ELLERBE — When it comes to gospel music, Kirk Franklin is at the top as a singer, songwriter and producer. Donovan Steele of Ellerbe may soon be opening up for him.
Steele, 14, will be auditioning in the Carolina’s Best singing competition against 19 other singers for the chance to open up for Franklin at a live concert on Oct. 8 that will also feature recording artist Erica Campbell.
The competition will take place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6 at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.
“He auditioned in August to open up for Kirk Franklin which is a big gospel celebrity,” said his mother Peggy. “He made it into the finals. It was announced on WIDU, the radio station in Fayetteville, that he was in. When we heard the town of Ellerbe, we knew it was him. He’ll be in the concert with Erica Campbell, and if he makes it through that he will perform with Kirk Franklin.”
Steele isn’t sure which song he’ll sing yet, but he said it’s best to choose one that will be familiar to the judges.
“They told us to sing songs the judges would know because they said it’s kinda hard for the judges to judge a song that they don’t really know,” said Steele. “They say stick to something they know so they have something to compare it to.”
Under the bright lights on stage may be a little intimidating for him, but Steele’s been singing since he was three years old. He’ll be joining the 9th Grade Academy’s school chorus in the spring semester, but has been performing at his church, Church of God in Rockingham, all his life.
“He sings for a lot of events,” said his mother. “He’s sung for Sheriff Clemmons when he was running. He sung at two different events for him. He has sung at weddings, a lot of church events. He won two contests at Cole Auditorium when they used to have the Richmond County talent shows — he’s won twice there.”
Even though he’s only 14 years old, Steele knows Carolina’s Best will be good exposure for him, and he’s already thought about how singing professionally could fit in with his future and what he’d do if he became famous.
“That’s part of my career plans,’ he said about singing. “It’s like I told my mom, if I actually make it to open up for them, if I do make it big time, I’d wanna give back to my church and community and family.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.