By Melissa Ruggieri
Chris Cauley has performed with Tyler Perry, competed on “The Voice” and traveled Europe in the Michael Jackson tribute show, “Man in the Mirror.”
But on Friday, he’ll scale things back and bring his warm, soulful voice to the 40-seat Alpharetta jazz club, The Velvet Note, a show that he is anticipating precisely because of the venue’s dedication to musical purity.
“I’ll still be goofing off and telling stories. I’m going to want interaction. I might even go out into the crowd. I love that setting to prove to people that I will entertain you,” Cauley said during a recent interview at Tin Lizzy’s Cantina near Perimeter Mall.
He’s a dapper fellow, the kind who looks natural in a fedora and, with his wife, Sandra, the current Mrs. Georgia, falls into the Impossibly Good-Looking Couple category.
Cauley, who lives in Alpharetta, became more broadly known two years ago after participating on “Team Adam” – Adam Levine’s group to coach – on “The Voice.” He lost in the battle rounds to Tony Lucca (the “Mickey Mouse Club” veteran came in third), but for Cauley, the experience was always about having fun.
“The producers asked me once (on camera) with this big dramatic pause, ‘So what’s going to happen if you get sent home?’ And I was like, if I get sent home, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” he said.
Cauley, who attended Columbus State for a semester of theater studies and serves as a worship leader at Buckhead Church, has plenty of pedigree. In 2009, he went on tour with Perry’s show, “Laugh to Keep from Crying.” He had been working with Perry’s house band, Simply Irresistible, when the music director approached him with a message.
“He said, ‘I hate to lose you, but Tyler said he wants the white guy in the band for the next tour,” Cauley, 29, said.
While performing in the show was “one of those little victories that I can tell my kids about one day,” Cauley said, “Laugh”’s run was cut short when Perry’s mother, Willie, died in December 2009.
But Cauley’s young lifetime of connections served a valuable purpose.
The “Voice” audition cropped up when his college booking agency tried to hook him up with the show during its first season. But Cauley was busy overseas with the Jackson tribute, where he was one of six singers.
“I was also the only white guy there,” he said. “It’s kind of my theme!”
Prior to season two, they came back. “They said, ‘We know you’re note a reality TV guy, but…’” Cauley said with a laugh. “I take a lot of pride in paying the dues. But I talked to (season one winner) Javier Colon and he was like, ‘Man, just do it.’”
Cauley had two noteworthy takeaways from his time on the show: He learned from Levine that not taking yourself seriously is the epitome of coolness and also, that U2’s Bono personally reviewed his blind audition before giving permission for Cauley and Lucca to sing “Beautiful Day” on “The Voice.”
But that was the past.
Now, Cauley is promoting his new EP, “My Turn,” which he funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign (he raised about $1,800 more than his goal) and debuted at a sold-out CD release concert at the Red Clay Theatre in Duluth last month.
The songs showcase Cauley’s creamy vocal style on the tender, string-laden ballad “Barely Hanging On,” his love of Earth, Wind & Fire-styled R&B funk on the horn-infused “It Won’t Be Me” and his ear for arranging on a slinky re-working of INXS’ “Need You Tonight.”
Cauley, who is supported by Red Light Management, recorded the album at Murray SoundLab in Kennesaw, inside Mount Paran Christian School. While he’s certainly humble, he’s also confident in the type of record he wanted to create and didn’t stray from his gut.
“The majority of the pop world is, unfortunately, a lot of garbage, when you’ve got licking wrecking balls and twerking,” Cauley said in a nod to Miley Cyrus’ recent activities. “For years I was terrified of the word pop, but when we went into the studio, I put up signs saying ‘WWMD’ – What Would Michael Do? Because Michael Jackson was the king of pop. So what made him so great and timeless compared to the junk nowadays? The melody and the hooks are the same, but musically, it’s phenomenal. So we decided, let’s make a pop record, but let’s make it musical. Record labels will frown on it because there is some flashy drum and guitar stuff on there, but I wanted that.”
Cauley’s talent is evident, and, as much as he wants to break through as an artist, he’s also realistically eyeing a career path as a songwriter. He cites friend Dave Barnes, who wrote Blake Shelton’s hit, “God Gave Me You,” as the perfect example of a guy who can sell out The Loft at Center Stage, but really earns a living through writing.
“If the pop and radio world are not going to take that chance on real musicianship,” Cauley said of his style of music, “I know the writing world will. I’m not going to dumb myself down or sell my soul.”
Chris Cauley performs at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25. $20. The Velvet Note, 4075 Old Milton Parkway, Alpharetta. 1-855-583-5838, http://www.thevelvetnote.com.
He’s also part of the ATL Collection presentation of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” with Ruby Velle and Jason Eskridge. 8 p.m. Oct. 30-31. $10 (advance) and $13 (at the door). The Sound Table, 483 Edgewood Ave., Atlanta.www.atl-collective.com.
Source: Access Atlanta