Davon Fleming, “The Voice” contestant whose earthy, jazz inspired rendition of Amy Winehouse’s Me & Mr. Jones at the Oct. 2 NBC singing competition’s ‘blind audition,’ got all four coaches to spin their red chairs around and hit the red buzzer signaling their desire to have the Baltimore resident on their team, would love to win the competition, but more importantly, wants to inspire people to dream, succeed and prosper.
“I had a lot of faith,” a grateful and exuberant Fleming told The Northwest Voice a few days after he secured a spot on Jennifer Hudson’s team. “You have to have confidence for competitions like this. It’s like a master class of life. You’re learning. I came to the competition not looking for validation. But here I am. It’s the most I’ve been vulnerable and transparent and authentic.”
And to what does he give a lot of credit for his early training? The instruction and support he received at Milford Mill Academy.
Fleming, 26, grew up in Park Heights, attended Pimlico Middle School and graduated from Northwestern High School. But Northwestern didn’t have a choir and he was looking to satisfy an itch to sing. He had heard the highly talented Milford Mill Concert Chorale perform around town (“I didn’t know they could sing like that!” he says). So after meeting then director Thaddeus Price, Fleming scooted out of work study a little early to hop a bus for Milford’s after-school choir rehearsals and get classical training. “Mr. Price saw enough in me and taught me how to read music and other musical elements.”
Fleming grew up in a Christian household with five siblings, incuding his twin, Tavon, and a cousin who his mother raised—all of them with musical talents. His parents made their priorities clear: God first, education second and music third. He remembers as a young boy watching his mother sing in church. “The feeling drew me in and I started to build a relationship with God and music.”
Over the years, music has always been a passion and a career. During his high school days, he worked at the Harborplace Fudgery, where employees sing to customers while stirring the fudge. He interned in Baltimore City’s Law Department and had a short tenure at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Still intent on keeping his hands in music, Fleming served as artistic director for a youth outreach program, Partners in Progress, in which he participated as a teen. Currently, he serves as a worship leader at Beth-El Temple Church of Christ, and assists with the music arrangements for the choir.
It was his work on BET’s Sunday Best with internationally known gospel entertainers such as Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, Kim Burrell and the Clark Sisters, that Fleming says catapulted his career. “That was my introduction to the world,” he says. “I did a lot of traveling, vocal arranging for artists and a lot of studio work.”
His journey to The Voice began with a reluctant decision to attend the open-call auditions held in Baltimore in February. Fleming was weary from a recent trip to Italy and Switzerland for a performance with the local Serenity Singers, and from singing on the backup choir for Grammy nominee Chrisette Michelle’s performance at the presidential inauguration in January. But fortunately, he beat out thousands at the audition, got the red card for a return tryout, and eventually made it to Los Angeles, accompanied by his mom, Dorothy Ellen, and a friend, Pherron Fowler. The two could be seen backstage giving high fives to each other and Voice host Carson Daly with their shoes, in response to Hudson throwing her shoe on the stage impressed by Flemings’ performance.
What’s it like behind the scenes of The Voice? Fleming could not share details, but says he appreciates that the coaches are respectful, personable and genuine. He is relishing the moments and enjoying the big stage. “With The Voice, I am able to touch so many platforms from gospel to rock to country. There are so many people from different walks of life that I can touch.
“It feels so amazing. I have the opportunity to use this platform to be an inspiration to people. You can be what you want to be and do what you want to do.”
Fleming is in Baltimore until it is time to return to Los Angeles for the battle rounds, which pits blind audition winners against each other. He’ll be ready to rock the house for Team Jennifer. “No matter how big I get or how far I go I will be the same funny kid from Baltimore. I struggle like you.” But, he says, “I’m going to represent home.”