Photo courtesy of Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Anthony Evans has been a lot of places in his life. The son of popular Christian orator and Pastor Tony Evans, Anthony has toured the world as a solo artist, worship leader, and a backing vocalist for Kirk Franklin. He never thought he would find himself on a reality television show but when The Voice called he answered. It’s a good thing he did, because millions of new people have heard Anthony Evans including his coach on the show – Christina Aguilera. We caught up with Anthony to discuss his coach, the impact that the show is having on his life, what it’s like to be a Christian on a hit secular show. Check out The Voice on NBC, Mondays 8/7c, and check out Anthony’s new album Home! He is truly a talent and more so than that – the kind of joyous person who you want to cheer on!

As a publicly Christian figure, did you have any concerns about joining a secular show like The Voice?

I had concerns, but I just didn’t let them control whether I was going to do the show or not. Thinking about what people are going to say can be overwhelming at times, and I discussed it with the people who are closest to me; namely my father, Kirk Franklin, and the guys who I interact with on a daily basis. Their advice to me was that as long as you are true to yourself and not compromising your faith then go and have a great time. To be freed up that way was great, to think about what everyone was going to say – that was too much.

Have you received a lot of support? Have there been any detractors?

You know what, 95 percent of it has been completely positive, and then there’s that other 5 percent that are like “oh my gosh he’s losing his faith!!” and I’m like “For real??” I don’t quite understand it, but 95 percent of them have been supportive.

I don’t get that either! Anyone who actually saw the opening segment with you would definitely know that you haven’t compromised yourself.

Yeah, after that aired I was like “Dad you’re welcome, they aired you and the church more than me!” *laughing* I loved that.

What has surprised you the most about being on the show?

What surprised me most is how much I care about and love the people I’m getting to meet like my teammates and the other cast members. Over these last few months I’ve built relationships that I know will last a lifetime. That’s surprised me because my mind was so into singing in the competition that I kind of overlooked the fact that I was going to meet people who I would to fall in love with. But that’s what happened.

Would other contestants on the show say the same thing?

I very much think so. I feel like it’s because you’re experiencing something so unique, and you’re getting to share it locked up together, it creates a very interesting bond that it’s hard to put into words honestly.

That’s interesting because so much reality TV is cutthroat, and even this show is a competition. What do you think the show does that creates that unity?

The Voice is really big on treating the artist like an artist. They even call us that on the show, they don’t treat us like “contestants” or “reality stars” where they are trying to create conflict and trying to create gimmicks to make the ratings go up. They’re like, “we’re going to get ratings from you guys being killer musicians, that and these chairs spinning around.” That’s where it comes from more so than stirring us up to create ratings. They don’t make fun of the contestants, they don’t do things that sometimes grab ratings but degrade people. They will not do it. They won’t build their show on that and I feel like that’s coming from the top down. That filters into everybody who is a part of the show.

Given how the show connects its contestants, has there been a situation where your faith has helped you create a relationship with someone?

For sure, there’s a young lady on the show, love her to death, we just had some time to sit and talk and I heard her story and it was a very interesting one. Long story short, she swore off church when she was 13. Never going again, that’s it, done. So now she’s 24, we talked about life a lot of times and I’ve just gotten to love on her and she’s shown me that same love. On one of our breaks I had the opportunity to go lead worship at the Brooklyn Tabernacle and I look out 10 rows back and I just laughed to myself because there she was. She said “If my parents knew that I was in this church all these years later they would flip out.” We actually told her mom and she screamed because her daughter was never going to church again.

Photo courtesy of Mitchell Haaseth

But the dynamic wasn’t me showing up and throwing my faith down her throat, it was me loving on her, listening to her, and that’s why she came in and that’s why we enjoyed that moment. It was great, I mean she’s the kind of girl where I had to go “Okay – now we’re going to go in there in this meeting room with the pastors and stuff and you cannot cuss in here” *laughs* I mean she’s that kind of girl, I love the dynamic. To me that’s what faith, that’s what loving people is about - bringing people into our world who would never be there. That’s what I’m loving about this show because I don’t have those opportunities in “our” environment you know what I mean? I’m a worship leader, always on the stage where the audience is agreeing with me. They don’t look at me and go “I swore off church when I was 13.” I’m getting to experience that now and it’s coming to life.

What’s the biggest difference between being on stage with The Voice and leading worship?

