It was the final round.
Farmington's James Chappell III had just finished singing "Breakeven" by The Script, his third song in NBC's new summer singing competition The Winner Is.
He had a choice to make.
Would he take a $50,000 offer or bank on the possibility he got more votes than Mississippi competitor Amy Showalter to advance to the finale for a chance at $1 million?
“You take bits of 'The Voice' and merge it with 'Deal or No Deal.' That’s pretty much what it is," Chappell, who also has auditioned for The Voice, told Patch.
Host Nick Lachey gave both singers three final seconds to decide and at the last second Chappell opted to cash out. But when the final vote tally of the 101-expert panel was revealed, Chappell had a slight 56-45 edge as the favorite.
While he would have advanced to the finale if he had stayed in the game, Chappell said he ultimately made the choice for his kids after pleas from one of his daughters to come home from Los Angeles.
"I promised her I'd come home," Chappell said.
But $50,000 and singing three songs on national television is also a big win for Chappell, who plans on saving up the money for his kids' college education someday. Besides, to Chappell, if all you focus on is the money when aspiring to a music career, you'll likely "wind up getting disappointed."
“If there are five people in the audience you have to give them the same show as you would for 500,000," said Chappell, who hopes to someday perform in a large arena setting like the XL Center in Hartford and see his records in the major music stores.Chappell has three kids, Sierra, 7, Sasha, 4, and Laila, 3, and is also a father figure for his wife, Melissa Chappell's three children, Jacob, 9, Isabelle, 7, and Hazel, 6. They sometimes sing with him and can be heard singing "Jingle Bells" with him on his 2012 holiday album, The Joy of Christmas and his website,www.jc3music.com. His kids go to school in Vernon and Melissa's children are students in Unionville.
While impressing a 101-person panel was a big part of The Winner Is, there was one person in the audience that made all the difference to Chappell. His wife, Melissa traveled with him to LA to watch him sing in the competition.
"It was amazing because I've seen my husband perform at churches, but not like that on stage," Melissa Chappell.
When the two first started dating, James would sing to Melissa on their Skype dates.
"I didn't know what to expect," Melissa Chappell said of the first time he sang for her. She was impressed. "I never heard someone sing with such passion before."
Two seasons ago, Chappell went to an open audition of another NBC singing competition, The Voice. In front of thousands of other people auditioning in New York, he sang two songs, “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" by the Bee Gees and and "Bring It On Home to Me" by Sam Cooke. After the pre-screening round of auditions, Chappell was invited to do a blind audition for the show – meaning he would sing to the four celebrity judges who would be listening from their backward-facing red chairs. He was not able to make the audition due to a death in the family.
But The Voice producers passed his name along to the producers of a new show, The Winner Is, which debuted this year. Chappell was "very surprised," "shocked" and "happy" when he got the call inviting him to audition for The Winner Is. After singing "Feeling Good," made popular by Michael Bublé, and
"Wanted" by Hunter Hayes in a Skype audition in February, he was in. Next stop: LA. His episode was taped in March.
Chappell grew up in Windsor and has been singing since he was 4. He was very involved in the music scene at Windsor High School. The Windsor Warrior dabbled in basketball but spent more of his time playing "pretty much anything I could get my hands on," namely keyboard, guitar, saxophone and drums. But singing was his passion and his dream.
“I knew very early on what I wanted to do," Chappell said.When he was on the stage for The Winner Is, he was in his element. Featured in episode 5, he sang "Soul Man" by Sam & Dave in the first round and When I Was Your Man by Bruno Mars.
“This was my world my life. Everything was right there," Chappell said. “The energy was so high in that place. You felt like you could just fly through the roof if you wanted to."
Even though Chappell gets nervous before every performance, once he's on stage, that all dissipates and you see a humorous, poised soul man who is impassioned with the music he is singing. While he does think about embodying a character he envisions in a given song, his on-stage personality is all James Chappell III.
“Just capture the song and make the song your own," Chappell said. “When you make a song your own, it’s almost like inviting people to your house."In 2009, Chappell self produced a gospel album, called Surviving the Storm. Legendary singers like Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke inspire him musically.
He incorporates his music into his role as a pastor at Heart Mending Ministries, a non-denominational church in his hometown of Windsor. Growing up, he used to listen to his family's gospel groups sing at a Manchester church.
“I love how singing impacts people," Chappell said. "I try to use singing as a way to connect with people to encourage them, lift their spirits a little bit."
Doors have opened up since the show. Chappell has been invited to do a concert in North Carolina as part of a celebrity golf tournament fundraiser.
Now he's considering on making another album, which he hopes to record in a studio in Nashville, TN, an opportunity that arose after The Winner Is.
“I like people to hear me raw," Chappell said of his choice to produce his first two albums. "I want them to hear the real me."