'Dancing with the Stars' singer hopes to emerge from shadow of popular show
'Dancing with the Stars' singer hopes to emerge from shadow of popular show

Her voice is heard by millions of people on one of the most popular shows on television, but few viewers know her name or what she looks like.

Yet Beverley Staunton of Newbury Park hopes her singing role on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” will give her musical career the boost she’s been dreaming of.

“(The show) was a huge blessing. When it started, nobody knew it would be such a big success,” said Staunton, who’s been with the show since it debuted in 2005.

The ballroom-dance program opens its 13th season Sept. 19. And Staunton will again be singing the familiar cover tunes that accompany the merengues and fox trots celebrities and their professional dance partners perform as they vie for the shiny disco ball trophy.

The camera follows every shimmy, shake, dip and turn but rarely captures her microphone on the dim orchestral stage.

“So many people don’t know that there are singers on the show,” Staunton says.

Nevertheless, she cherishes her role on the program, especially considering the circuitous route she took to get there.

Born in Montreal, where she grew up with three older brothers, Staunton began performing when she was 7.

“Our parents steered us toward music. It evolved from there,” she said.

By the age of 9, she was recording songs for Canadian television shows. Steady work on stages and in recording studios followed. When Staunton was 14, her family moved to Los Angeles, where she attended the Academy of Music at Hamilton High School.

After graduation, she spent 10 years in Vancouver, British Columbia, before heading back to L.A. in search of new opportunities.

Staunton, 35, moved to Studio City seven years ago. The veteran singer had just toured as a backup vocalist with platinum-selling pop artist Nelly Furtado but was beginning to feel stuck.

“I got to a point where I reached a ceiling,” she said.

“When I first moved here, I only knew a few people. It was a little tough in the beginning. I spent hours and hours making cold calls to studios.”

Eventually Staunton settled in. A year after her arrival, she was hired to sing for a brand-new show called “Dancing with the Stars.”

Harold Wheeler, the show’s musical director, said never in his 50-year career has he seen such a versatile performer, one who shifts so easily between songs by artists such as Lady Gaga, Adele and Judy Garland.

During last season’s classical week, Staunton sang a duet with opera singer Katherine Jenkins.

“The stage crew’s mouths just dropped. She’s very special,” said Wheeler, who’s worked with Staunton since the beginning of the show.

“She’s better than many singers selling millions of records.”

Staunton said she feels “a ton of pressure” on the highly rated show, which is recorded live.

“Twenty million people watch the show. You can’t make a mistake,” she said.

But Wheeler said everyone makes on-air mistakes amid expectations to produce a seamless broadcast. He recalled the first time Staunton missed her entrance in a song.

“It was the third song of the evening. We had nine more songs and I said, get over it. Make this one mistake, but never make it again. Every singer has made one mistake,” he said.

Staunton sets high standards for herself.

The veteran singer has performed backup vocals on recordings with Bette Midler, Michael Buble, Julio Iglesias, Jessica Simpson, Barry Manilow and Jackie Evancho.

“Sometimes I sing with a big choir. Sometimes it’s just me. It’s fun to sing in a small group and interact with other (backup) singers,” said Staunton, who doesn’t typically collaborate with the celebrity artists during recording gigs.

She’s sung with Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Ritchie, Martina McBride, Dionne Warwick and James Taylor onstage, a setting she prefers.

“I’m a live performer at heart. There’s a rush that comes with performing. It’s something that I won’t give up,” she said.

In December, Staunton released a country/pop album titled “Everything Changes,” which she recorded in Alabama over four days in March 2010.

“I chose songs and messages I could relate to.

“When others listen to the record, they get the sense that it’s uplifting. I wasn’t trying to do that, but it turned out that way. I sang what felt really good in my heart.”

Staunton co-wrote the title song.

“It’s about relying on your faith when everything is constantly changing.”

Staunton said her focus is now split between her work and her family. She and her husband, an engineer with the Los Angeles City Fire Department, have two young children.

“I would like to see some form of success with my album in the next couple of years, and I’m trying to enjoy my kids while they’re so young,” she said.

“I’m honestly just in a place in my life where I’m enjoying each day.”