But he never stopped wondering about his Brazilian birth mother. She was only 14 when she had Correy. What had become of her? Did she still think of him?
Initially, auditioning for Fox's "The X Factor" was just an attempt to find her. But Correy has since realized that his struggles with a near-fatal car accident and a disease that nearly ended his college career might give others hope.
Correy's father, an elevator mechanic, and mother, a lobbyist, weren't musically inclined. But when his passion emerged, they encouraged it. At 5, Correy began singing on a stage his father built in his backyard. Sheets became the curtain, and neighbors, the adoring audience.
By fourth grade, Correy was starring in local plays and by seventh, in musicals. He played the title role in "Bye Bye Birdie" and fell in love with Elvis Presley. Yet he was also a self-professed jock, playing baseball, basketball and golf, among other sports.
Correy was torn — the jock who loved musicals, the child who loved his parents but couldn't stop thinking about his birth mother — and became insecure. He studied at Archbishop Spalding High School and spent his nights exploring Baltimore clubs such as Hammerjack's, Bourbon Street and Iguana Cantina.
"It wasn't 100 percent conducive to my progression as a musician, but boy, did it teach me how to grind," Correy said.
Correy received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, where, during his sophomore year, he became so sick he lost his voice for a year and a half. Though his illness temporarily took away his ability to sing, he continued to write songs.
Correy later made a full recovery, and began landing gigs with pop and hip-hop stars such as Ne-Yo and Bow Wow. While driving one night in 2006, Correy fell asleep at the wheel and wrecked his car. He emerged with a fractured hip, and broken leg, but persevered.
"As hard as it is not to quit when times get hard, you just never know when your time is coming," Correy said.
To get to "The X Factor" auditions, Correy drove 13 hours through two thunderstorms to Greensboro, N.C. There, he wowed the judges with Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are" and moved on to boot camp in Miami. He made the first cut and is waiting on the next round of results, which should come Wednesday.
There may be 60 remaining contestants, but Correy is impossible to miss. Tattoos wrap up both his arms and stretch across his torso. His favorite? A rose on his hand that bears the word "breathe," something his mother used to calm his stage fright when he was a child.
Soon, he may have another role model — a woman has come forward claiming to be his birth mother. Her story lines up, he said. The only step left in the process is a DNA test, which Correy wants to pursue.
"It's all so surreal now," he said. "I truly believe I have the biggest heart, and that's something you can't teach."
Singers David Correy, Nelson Emokpae are in harmony on reality TV
Md.-based contestants on 'X Factor,' 'The Voice' each draw from traumatic pasts
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