The biggest difference is that with my career I am not trying to entertain and impress people with my vocals, that’s not my first thought. My first thought in worship leading is to connect people to the lyric and try to get them to sing with me, which a lot of times means I cannot sing crazy. Christina on the other hand, her thing is “I’m better than everybody,” she doesn’t say that but she is, it’s like you can’t sing along because she’s too good! *laughs* So what I’m having to do here is change my dynamic, when I’m interacting with Christina it’s a way different thing because she wants me to come with everything that I have. Literally I’ve had to turn that off in order to connect with the audience in the church. But The Voice is like “turn it on or you’re going home!” *laughs* That’s the major difference.

What’s the biggest thing you are going to take away from this experience?

The biggest thing I’m going to take away from this experience is thinking outside of the box. In the same way that Christina is a trailblazer, she has made decisions about “this is who I am, I’m going to write songs about it, I’m going to sing, and people are going to follow me.” I want to think outside of the box in my realm and be a trailblazer. I don’t want to play it safe anymore. The Voice is making me not want to play it safe with the adventures that I take on when this show is over and people have forgotten about season 2 and are on to season 3 and 4. I want to be out there not playing it safe, because I’m excited again. There was a part of me that lost some of that excitement in my tenth year of being on the road and leading worship. The Voice has re-created that.

You know, that makes sense, I was pretty surprised to see that two of your favorite musicians are Michael Buble and John Mayer.

That catches everyone off guard! That’s one thing I discussed with the producers of the show, because they assumed that I was just going to be a soul singer. That’s not me at all. I love different, I love being different and I love listening to things that are different. Kirk Franklin is a huge John Mayer fan, so we’d sit back and listen to him. I love lyrics, I love songs that are crafted well, and then I love performers who have mastered their craft. Buble is a performer who has mastered his craft, when he’s 55 it will be just as cool to go see him as it is now. He has created something that’s timeless and that’s what I love about him. Then, when I listen to Mayer’s lyrics I’m like “you’ve gotta be kidding me!”

Picturing you and Kirk Franklin listening to John Mayer is blowing my mind a little.

*laughs* Not what you expected huh?

Not at all! So have you watched the other NBC singing show, The Sing-Off?

I have! My friend Rachael Lampa was on the last season. It’s showcasing talent. Those singers – you could take my team from The Voice and I don’t know if we could execute the stuff that some of the Sing-Off teams can do. Having ears that can actually hear that stuff is not normal, that’s not something you just find. That show takes a lot of ability but it’s obviously group driven, The Voice comes down to you competing for yourself which is a little different take, and it’s about interacting with the coaches on a deeper, more personal level. I love both ideas.

So were you and Christina Aguilera able to connect on a personal level?

Yeah! 2 nights after we got into town the producers walked into a room with the twelve of us and said “Hey Christina wants to have y’all over for dinner so get dressed, no cameras just come over.” So, you know, a couple of days before that I’m leading worship somewhere in America and then the next day I’m at Christina Aguilera’s house out in Hollywood Hills and I’m like “what is going on right now?!” But, she welcomed us into her home, we sat around and we had a great time. She made sure that she got to really know everybody.

The Voice allows us to connect with our coaches via e-mail, so I told her thank you, and that I’d become more of a fan of her because of getting to know her off stage. Not that I wasn’t a fan before in her vocal ability, but who she is as a mother and as a caretaker of our team. She’s really been interested. She e-mailed me after my blind audition and said “Aw you killed it! Good job, keep it up!” That kind of stuff, she doesn’t have to do that stuff, she could be like “okay great, cameras are off, I’m out!” but she’s not that. She’s been great, I’m a supporter of who she is, and I don’t mean who we know her to be; the lights, and smoke, and stage presence, I mean who she is when all that’s turned off. I’m really a fan of that Christina.

What are you doing right now outside of the show?

Well, the label that I was with prior to going to The Voice is putting out my album Home. That’s exciting, that’s the great thing about The Voice too is they don’t lock you down where you can’t do shows on breaks. They do not want to take away from your career, they don’t want to lock you down and say “after this show’s over for a year you can’t do anything.” It’s very much like “hey! Go! Sing! Enjoy yourself!” So that’s been really cool too, I’m excited to be able to keep what I do, to keep that going, and at the same time be involved with something so huge like America’s number 1 competition show. It’s crazy. CLICK to Continue to:Learning From the Sing-Off with Shawn Stockman

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