Unapologetic and Unafraid of Being Herself
Frenchie Davis tells it, the way it is
Since Star Search first aired in 1983, there have been over twenty different talent-based Reality TV shows. From these shows, few people are memorable. Of those, even fewer have real talent. Frenchie Davis, in a rare move, has appeared on two talent shows and she is not apologizing for her choices. Those choices separate her from other show contestants. In a sit down interview, ten minutes away from where she grew up in Los Angeles, we talked about her new single, her experience on The Voice, her status as one of the go-to divas for Pride events, and her recent coming out as bisexual or re-coming out.
Victor Yates: Tell me about your new single, “Love’s Got A Hold On Me.” It’s very dance-pop, which is a switch from the Frenchie sound your fans are use to. What motivated this sound?
Frenchie Davis: A number of things contributed to my shift to dance music. I guess it started with my growing fan base within the gay community. Many of them are fans of dance music. I would perform at various Pride events and gay clubs. The DJs there and people I would meet would say, your voice would sound amazing over house tracks. I was performing for the gay boys in Brazil for Carnival, where I met DJ Tony Moran. He said I’m working on an album and I would love to have you on one of my tracks. I sang on one of his tracks [“You Are”]. It ended up peeking at No. 5 on the Billboard Dance Charts. We didn’t push it or market it.
VY: That’s the great thing about the music industry today. Once someone gets hold of something, it can quickly pick up.
FD: Word of mouth can do so much. It happened with the Tony Moran record, because he has a huge following and the gay boys have followed me throughout my career. By word of mouth, it grew to a No. 5 record, which I’m not mad at. The people above me were Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Rihanna. So I was in good company. Then I was performing at a gay club one night, and the casting director from The Voice, happened to be in the audience. She told me that she was working on a new show, from the same producers who did The Sing Off. Cee Lo and Christina Aguilera would be involved and she thought it could be a great vehicle for me. I was apprehensive at first, because of my experience with Idol. But after soul searching, I realized it was fear holding me back. I’m a very spiritual person and I believe things don’t happen by coincidence. I decided I’m going to walk the path and trust that God has something amazing for me. Two months later, I was on The Voice, then Team Christina.
VY: How was that?
FD: We didn’t get to choose our own songs. I didn’t even get to choose my own audition song. The producers chose that. In competition mode, I really wanted to belt out soulful songs. But Christina said that’s what is expected. We want to take you out of the box. A lot of the songs that she selected for me were dance songs. The night that I would perform them, they would end up in the Top 5 on the iTunes Dance Chart.
VY: One of those songs was Kelly Rowland’s “When Love Takes Over.”
FD: That charted at No. 3. My cover of Madonna’s “Like Prayer” charted at No. 5. What was really amazing, Madonna rarely clears her songs to appear on television shows. Christina called me the day that I was performing it, and said her managers put in a call to Madonna’s people. The song cleared a few hours before I performed it. I took that as a huge compliment.
VY: She’s very particular about how she wants her brand to be seen.
FD: The funny thing about that is Niki Haris, who everyone knows for singing on that record and singing background for Madonna for twenty years; Niki is like a big sister to me. I called her and [said], girl you’re not going to believe what they have me singing. She said kill it. And she texted me, I’m so proud of you. Then my good girlfriend Janice Robinson, who is a singer/songwriter. She and I became friends when I was doing Rent on Broadway. She reached out to me and said it’s so funny that you’re doing dance music on the show, because I just wrote a dance song and I hear your voice all over it. She played it for me. It was “Love’s Got A Hold On Me.” I recorded it the next time I was in New York.
VY: Which show do you think helped your career the most, The Voice or American Idol?
FD: I think my drive helped me the most. There are a lot of people who have been on both of those shows. What are they doing right now? I don’t think it is particularly the show. It’s wonderful exposure. It allows you to share your gift with a broader audience. You still have to work, almost twice as hard, after doing one of those shows. You have to continuously prove that you are not some reality television show singer and you really do sing. I would say The Voice gave me the opportunity to sing more.
VY: There’s a theory in the music community that R&B music is dying, because of dance-euro-techno pop music taking over the charts. What are your thoughts?
FD: R&B music died long before dance music [taking over]. Anyone who thinks otherwise is lying to themselves. For the past decade, what girls sound like on their record and what they sound like live, has been night and day. That’s another thing that attracted me to dance music. No one is singing R&B anymore. The dance music I grew up listening to had Martha Wash, Jocelyn Brown, CeCe Peniston; women who could really sing, singing over banging dance tracks. Dance music just seemed to me, the vehicle for girls who didn’t want to dumb down their vocal ability, to make their music marketable. Obviously, there are a lot of people who don’t sing, who are successful dance artists too. But I think R&B artists and fans drank the Kool-Aid and allowed it to be watered down. In the process, singers who wanted to experiment and incorporate other music forms, moved onto dance and even rock.
VY: The visuals for the new music video are very Mad Max-esque. How did you come up with the concept and how do you want your fans and potential new fans to react to it?
