Darren steps in to hog limelight
DARREN Percival has never had a day job. And that's just the way he likes it. For the past 22 years he has made his living doing back-up vocals and performing under the guise of Mr Percival.
Though successful in his own right, the 40-year-old never quite found the fame his voice commands, often over- looked by industry execs who thought he didn't have the right look or meet their commercial criteria.
But all that could be about to change and Percival's dreams are coming true thanks to his spot on the hit talent show The Voice.
The father of two young kids had all four judges turn around at the blind audition where he was greeted with a standing ovation from Keith Urban and Delta Goodrem for his rendition of Jealous Guy.
The Coolum local is the happiest he has been in his life. This is evident when we chat; his voice radiates warmth, excitement and extreme passion for music.
"I have always felt like I didn't have a choice," he said of his musical path.
"I'm a singer; it's what I'm on Earth to do. It's a gift and I'm grateful to be able to do it everyday.
"This competition is my time."
But it was the chance to work with Urban that motivated Percival's audition for the talent show.
He had been a fan of the American series of The Voice but whether he applied for the Australian series depended solely on the judges.
"This show really honours singers and the art of singing," he said.
"I've been performing for 20 years and I'm really proud of my career and what I've learnt. So it was important I did something with integrity and The Voice has that.
"There is just a great feeling on the floor and a great respect between the artists."
He described the blind audition has an interesting albeit slightly foreign experience.
Singing Jealous Guy he wasn't focused on the chairs turning around as he wanted to really hone in on his performance and produce something he was proud of.
But that moment when all four of the judges turned around was a pretty special one.
"I didn't realise how much I wanted it until that point," he said.
"I have wanted to work with Keith for years. It was on my bucket list...when his chair turned around I thought it was meant to be," he said.
"He has been so helpful. He's really big on me being myself and honouring who I am, the singer I am and bringing my stories to the performances."
In the Battle round Percival was given the challenge of James Taylor's, Shower The People which he describes as a great moment.
"I'm such a huge James Taylor fan it seemed like a perfect fit," he said.
But despite his confidence with the song he admits he was nervous going up against his opponent, country singer Brett Clarke.
"This was the guy that sang one of Keith's songs at the blind auditions. It was very daunting," he admitted.
He needn't have been worried.
Of Percival, mentor Megan Washington said "I cried in one of the sessions because Darren Percival moved me in such a real way. He's like a force field when he sings. I was so touched by him that I broke down."
A veteran of the music industry Percival never usually allows nerves get to him.
But before stepping out into the battle arena to take on Clarke he admitted was overcome with nerves.
"Walking through those doors I thought I was going to have a heart attack," Percival said.
"I was really surprised, I love my work, I love performing and I had been busting to get out there.
"I asked Keith about it and he said to 'just relax and try and enjoy it. Be in the moment and honour the space in the song.
"It was such good advice."
It was a tense moment as Percival stood on stage waiting for Urban to deliver his verdict.
And when it came he bawled like a baby. He was through to the Voice Live Shows.
"It all just hit me and I just lost it. I think it was the combination of relief and happiness that just got me and I was so open in that moment," he said.
Percival said he dreamed of ultimately winning the competition but no matter how far he went he wanted to ensure every performance he delivered was his best.
"I want to be able to look back and be really proud of the performances," he said.
"I'm looking forward to the audience getting to know me in this next part of the competition."
Already the singer has had the chance to make some great friends including Palmwoods' Kelsie Rimmer.
"She was around the other day and she played me some of her originals which are just beautiful," he said.
It was also a chance to catch-up with old friends such as Mahalia Barnes.
"We're old friends, I was actually the best man at her wedding," Percival reveals.
The singer relocated from Sydney to Coolum six months ago with his wife and two young kids and said he couldn't be happier living on the Coast.
"I just love it so much. I love this part of Australia and already I feel so at home here."
In preparation for the live shows which kick off on Monday night, Percival said he was taking long walks on the beach and spending as much time as he could in the ocean.
"I'm also eating well and getting plenty of sleep - can you tell my kids that," he says with a hearty laugh.