03/21/06 — Christian singer gets his own shot at fame

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Christian singer gets his own shot at fame

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 21, 2006 1:45 PM

D.J. Coles said he has typically shied away from talent shows, preferring to use his voice for worship rather than entertainment.

Now a Christian musician talent search might give him the chance to do both.

Coles has been chosen as a regional finalist for the Gifted Talent Search that boasts a prize package geared to jumpstart the career of a Christian artist.

D.J. Coles


Coles said he has been singing since he was 2 years old. Although his day job is as a health educator with WATCH and he serves as youth pastor at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base chapel, he has also been developing his own recording career.

His album "Your Grace," released in October, has received extensive airplay on Christian stations across the country and in eight foreign countries, he said. He is in the process of putting together a mini-tour and is writing songs for his next musical project, a Christmas album expected to be released in 2007.

Several months ago, he participated in a talent competition that later aired on the Inspirational Channel. He narrowly missed being on the televised portion, but was named first alternate.

The latest contest has been exciting, he says, albeit an experience he almost didn't have. If his wife, Ruth, hadn't gone home for lunch and tuned in the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Coles said he might not be readying to compete in Nashville next week.

"A quick commercial came on about a program called 'Gifted,' hosted by Brian Littrell, formerly of the Backstreet Boys," Coles said. "She got on the Web site at the same time she was watching TV -- the closest region was Atlanta -- downloaded the application and we filled it out that day."

Fortunately, a closer audition site opened up in Charlotte. In late January, Coles traveled there for the first round of competition.

"Hundreds and hundreds showed up" and filled the church parking lot, he said. Groups of 12 were herded in and each person had 30 seconds to sing before the judges. Contestants were told only two would be chosen from each group.

Coles sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness." Afterwards, the judges called out two names; neither was his.

"Then they said they were going to take a third, and it was my name," he said.

Several hours later, he was brought back for round two. Coles said he found himself in a room "with 50 of the most incredible singers I ever heard." This time, only six would be selected.

"They gave us 10 songs to pick from," he said. Noticing many chose the same songs, he said he opted to sing "Jesus Loves Me" and put his own spin on it.

Among the judges was a personal assistant to Britney Spears, who Coles said made some very positive remarks about him. Others must have agreed, as he got the call two weeks ago that he'd been chosen to advance to the Super Regionals.

"I did jump up and down for about an hour," he admits. "But after that, I reflected on what an opportunity it is to be one of probably thousands of people to make it to this level. I think I have an OK voice, but I know I love to worship."

Twenty-six regional contestants will compete in Nashville on March 29, with 92 remaining in the nationwide contest. Eight finalists from across the country will be flown out to Hollywood to appear on the two-hour TV show that will air in May.

"It's going to be an 'American Idol' format but I'm not sure if it's a public voting thing," Coles said. He said he is hopeful that his hometown will share in his success.

"I think it's cool that a guy from Goldsboro, N.C., has made it this far," he said. "I hope Goldsboro supports me; I'm only one of a few from the entire state. I would love it if North Carolina would get behind it like they do 'American Idol.'"

The Super Regionals will also afford him vocal training and other techniques that will prove beneficial in the future, he said. Whether that means winning this contest or leading to other avenues, the Eastern Wayne High School graduate said he is "not afraid to dream.

"I have a message, and I also want to get to the point one day where I can give back to Goldsboro what it has given me, a great home and great support."

He said he is humbled by the latest venture and tries to remain mindful of what the competition represents for him -- "I want it to be more of a ministry than talent, (a chance) to glorify God.

"I think it's awesome that there's actually a show that has come out that they're looking at more than just your singing; they're looking for more than just talent. I think I have a gift that God has given me, but I think I also have a testimony."