On Sunday mornings, Felix Thompson’s father would wake him up in his house on Atha Road with a cold washcloth to the face and Prince’s “Purple Rain” on the stereo.
His family wasn’t a musical one, but Thompson can trace his budding musical career to moments like those.
Or to the afternoons when his family would drive to Commerce to watch drag racing, playing R&B legend Calvin Richardson the whole way.
Or even to growing up in church, hearing the choir sing hymns.
Whatever it was, it worked. Thompson is growing in stature as a singer, his sound a combination of smooth R&B and modern trap beats.
“I really think I have something no one else has right now,” Thompson said, “I think my sound is pretty unique.”
Since launching his career a little over three years ago, the Monroe native has released songs that have gotten radio play up and down the east coast, racked up over 1 million listens on SoundCloud and opened for rapper and mogul Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs in front of 90,000 people.
Most recently, however, he scored an appearance on Fox’s music show “The Four,” where up and coming artists battle it out for the cameras.
“I like where I’m at right now,” Thompson said, “I’m heading in the right direction.”
After graduating from Monroe Area High School, Thompson headed off to Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. But his desire to be closer to a more vibrant music scene brought him back to Georgia only four months later, as he transferred to Clark Atlanta University.
There he met a manager and started performing and getting connected around a town rich with music. His EP “Playlist” showed his vocal range and talent, combined with dynamic live show, which includes backflips, helped him attract attention from labels, other artists and fans.
He also focused on building his brand through social media and sponsorship deals, a necessity in today’s Internet-driven music world.
After graduating from Clark Atlanta, Thompson moved back home to Monroe, but he hasn’t been around his hometown much.
Every morning he drives to Atlanta to do the work of trying to make it in music. He works out with a vocals coach, trains with a dance choreographer, does interviews, hones songs in the studio and takes meetings with brands. That’s all on top of the relentless touring schedule he must maintain, since shows are his main revenue source.
“Nobody comes out of nowhere in music,” Thompson said. “Most of the artists that seem like they did have usually been around for like five years, then they got that one opportunity. You have to build the groundwork.”
One his biggest payoffs so far has been his appearance on “The Four.” The show takes four up and coming artists and pits them against new challengers in every episode, in sort of a king-of-the-hill style performance format. Each incumbent gets a chance to perform and then the challenger can respond.
The judges, which are Combs, producer and Snapchat kingpin DJ Khaled and singer Meghan Trainor, and fans chose whether the original performer or the challenger get to progress in the show.
“It’s different than something like American Idol because the performers are much more polished,” Thompson said. “It’s much more about the music and less about the storyline.”
In his portion, Thompson battled Jesse Kramer, who performed “Hold on I’m Coming” by soul duo Sam and Dave. Then Thompson sang “That’s What I Like,” by Bruno Mars.
Kramer prevailed in voting, but Thompson could make a comeback. If he earns enough fan votes, he could win another chance to dethrone one of the four.
But, at this point, failure to make it on the show would not derail Thompson’s career. He feels like he’ll make it in the music industry either way.
That means more touring, more meetings and more practice. This weekend, he’ll be in Miami, performing at an R&B festival. Next week, he’ll be back in Atlanta, plugging away in the studio.
“If a door is locked, you just have to kick it until it falls down,” Thompson said.
Anyone can vote for Thompson by using the hashtag #Felixx on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or by going to his website at Felixxmusic.com.