had dated mostly men. And then I met and fell in love with my partner who I’m with now. I was doing an interview and they asked me directly about my sexuality. And in a perfect world it’s really nobody’s damn business unless they’re sleeping with me. In that moment, I felt like we live in a world where people want to try and bully us into having to hide who we are. And I don’t want to do that. It was in that moment that it was like I’m either going to answer this question honestly or I’m going to give into the pressure that’s out there.

Did you ever think that answering honestly could hinder your career?

I didn’t think about that because… stage lights dim. Those stage lights will dim one day, regardless. No matter who I live for or who I try to please. Those stage lights will go down and the audiences will go home. And when that happens, who am I? What do I have? At the end of the day I it’s different for each person and it’s all about what’s important to you. What’s important to me is being able to look myself in the mirror and know that I live my life in truth.

How do you think your fans respond to that?

I think that they respect it. All this time I’ve had such a huge following in the gay community; I’ll even say that it made my fans love me more. And I just don’t want to live my life like that. I don’t want to live my life like that. I don’t want to live a life where I have to hide or apologize for who I am. I don’t want to have to give ambiguous answers about who I am. Life is too short for that. I feel really blessed. I’m really happy. I’m really loved. All this shit could be gone tomorrow and she’s still going to be there. And when you find that in someone, you owe it to each other to not apologize for it….

How do you think being the person who doesn’t fit the mold of what society says is perfect affects you and your career, and what decisions do you then make?

I’m 33-years-old so I’ve had a lot of practice with not fitting the mold because I never did. Even before I shaved all my hair off. We can either spend our lives miserable because we’re frustrated about not being like everybody else. Or we can look at the fact that we’re not like everybody as a gift and embrace it as such and love ourselves and enjoy our lives. And I choose to do the latter. I believe that happiness is a choice. I want to be happy. I want to enjoy this life.

Do you ever feel any pressure?

I think there’s always pressure. And I think in any situation, particularly when you’re in this business, I think you have to decide early on what pressure you’re going to have to succumb to. I hate when bullies win. I’m for the good guys. The good guys should win. For instance, I did an interview on the Tom Joyner morning show, and it was so crazy because I love Tom Joyner and I grew up on him. The interview was kind of crazy and a little bit disrespectful, and ended with someone yelling, “Let a man into the bedroom.” … It was almost like a bullying kind of situation. I always think of situations like that and remind myself people like that win when you don’t stand firm in who you are unapologetically….

Tell me something about your upcoming album?

Well my album is called “Just Frenchie.” And I named it that because I’ve been on two reality shows and in a bunch of Broadway shows, so most of the people who’ve hard me sing have heard me sing other people’s music. This is the first time where it’s my music. It’s just me. It’s nobody else. I’m not covering somebody else’s songs. It’s just Frenchie. The first single is called “Love’s Got a Hold On Me,” and it just entered the top 20 on the dance charts on Billboard. I’m super excited about it because it’s very gratifying not only as a singer but as a businesswoman, too, because I released it independently on my own label. And to look at the Billboard charts and see my name and then at the label and see “Frenchie Davis Music Group,” it’s like, okay I did it [laughs].

What is the direction of this album?

It’s dance music. I’ve fallen in love with dance music over the past couple of years. And it’s probably because of my huge gay following and all of the prides I’ve sung at and all the house divas and DJs that I’ve become close friends with. It’s just sort of a love for it that’s sort of evolved over time…. I wanted to make people dance, but if they have a moment to pause and listen, I want them to be able to hear lyrics that mean something and hear good singing. I was inspired by Donna Summer a lot because people love dancing to her music. People saw disco as this fad that was kind of watered down and it was all about dancing and partying. But when you stripped away all that you still had a damn good vocalist and some good lyrics in Donna Summer….

Do you ever feel like Pop is overshadowing other genres or artists that are doing things with great lyrics and vocals?

I love Pop music. Pop music has an interesting history. It’s always been a marriage of a bunch of different kind of influences…. That’s the formula for Pop music. You take all these different things and then you water it down a little bit to make it more appealing to the masses…. I think Pop music is great. The reality is it’s not going to be an easy journey for artists who are in it for the art, because it does some times seem to be about so many other things that have absolutely nothing to do with music. But I just feel like you can’t focus on that too much…. If you can’t beat them, join them [laughs].

What would be one thing you would tell an inspiring singer?

Just stay true to yourself. And that doesn’t mean it’s going to always be easy to do that. It doesn’t mean that people are always going to be welcoming of that. But it’s worth it in the long run. We lost a lot of great singers these past couple of years. I get emotional when I think about Whitney, because I just wonder what her life would’ve been like if she had been free [tears up]…. You got to have people that give a shit. You got to have those kind of people around you. Because all those other people when you start trying to please them it could lead to your demise, and then you’re all by yourself anyway….

What’s something you would tell someone afraid to come out entirely or to more than their immediate circle?

Nobody’s expecting any of us to go march in the street and be the spokesperson for all gay people. Just like I have to tell some of my white friends, “Like bitch I am not the spokesperson for all black girls. Get your life together [laughs].” Nobody’s expecting you to do that. Find the balance. You don’t owe anybody an explanation. You don’t owe anybody anything. You owe whoever you choose to share your life with honesty. But other than that it’s really nobody else’s damn business. I just say find the balance between not giving a damn about how other people are going to process what you need to do to be okay with you…. It’s a scary thing to be open about who you are. But it’s even scarier to have to live your life in secrecy and be afraid that somebody’s going to find out…. I just prefer to be sane…. We all have a destiny. And telling the truth about who we are ain’t going to change it. Look at Frank Ocean. People talk shit about him for coming out and he’s nominated for six Grammys. And he will be like the first openly gay artist to accomplish that…. He should win…. His destiny is not going to be disturbed because there’s homophobia in the world. Just like it’s still racist people in America but it didn’t stop Obama from winning that election…. Just trust that what’s for you is for you and being true to yourself will only enhance that and not take it away.

Are you satisfied?

Yeah. I am. I’m content. I’m always looking for how I can grow and do better and be better. I’ll say I’m content and looking forward to continuing to grow.

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