FD: I wanted it to come out fabulous and I believe in people staying in their lane. I had nothing to do with the concept. I left that to my creative director, who’s been my best friend since I was 15. I left that to my creative director, the director Ryan Freedman, who’s creative director on X-Factor, and an amazing choreographer who worked with Britney Spears. I think once we picked the shooting location.
VY: Where was the shooting location?
FD: The Mojave Desert. Once we got out to the middle of nowhere and we started to get ready to shoot, I think it evolved into this Mad Max kind of thing.
VY: What sound can your fans expect on this album, Just Frenchie?
FD: It’s going to be mostly dance music. It’s going to be songs about love … and inspirational songs. But they can expect to hear good singing and no auto-tune and banging club tracks. I want to make them dance and still allow them to enjoy the musicality of good singing.
VY: Are you going to tour for the album?
FD: Absolutely. I do my Pride tour every year. That’s the best way to break a dance record, singing for the gay boys around the world – so it starts next spring – and allow it to grow from there.
FD: I think they’re great exposure. Performers who are considering going on them should bear in mind and not forget, that it will always be a star vehicle for the judges, than it will ever be for any contestant. Enjoy it for what it is … which is a wonderful opportunity.
VY: Mariah Carey has lambs. Nicki Minaj fans are Barbies. Mother Monsters has her Little Monsters. What are your fans called?
FD: French kisses.
VY: So you were raised in Los Angeles. Where has your favorite venue that you’ve performed at in L.A.?
FD: It’s a tie between the main stage at L.A. Pride when I opened for Joan Jett and Joss Stone and the West Hollywood Halloween Parade last year.
VY: You seem to be one of the go to divas to perform at Pride events. Do you know how that started?
FD: My good friend, Jai Rodriguez, who people may know from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, used to play Angel in Rent when I was there. When Queer Eye was just a pilot, Jai had a cabaret show at XL, one of the biggest and most popular clubs in New York. When Queer Eye got picked up, he asked me to take it over. I did it every Monday for a year or two and it was packed every Monday. It was mostly gay men in the audience. My good girlfriend Eva Marcille, from America’s Next Top Model; actually my childhood best friend is her cousin. We are childhood friends. But Eva and I decided to throw a party for Atlanta Pride. She would host and I would sing. The promoter, who helped us put it together, is good friends with the gentleman, who is now my agent. He introduced us; older gay boy who worked for Cher for ten years. He saw that my growing and most loyal fan base were in the gay community, and tapped into that.
VY: So you recently came out as bisexual in an interview, what was that experience like? Was it freeing or was it an invasion of privacy?
FD: Anyone who knows me, knows I like boys and girls. I came out to my mom when I was 16. It has never been a big secret. Most of my relationships have been with men, but then I met my partner. We fell in love and I never really went out of my way to hide the relationship. I was in an interview with a small paper and the interviewer asked me a direct question about my sexuality and I decided to answer it honestly.
VY: Is it fair that people are so interested in the personal lives of artists, especially those who are LGBT?
FD: In a perfect world, it’s really no one’s business. And quite frankly no one owes anyone else an explanation on their sexuality, unless they’re screwing that person. But unfortunately we live in a world where, I think, society as a whole wants to bully people into conforming to whom and what everyone else is. We don’t live in a society that encourages individuality. At the end of the day, it isn’t anyone else’s business. It’s important to take a stand and not apologize for who you are, and not have to give ambiguous answers about it.
VY: For anyone who is scared to come out, whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans, what advice would you give them?
FD: You have a clear choice in life. You’re either going to allow your life to be dictated by what other people think or you’re going to allow your life to be dictated by being able to sleep at night, and being able to look yourself in the mirror, knowing that you live your life in truth; in that, you own who you are. Don’t let society bully you into lying about who you are.
VY: I recently watched a few of your performances. The way your body moves, specific movements you do, are very sensual. You seem to love being you and you embrace yourself. As someone who isn’t what the music industry pumps out, because of the why they look and not their voice, how have you come to love who you are?
FD: I think I was forced to. I’m either going to be what they say I am or I’m going to be who God says I am. God says I’m pretty freaking fabulous. I’m not saying it’s been an easy journey. Plenty of times I’ve had to call my mother crying, because I read something mean someone said about me. I’m an artist so of course I’m sensitive, but you can’t give people power over you.
VY: If you had a fan who is struggling to pay bills and they were offered an opportunity to pose nude in a magazine, and he or she asked you for advice, what would you tell them?
FD: Pray on it and do what they think is best.
VY: Do you have anything else you would like to share with your fans?
FD: I can’t wait for them to hear the next single, which I co-wrote. I’m really excited about it. The beat is crazy.
VY: What social media networks are you on, where fans can interact with you personally?
FD: I’m on Twitter @FrenchieDavis and Facebook. My Facebook is full, but people can subscribe. We have good pseudo-political debates, so definitely subscribe. Join the conversation and join the debate. There’s also my Facebook fan page as well.