Take a rugby player and add two more rugby players. What do you have? A band of three, and a musical phenomenon. Well, that’s what we’re hoping as Bath Rugby player Levi Davis takes time out from the rugby ground, picks up a microphone, and sings his heart out with his bandmates on the new X Factor: Celebrity
Dancer Brendan Cole, actress and presenter Ricki Lake, The Chase quizzer Jenny Ryan, journalist Martin Bashir, Love Islander Wes Nelson, Glee star Kevin McHale and plus model Hayley Hasselhof. What do this random assortment of celebrities have in common? Why, they all have the X Factor. Or rather they are hoping to, as The X Factor has now reinvented itself with a celebrity version.
The X Factor format – which sees aspiring amateur singers audition and perform in front of the viewing nation – has broadcast annually since 2004, but the programme has lost some of its lure in recent years, so the celebrity focus, which features a line-up of 14 celebrity acts, is a welcome refresh. Presented by Dermot O’Leary and with Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger as judges, our Saturday evenings have given us a new opportunity to scrutinise familiar faces out of their comfort zone.
There is added excitement with the appearance of our very own Levi Davis, the explosive Bath Rugby winger. He has joined musical forces with Thom Evans, former Scottish international rugby union player, and Ben Fodden, who plays for Rugby United New York and gained 34 caps for England. Together they have formed a group called Try Star. Levi didn’t know Thom or Ben personally, but before the band was put together had seen them both play rugby and admired their game.
What will the group’s music be like, though? Is it going to be worth listening to? After initially meeting in London, and then at Simon’s luxurious home in LA along with the other contestants, and finding that the three of them had a good connection, they have been working together for months.
“We were thrown together, but it worked,” says Levi. “We’ve done quite a bit of practising in London and hopefully this will be apparent in our performance. The great thing is we all complement each other in terms of our roles within the band.”
Billed as the real musical talent within the group, Levi describes his music as “a bit of neo-soul with a funk swing to it, but whatever comes out that I think sounds good really.” He has always adored music and used to be part of a band called Majesti, so the boy band format was not a strange one to him. “I was in choirs and did performing arts as a boy, within secondary school and also at primary school. Rugby always took centre stage in my life, but now I’m doing both, so that’s just awesome,” he says.
Levi has been focused on rugby since he was young. “I started with football but went across to rugby at around 12. I have a natural ability, but I’ve also worked very hard and have been in and out of the academy systems. Actually it was only when I was 16 when things really fell into place for me. I knew I really wanted to do it when I was 14, and at 17 I realised that it could be a realistic goal. And now I’m living it.”
Levi earned himself a rugby academy contract in December 2017, having played for Bath United while he was a fresher at the University of Bath studying for a foundation degree in sports performance. “I came to Bath for university and I haven’t left since, it’s been great. I live in the city centre and still have all my uni friends here.”
He has represented England at under-18s and under-19s level and made a try-scoring debut for the senior side against London Irish in the Anglo Welsh Cup in November 2017. “I played for England when I was 18. The year before I’d just missed out on the counties, so I was going one step further with England, so it was a dream come true – and obviously it’s special when you represent your country no matter what age group.”
As part of the Bath Rugby team, Levi trains at Farleigh House, Bath Rugby’s elite training ground. With its two full-size natural pitches and a half-size 4G artificial pitch, state-of-the-art gym and technology, a medical centre and rehab space, the facilities there are exceptional. “Farleigh House is second to none,” says Levi, “It’s a beautiful place to train, a very special place and we’re so lucky as not many clubs have this advanced level of facilities.”
What was Levi’s experience when he first joined Bath Rugby and how hard was it to get used to the regime? “Geoff Williams and Anthony Watson are players who really helped me when I came in as a young academy boy,” says Levi. “They helped me develop. I couldn’t have done a lot of what I’ve done without their help.”
Levi’s plans for the future are based in Bath, but international rugby is always a priority: “Like all rugby players, I’d love to be a regular starter in the premiership and I have the dream of playing for the full England side. If you play rugby at this level then you always hold that close. I’m just going to carry on playing for Bath or another premiership side, but you have to bear in mind that there is always a lot of competition. I don’t want to go anywhere from where I am now, so we’re all good.”
Might there may be any conflicting loyalties between his professional rugby career and his music? “I have my sight absolutely set on rugby as a career but our involvement as a band on X Factor: Celebrity is something that will benefit all of us. Doing both definitely allows me to live the dream at the moment, but there will come a point where they do clash. But I do think it really helps you develop as an individual if you have a life outside of rugby.
“Meeting the other contestants on the programme has been so refreshing, meeting a range of people who are all successful within their own fields. It’s a great way of broadening your horizons. They all bring something different to the table and it’s important to have these experiences.”
X Factor: Celebrity begins on ITV on Saturday 12 October.
Main image: New band Try Star featuring rugby players Thom Evans, Levi Davis and Ben Foden on X Factor: Celebrity