The Daily Illini

The ‘Cherry D’ on top: former University student, professional backup singer

Charity+Davis+and+Demi+Lovato+performing+onstage+during+one+of+Lovato%27s+tour+events.++
Charity Davis and Demi Lovato performing onstage during one of Lovato's tour events.

Charity Davis and Demi Lovato performing onstage during one of Lovato's tour events.

Photo courtesy of Charity Davis

Photo courtesy of Charity Davis

Charity Davis and Demi Lovato performing onstage during one of Lovato's tour events.

By Sidney Madden, Staff Writer

When Charity Davis was in elementary school, she was always singing. Her classmates even complained her constant humming was distracting during instructional time. At home, though, she was free to belt as loud as she pleased.

Today, Charity, under the stage name Cherry D, is a professional backup singer for pop star Demi Lovato.

Charity was born and raised in the C-U area by director of the Black Chorus Dr. Ollie Watts Davis and Reverend Harold Davis. From church choirs to instrument lessons, music was an integral part of her life growing up. Dr. Davis, a highly decorated soprano herself, was careful not to push her love for music onto her own children.

“As parents who are musicians, we didn’t want to force music on our children,” Dr. Davis said. “But if it evolved naturally, we definitely promoted it and encouraged it.”

All of their children are musically gifted in their own way. They’ve performed in various youth choirs and even formed a string quartet among the four of them. The baby of the family, Charity, had her own unique talent: her voice.

While directing local youth choirs, Dr. Davis would often bring Charity along, who would sing with the choirs before she was old enough to be in them.

“She was the smallest one there with the biggest sound,” Dr. Davis said. “And I thought, ‘One day, she’s really going to sound for something quite spectacular.’”

Dr. Davis also allowed her kids to attend Black Chorus rehearsals. One year, for the annual Moms Day concert, Charity sang a solo for the 1,000-member audience. Dr. Davis recalls wondering if, in the moment, Charity was going to be able to sing.

“My student was standing beside her, just in case she couldn’t. And when we got to it, she sang out and it was absolutely beautiful,” Dr. Davis said. “That was the moment I thought, ‘Wow.’ She was shaking! Her little leg was shaking! But her voice wasn’t shaking. It was just calm and clear and resonant for all these people. And I thought, ‘She could be a singer.’”

Following these critical developmental experiences, Charity sought out more opportunities to perform. She performed in local musical theater and at school talent shows. She debuted her first original song in the sixth grade. She quickly realized that home was where the stage was.

“I knew that I loved that feeling of being onstage, of performing,” Charity said.

She continued to perform but explored other interests in high school, such as dance and basketball. When it came time for college, she enrolled at the University with the hopes of becoming a high school English teacher.

While on campus, she worked on her music, finding gigs for the local band she was the lead singer for. From a friend, she heard there were auditions in Chicago for P. Diddy’s show, “Making His Band.”

After much debate, she decided to pause her studies to audition, a decision her parents were initially apprehensive about.

“I think my parents are very education-driven. Everyone should have an education and everyone should have something to fall back on, and I agree with that. But I felt like at that age, with what I was doing and the timing, I thought it was perfect, and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity,” Charity said. “So I just jumped out on my own and did it. And they have since understood that you can go off and do these things, and then come back and finish school.”

Following the audition, Charity was hired to sing backup professionally for Lady Gaga on her Monster Ball tour. She has since sung and toured with various other artists, including Selena Gomez, Robin Thicke, Cee Lo Green, Kesha, Pharrell Williams and currently Demi Lovato.

In between all her touring, Charity still tries to make it home at least once a month. When she returns, she finds her spot in the alto section in the Black Chorus like she never left.

“It feels good because it feels like home, and it’s something I’ve been doing for so long,” she said.

Current students welcome her back with open arms. President of Black Chorus and senior in FAA Brianna Tyler said she appreciates Charity’s modesty and willingness to help the Chorus out.

“I love when Charity comes because she’s always really humble,” Tyler said. “You know she could easily come in with superstar status and have on sunglasses and nice clothes, and not want to talk to us. But when she comes back, she remembers her roots. She comes in and sits down in the alto section. She’s just another member of the choir.”

Charity has previously helped out with the annual Black Chorus Moms Day concert, choreographing dances and playing the drums. This year, she will be unable to attend the concert on Saturday due to tour conflicts.

Still, Dr. Davis enjoys how Charity’s visits can inspire current members of the choir.

“For someone who has taken the principles and practices that have been taught in class and applied them, and has gained a measure of success and significance, I think it gives them a lot of hope and optimism about how they can do the same. Not only in music, but in life,” Dr. Davis said.

Regarding the future, Charity is working on her music, and she also has dreams of being on Broadway and writing music for Disney shows or voiceover work.

Given her success thus far and her large social media following, she often receives requests from young aspiring artists on how to make it in the industry. She encourages them to utilize online resources, to practice regularly and to get experience.

“If you’re a singer, you have to practice every single day. You need to know different types of genres,” Charity said. “You have to be able to talk about different kinds of artists that have influenced you. I think it’s important to get out there and sing. If there are open mics, perform. Let people see you, let people hear you.”

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