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article image12 Fundamental Facts about Damien Lawson of 'The Voice' Special

By Earl Dittman     Dec 30, 2014 in Entertainment
After years of struggling to ignite a singing career, thanks to his hot new single “Soldier,” Damien is now on fire. ‘The Voice’ finalist talks about his time as a street singer, his discoveries as a TSA agent and his greatest influences.
Uber-producer/songwriter Max Martin has solely penned or co-written a bevy of Number One hit songs, from Katy Perry's "Roar," "Dark Horse" and "Part of Me" to Maroon 5's "One More Night." In addition to the Taylor Swift hits "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space," there’s another Martin-penned/produced song rapidly moving up the Billboard Top 100 chart — Damien Lawson’s debut single "Soldier." The Voice-Season 7 fourth place finalist says he’s “still pinching himself” to ensure his current success is not simply a fanciful dream.
"I'm living through this crazy moment where I'm constantly reminding myself, 'Oh my God, I am singing a freaking song by THE Max Martin! How wild is that?’” the former TSA agent from Monroe, Louisiana proclaims. “I am just so happy with the song that I can't wait to perform the crap out of it. I can't wait until I've sung it a million times. I'd never get tired of singing it, because it has such a great message. It's a really inspirational piece of music.
“‘Soldier’ means a lot to me, especially at this moment in my life, because I feel truly blessed,” the Team Adam singer continues. “Last year, at this time, I was watching The Voice finale and wondering, ‘How in the world can I even get on the show?' Twelve months later, not only did I make it on the show, but I survived every single live episode to be in the finals. Coming in fourth in the competition was a blessing, and getting a chance to sing a song like ‘Soldier’ — well, it’s nothing short of a miracle.”
Many of the layered sentiments expressed in “Soldier” resonate with the singer — particularly when Damien belts out lyrics like “What have I done to feel these fists from heaven? I have to question, have I done wrong?” For Damien, the words “I’ll be a soldier” contain an even deeper meaning.
"I had auditioned for The Voice about three times and began to think I wasn’t cut to do it,” he remembers. “I think I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to audition anymore, because I had been doing this for a long time. I was like, 'You know what? I am not being successful with these auditions, so maybe I need to go a different route.' But, then someone called me up and said they were going to give me a shot. I had a private audition and moved forward from there. That wasn't my plan, though. But, I'm glad I decided to try it one more time, because sometimes your plan isn't what God has in mind for you."
Damien on  The Voice
Damien on 'The Voice'
(1) Where is the worst place you've ever performed? "Wow, there are so many crazy and weird places where I've performed, it's hard to pick just one. (laughs) There have been a lot of dive bars and places like that. But, I think everybody who wants to have a career in music has played places they never imagined they would be caught dead in. It really didn't bother me, because someone would always call me up after singing in one of those places and ask me if I wanted to sing. I was always like, 'Really? When? What's the address?'" (laughs)
(2) Where were you most comfortable singing during those lean, early days? "Believe it or not, I really liked singing on the street. I did it because I was just that determined to do something to make this career happen. I would go to the 3rd Street Promenade (in Santa Monica), on the street, and I would have my little basket out there and just sing my heart out. Surprisingly, I made pretty good money there."
Damien on  The Voice
Damien on 'The Voice'
(3) What is the most money you made singing at the 3rd Street Promenade? “Well, the very first day I went out, I sang a bunch of covers — and maybe one or two originals — and when I counted the money in my basket, I had made $150 dollars. I was really shocked. I wasn't expecting that at all. I think the most I ever made was around $200. But, that amount wasn't really a good measure of my street success, because a lot of times I would get offers for like two or three gigs every time I went out there. Somebody would be like, 'Oh, I would love you to sing at my cocktail party or sing background on this song I'm recording.' Singing on the street really paid off for me, in a big way. It brought me so much more than pocket money."
(4) Watching you singing a duet with Jennifer Hudson, during the finale, was like baring witness to the reincarnation of soul legends Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. What was it like teaming up with the Oscar-winning Dreamgirl? “Wow, it was an experience of a lifetime. She is such a wonderful person. I am just so lucky and thankful that I was given the opportunity to work with her. I don’t know whose idea it was to connect us, but it was a brilliant one. When they first told me, I was like, ‘Out of all the people, you are pairing me with one of the best singers on the planet. How in the world am I going to sing with this powerhouse?’ I was just happy that I was able to keep up with her. Jennifer is such a beautiful person, inside and out. She’s also a really funny and sweet human being.”
