News Column

Houston's own Josh Levi sings, dances, acts and impresses 'X Factor' judges

October 2, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 02--Josh Levi blazed onto "The X Factor" this season with charm and cool, turning the Selena Gomez hit "Come and Get it" into a slow-burning acoustic serenade. The judges were unanimously impressed, sending him into the top 40.

"There's nobody like you," gushed Kelly Rowland.

"I think we could be looking at a future little star here," said Simon Cowell.

And just like that, a TV star was born. But Levi, 14, is no overnight success. The Houston-trained performer is an experienced actor, singer and dancer. Levi -- then known by his full name, Joshua Levi Bolden -- was a familiar face in local theater productions and had a recurring role on the Texas-set drama "Friday Night Lights."

"I had to pick out of the three. With singing, I told myself I can actually put all three into one," Levi says. "I've always loved Justin Timberlake. He sings, he dances, he acts.

"I remember wanting to call my album 'Silent Rebel,' because I have two sides of my performing personality. I write songs that are happy, and I'm always full of joy. I also have my serious moments where I dance and I go hard and it's more mature."

This week, "X Factor" judges Cowell, Rowland, Demi Lovato and Paulina Rubio begin narrowing the field of 40 to 16 singers. They will compete in a dramatic new format called the Four Chair Challenge, which tasks each judge with choosing four singers to take to the live shows.

Q: What prompted you to audition this season?

A: I knew Kelly Rowland was a judge, and she's from Houston. I was like, 'Oh, that's just fate. I have to do it.' (Levi was born in Chicago, but his family moved to the Houston area when he was 3 months old.) She and Beyonce being from Texas and that Houston love. My friend Normani (Kordei from Pearland), who was on the show last year with Fifth Harmony, she did it, and she's really doing well right now. I needed to give it a try.

Q: What do you remember about the actual performance?

A: I wasn't nervous until I was right on the side about to go. When I got onstage, I just felt this comfort that made it easier for me. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Kelly and Demi were beautiful. Simon is Simon.

Q: Whose idea was it to move to Los Angeles in March?

A: It was basically my idea. It feels so cool to live here. It's full of dreams and opportunities and stuff like that. We've been back and forth from year to year for periods of time. We wanted to make it official-official. Houston, I've been there for so long. ... I've done theater, a bunch of little commercials, singing, musicals, recording. I'm here with my mother and sister. My father, brother and grandma are in Houston. My sister is a rhythmic gymnast, and one of the best gyms in the country is here in Los Angeles.

Q: Is it difficult being away from family?

A: I miss them, of course. I love watching tennis on TV with my grandma. We used to get ice cream and do it on the weekend. My grandma actually lived four houses down from us. My mom and grandma own a business together, a day care in Fresno, and my brother works there. We do pretty much everything together. But everyone is super, super supportive. They were actually just here for vacation.

Q: What else do you miss about Houston?

A: The Breakfast Klub downtown is amazing. Oh, and Baytown Seafood. We used to almost have that once a week. Baytown Seafood has the best catfish and shrimp and fries and green beans.

Q: You're the true definition of a triple threat: actor, singer and dancer.

A: Being a recording artist is actually the last thing that I've entered into. I started singing and performing in church. I wrote my first song when I was 5 for my sister's kindergarten graduation. I started doing plays and musicals, local things in Houston at the Ensemble Theatre, Main Street Theater, Houston Family Arts Center, TUTS [Theatre Under The Stars]. After that, I went to film and commercials. I keep telling people I want to be in 'The Hunger Games.' That's my favorite movie, and it has the most brilliant actors ever.

Q: What's the biggest lesson you've learned through performing?

A: Push, push, push. There will always be a lot of closed doors, but you need to fight until you get that open door. Don't let anybody say you can't do it.

___

(c)2013 the Houston Chronicle

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