Friday, November 28, 2014

TOP STORY >> Local wins Karaoke World title

Leader staff writer

Third time was the charm for 37-year-old Anthony Montius Magee of Jacksonville when he became the first man from the United States to be crowned Karaoke World Champion.

The competition, held in Sweden earlier this month, debuted in 2003. It was held in Finland that year.

“This is really surreal. I can’t believe it happened,” Magee said in an interview.

About his karaoke career, he continued, “You never know who you touch by the song you sing. I’ve met a lot of people, a lot of people. Competing on the world level was mind-blowing.”

The champion added that karaoke has given him the chance to see parts of the world he never imagined that he would see.

On winning the championship, Magee said, “It’s humbling. It’s very overwhelming. It’s very rewarding.”

He wowed the judges and this year’s crowd with his performances of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Radiohead’s “Creep,” Prince’s “Darling Nikki” and Kenny Rogers’ “Lady.”

The champion said, “I like being (a) shock value. You would look at me and think ‘oh, he’s going to sing R&B.’ No, no, no…I’m not going to sing R&B. I’m going to sing a little bit of everything.”

Magee’s goal is to grab the audience, “take them on a ride” and “leave them wanting more.” He describes himself as a performer who incorporates his acting experience on stage when appropriate.

He has starred in plays at the Arkansas Repertory Theater and auditioned for productions at The Weekend Theater. Both are in Little Rock.

Magee continued, “I usually choose songs that mean something to me. Some people sing for the judges, and (say) ‘let’s see what the judges are going to like this year.’ No. I don’t care what the judges like because you’re the one there doing all the work.”

He explained that the competition should be about the singer and what they’re doing on stage, not about the type of music the judges like.

The North Pulaski High School graduate grew up on Little Rock Air Force Base and helps his mom run M&M Fashion Boutique at 311 E. Main St. in his hometown.

Despite not placing his first year, 2012, and coming in second to his best friend, Carter Thomas, at the 2013 nationals, Magee told The Leader he’s not a quitter.

The competition has several levels. Singers compete at local bars first. The winners of those contests move on to the state championship.

The state champions go to the national contest. The men and women winners there receive an all-expense paid trip to the world competition.

Last year was the first time an Arkansan was sent to the world competition. In 2012, just three from the state made it to the national stage.

The champion was proud to say that 21 of the 63 who competed at the national level this year were Arkansans.

Magee’s journey to the world stage began when his brother convinced him to sing in front of a few friends. The champion told The Leader he’d been “a karaoke junkie ever since.”

He said his mother also sings and, if anyone could be called his coach, it would be her. She is a retired teacher who kept him in line when he was a child, Magee recalled.

He also took voice lessons as a music major at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and in high school before singing competitions.

Magee has stage fright but said he learned to channel it in a positive way. Now he is “more at home on stage. That’s just where I feel comfortable. That’s where I want to be.”

He said he has always wanted to be an artist, and karaoke provided an avenue for that.

About why he likes the craft, Magee described it as “euphoric.”

He said, “It’s a gift. It’s a blessing. I’m not going to not use it.”

Magee explained, “It’s a release. Sometimes I’ve got so much on my heart that I’ve got to get it there. I’ve just got to. I’ll be the first one to make myself cry in a second. On ‘Lady,’ I was crying. The whole crowd was crying. It was crazy.”

Magee said his greatest weakness is being too hard on himself.

“I have the tendency to put a lot of pressure on myself because I’m such a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my craft.”

But his greatest strength, the champion said, is his ambition and drive.

“If I want it, I’m going to get it,” he said.

But, Magee noted, “I’ve gotten to where I wanted to with karaoke.”

Although the champion plans to continue performing karaoke, he said he wants to try new things.

Magee has made a few studio recordings, written some songs and is awaiting word on an audition in Nashville. He wants to sing everything and not have a genre label.

And, Magee said, artists have to make every song their own.

He plans to try out for a part in “The 89th Key,” a musical that will be filmed in Little Rock.

Magee said he also wants to know the ins and outs of the music business, including music production.