Jennifer Hudson and Damien sing  It s Your World  on  The Voice
Jennifer Hudson and Damien sing "It's Your World" on 'The Voice'
(5) What is the best advice Ms. Hudson gave you? “When we were rehearsing, she told me, ‘You are a really nice person. Just stay the way you are and you’ll never have to worry about getting work again.’ I exchanged contact information with her, so I'm planning to communicate with her on a regular basis. I’m just really happy to know her, because she’s already given me some incredible career advice. She’s told me what I need to look for in a manager and things I needed to look out for in this crazy industry. We didn’t have a lot of time to talk, because we had just a little time to rehearse. But, we’d sing, stop, laugh a little and sing some more. Spending time with Ms. Hudson is something I’ll never forget, as long as I live.”
Marvin Gaye recording his classic album  Let s Get It On
Marvin Gaye recording his classic album 'Let's Get It On'
(6) Since we are talking about duets, if you could sing alongside any singers, living or deceased, who would you choose? “When it comes to the 'greats,' I don’t even have to think about it — Michael Jackson. Equally, though, Marvin Gaye is also someone who was at the forefront of soul and R&B singing at his time. They both have such classic voices. Currently, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to collaborate with Beyonce. Singing with her would be like a gift. I’d also love to sing a duet with Brandy, she’s incredible, and she is someone I grew up listening to. I really love her. Of course, though, there’s Patti LaBelle...”
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
(7) You’ve told me before that Michael Jackson is one of your biggest influences. Why is MJ so special to you? “I think that he just, single-handedly, changed the way we listened to music. He had such a profound effect on how singers should perform. He set the bar really high. Michael was another artist who was ahead of his time. His music transcends generations. I have a four-year-old niece and she loves Michael Jackson. All this little girl wants to do, in 2014, is listen to Michael. To me, that’s a testament to how great and timeless his music is. Even when I mention to her that he’s is no longer alive, she’s like, ‘No, don’t say that. Michael will always be with us.’ The fact that his music still has that affect on people is why I look up to him and admire him. And, it was an honor to sing one of his songs on The Voice — a classic like ‘She’s Out Of My Life.’”
(8) If you could perform another classic song, let's say with President Obama, what song would you ask him to do as a duet with you? I asked your Team Adam pals, Matt McAndrew and Chris Jamison, the same question and they had some pretty wild ideas. (Laughs) "I don't know? A song with the President of the United States? I wouldn't want to sing anything crazy with him, but something fun and inspirational. I think a song like 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough’ would be perfect. It is something meaningful, but something we could have a blast with. I think we'd make a good singing duo. Maybe we can do it when he finishes his other job." (laughs)
Damien and his Team Adam finalist pals Matt McAndrew and Chris Jamison
Damien and his Team Adam finalist pals Matt McAndrew and Chris Jamison
(9) In addition to Michael Jackson, what other artist would you call your greatest influence? "I would say that Whitney Houston changed the way that I think about music. She was one of those artists who could just take a song a make it a 1,000 times better. She could make a song sound completely different and always her own. That's what I admired about her. I just studied how she would perform and sing a song, and that helped me to sculpt the way I approach songs."
(10) Overall, who has been the most influential person in your life? "My dad is definitely the biggest inspiration in my life. He's on the top of the list, because he believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. There were so many occasions when I thought, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' I really thought I couldn't do it anymore. I thought the industry just did not like me as an artist. He believed in me and did not stop encouraging me. He is definitely my number one fan. It's ridiculous. So, I look up to him."
Damien backstage at  The Voice
Damien backstage at 'The Voice'
Krystina Christiansen
(11) What is the craziest thing you ever found in someone's luggage during your time as a TSA agent? "I thought it was always crazy when people would bring naughty items with them. I would be like, 'What? Are you serious?' (laughs) If they didn't have to go through the X-ray machine, I could only imagine what else they would try to bring with them. I would never say anything to them, I would just let them go on with their business. It wasn't like I was going to call them out and go, 'What do you have in this bag?' Me, I would just leave that kind of stuff at home." (laughs)
Damien with coach Adam Levine on  The Voice
Damien with coach Adam Levine on 'The Voice'
(12) Do you have a five-year-plan or are you just taking this career day-by-day? "You know what, I've already envisioned what I hope next year will look like. I want to perform everywhere. Just today, I was on the phone locking in dates for me to perform. Hopefully, next year I can release a whole album of new material. I'm just working all of that out right now. I'm trying to take that part of the process day-by-day, because I am getting all these emails and requests. I have people coming at me in all kinds of ways. I just have to make sure I'm going down the right path. But, I feel like everything is going great. This is only the beginning. The Top 4 is a huge blessing. I couldn't ask for anything more. I made every single episode of this season of The Voice. I survived to the end. I feel blessed."
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