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Chicago's JDA keeps going on 'American Idol'

February 08, 2013|By Adam Lukach, @lucheezy | RedEye

Josh "JDA" (pronounced Jay-duh) Davila was born and raised on the South Side, and, despite no practical or classical musical training, took a shot at auditioning for "American Idol" when the show came to town last summer. It's a good thing he did; the androgynous singer not only broke through to Hollywood, but survived this week's first round on the West Coast. We talked to the 28-year-old about his audition on the show, some of his favorite artists, and what he likes about the city.

Congrats on making it. I wondered why you chose "Idol" over all the other singing competitions out there?
You know, it was my day off work; it was a beautiful summer day, I had nothing to do that but just chill and relax and take in the summer day. And when I heard that "Idol" was holding registrations at the United Center, I totally went for it. I spoke with one of my best friends, Laura, and I told her about my interest in auditioning for "American Idol," and she said, "You know what, dude? Just go for it. You have nothing to lose. It's a beautiful day, don't waste it just being at home, go out, take a chance and see what happens." And whatever I did, "Idol" just kept giving me the green light, and I was just like, "Wow. I'm doing something right here." I made it this far for a reason and whenever I met [the judges] and I sang for them, in the end all four of them said yes to Hollywood, and I was like, "wow, this is going somewhere." And I'm really excited [laughs].

Talk a little bit about your musical background, how you got started and that kind of thing.
My musical background consists of teenage years going through hardships in school, looking for a way to express myself and my feelings--writing poetry, listening to a lot of music during my high school years. I never was part of a band or anything like that. Times alone by myself I would really just escape and sing on my back porch and just listen to Christina Aguilera. I would listen to a lot of Christina Aguilera ... [She] is definitely someone who I can give a lot of credit to for my musical background.

Also Boy George, even though he's not really a part of my generation ... now, going into "Idol," having a concept and an idea of what type of artist I want to be, Boy George is definitely someone I always go back to when I reference what kind of artist I am and who I wanna be. In terms of pop culture and what needs to be available right now I feel that currently there are no male artists who are like Boy George that I feel it's kind of like my responsibility to reintroduce that style, that image, currently to this generation.

What artists, besides Christina Aguilera, obviously, who influence you right now?
Well, Adele is amazing ... vocally, Adele. I can be ever so grateful for Adele to be available in pop culture currently right now. Calvin Harris is amazing, I love dance music and electro. Seeing how many artists he's collaborating with, I think it's so amazing, he turns a lot of underground artists into starts because of his collaborations.

Tell me about your audition and what it was like getting in front of the judges.
It was so exciting, laughs. It was funny because Nicki Minaj was late; she was tardy. I was a little sad, I was like, "no, I want to audition for her too" ... but then they told me to come back at a later time to audition and I totally understood why, because Nicki Minaj wasn't there, and I was actually really excited. He didn't explain why but I knew why ... So anyway Nicki Minaj comes on set and joins the rest of the judges and I go and audition for all of them, and Nicki Minaj was really funny! She was like "Jay-duh," you know, because she's British, she was like "Jay-duh, do you want me to call you a he or a she?" So that was funny.

I triggered curiosity in Nicki because of my appearance, because of how I was looking. I didn't look like your typical guy in jeans t-shirt and gym shoes. No, I actually went in heels, black leggings, you know, a really tight long sleeve shirt, and I had makeup on. I had my hair down to the side. She even gave me a nickname, she called me "bang boy," [laughs] ... I was like, "no, you can call me a he, cause I'm a guy, even though I look like a girl." But I'm not, and I don't wanna be a girl. And she was like, "oh so you don't have any interest in crossing over or getting surgery or anything?" And I was like, "no, absolutely not, I wanna be who I am." I just wanna be really feminine and embrace my femininity and not be afraid of it or suppress it, you know?

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