Kris Thomas, the New Lead Singer at BB King's, on His "Controversial" The Voice Audition
Kris Thomas was raised in the birthplace of rock n roll, Memphis, Tennessee. The music flowing through that city -- from the churches to Stax Music Academy -- helped Thomas build a personal vocal foundation. It later earned him national recognition as a contestant on the fourth season of the NBC series The Voice. That media attention led directly to Thomas' new job as frontman of the house band at West Palm Beach's BB King's Blues Club.
New Times caught up with West Palm's newest blues singer as he spoke about learning his craft in Memphis, making it big on The Voice in Burbank, and what audiences can expect from him at BB King's.
New Times: How did you first start singing?
Kris Thomas: I come from a family of musicians and singers. My Mom sings, my grandmother was a musician for our church. So, I grew up around this. At first it was a form of punishment. My Mom was in charge of the youth choir and they were auditioning kids, and I was laughing at the kids and my Mom said, "I want to see you do it since you think it's so funny." I opened my mouth and everyone realized I could actually sing. I didn't even know I could sing until that moment.
Who were some of your musical influences back then?
Whitney Houston. I love Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Those were my three favorite singers growing up.
In between your years growing up at the church until you were on The Voice last year, how did you go about pursuing a career as a singer?
It started with singing R&B music with clubs and then at Stax Music Academy. They taught me technique. Then I went to college and performed on campus in talent shows. Once I graduated, I fell off for a little while. I prepared for grad school and had pretty much given up on it, and I ran into a talent scout from Universal. She signed me to a record deal, then that fell through. A year later I ended up on The Voice. It's been a whirlwind since then.
What was your experience like singing on The Voice?
It was a bit of a circus to be honest. My audition was a little bit controversial. The minute that we aired my life changed. My phone was blowing up. The news stations were calling me the same day. Once we got into the show with the competition part, since the auditions were pre-recorded, it got bigger and bigger. It was a lot of fun. My life changed overnight. I knew the minute Shakira turned around, my life would never be the same again.
Why was your audition controversial?
Usher and Adam (Levine) only had one spot left on their teams. They both wanted a guy and I did Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You," I did it in the same key that she did and I was singing so high they thought I was a girl. Then when they turned around they were like, "Oh, my God I didn't know you were a guy or I'd have taken you." Shakira was the one that caught that I had changed the words for a male.
How did your current gig at BB King's come about?
The owner Tommy Peters actually lives in Memphis which is my hometown, he watched The Voice and was looking for a lead singer of the house band and he reached out to me. I told him I would come down to West Palm and feel it out, and I loved it. So this is going to be home for a little while, at least a year.
What kind of music will you guys be playing?
Oh man, we play a little bit of everything. Of course we do Memphis stuff like Al Green, some of the Stax Records, but we do Michael Jackson, the Temptations. I do really old stuff like Pat Upton. We learn new songs every week so it's never the same.