Former Quad-Citian Nic Hawk enters the "battle rounds" of NBC's "The Voice" this week, after making an impression on the viewers and judges in the first round.
And making a statement in the process.
In the first round of the show, which aired Sept. 23, Hawk, a 2006 Bettendorf High School graduate, sang a cover of the R&B song "Hit 'Em Up Style" by Blu Cantrell.
As is the hook with the show, its four judges are seated turned away from the singers performing and hit a button that turns their chairs around to indicate if any of them wants to be that person's "coach."
Judge Adam Levine heard Hawk singing and turned around within seconds. Another judge, Cee-Lo Green, also said he'd coach Hawk, who was born in Galesburg, Ill.
"What's goin' on, handsome?," Hawk asked Levine, also known as the lead singer of the band Maroon 5.
"Flattery will get you everywhere," Levine replied.
Hawk then said he wasn't sure if he wanted to be on Levine's team, because he was "so good-looking."
"Of course, Adam Levine is gorgeous. Who would not hit on him?" Hawk said in a phone interview from his mother's house near Dallas. "That was my open door. I wanted America, in a funny way, to know who I am."
Hawk said that after watching the show, he felt he may have gushed too much over Levine, but he still got his message across.
"I knew entering this show that I wanted people to know I was gay from the very beginning," he said. "I didn't want it to be a question. I didn't even want people to think about it, just accept the fact that this is who I am. I wanted people to love me, because there is so much more to me than just being gay."
Hawk bounced around in various places in Iowa and Illinois — including in Davenport, as a pupil at Truman Elementary — before his parents' divorce when he was 9 years old. He moved with his mother to the Dallas area, and one-fourth of the way through his senior year he moved to Bettendorf, where he graduated in 2006, to help his father recover from gastric-bypass surgery.
Hawk, who now lives in Culver City, Calif., said he had auditioned for "American Idol" five times over the past 10 years and was turned down each time.
"I was going into these auditions singing things I thought they wanted me to sing, that they wanted to hear," he said. "But I changed to songs I genuinely loved singing."
By age 22, he said, he realized his forte was soul and rhythm-and-blues music.
That's why he thought he'd have a better shot on "The Voice," now in its fifth season.
"I knew it was a show up my alley, because I'm a white boy that has a little soul to him, something you wouldn't really expect," he said. "And that's what this show's all about — it gives people the opportunity to be heard and not just be seen."
Green, a singer-producer, told Hawk "You just sound like a natural-born star."
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Hawk was part of the cast of Bettendorf's "Arsenic and Old Lace" his senior year, but he said a gay and lesbian theater project at that time at St. Ambrose University in Davenport ignited his interest in theater.
He worked for Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida and traveled across the country performing in theater tours.
On "The Voice," he now enters the "battle rounds," where two players from each judge's team sing a duet where both performers also have solos. That judge has to decide which of them will advance, although other judges may "steal" that singer. Teams of 12 will be pared down to eight this week.
Hawk said he's surprised at the positive following he's received, especially being open about his sexuality.
"I didn't have any fans before I came on this show, who didn't know that I sang other than in musicals," he said. "Now, I've got these Christian, NASCAR-watching people who are standing behind me. That just shows kind of the world we're living in. It's becoming more accepted, and people aren't looking at it as much as they used to."
The battle rounds already have been taped, but Hawk can't divulge how he fared or even the song that he sings.
No matter the outcome of "The Voice," Hawk said he's ready to ramp up his career.
"The sky's the limit at this point. I just needed a door," he said. "For someone to open it and receive what I have to offer, I honestly feel like this is just the beginning for me.
"This is not the last time you'll see me, regardless of what happens."