R.L. Bell can't tell us how far he gets in the upcoming episode of Karaoke Battle USA, but he does say that he's "feeling great, wonderful," after his performance of "Three Times a Lady" before the judges' panel on the ABC reality-competition series.
Bell is one of a slew of Houston-area singers who made it onto the show in the first round of auditions, which took place at House of Blues venues across the country. Houston's auditions took place back in June.
And he has presence, for sure: He barely hesitates when we ask him to sing a few lines and launches into a pitch-perfect a capella rendition of The Carpenters' "Long Ago and Oh So Far Away." When we quietly signal that he can stop, he says, "Hold on, I can do it like this, too," and switches over to falsetto.
Bell's favorite musicians include classic R&B artists such as Smokey Robinson and Luther Vandross, and while he listens to some modern R&B and rap, "I can't feel it like I feel the older stuff," he says.
Music is very much a family affair for Bell, whose parents were musicians and who started out singing in his church choir. "My father was offered a scholarship for singing, and he always regretted not doing anything with it," he says. "I'm doing this for myself, but I'm doing it for my family too."
Bell currently works a day job as a massage therapist, but moonlights as a singer for weddings and other private events. "Singing is my No. 1 passion," Bell tells Rocks Off. "I have something to give to the world."
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He, like so many reality-competition hopefuls, hopes this show can give him the break he's been looking for for so long. The winner receives the title of "America's Karaoke Queen" (or King), a recording contract with Hollywood Records and a trip to compete in the karaoke world championships in Ireland.
But for right now, Bell is focusing on one thing at a time. "If [the show] can give me exposure, if I can go on the TV and someone, somewhere is watching, that's all that matters," he says.
We know we'll be watching.
Karaoke Battle USA airs Friday night at 8 p.m.