Tessanne Chin: "Music Is Something You Can't Decide Not to Do, It's Who You Are"
Photo courtesy of Gino DePinto - AOL Studios What victory looks like.
From the moment Tessanne Chin grabbed the mic and sang her heart out to Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing" on season five of The Voice, the singer sent shivers down spines and made millions of Americans (and Jamaicans) jump off their couches and stare in awe at the TV screen.
Chin may have gained international fame (and envy) working with Adam Levine and taking home a bronze mic that season, but the Jamaican reggae singer of English, Chinese, and Cherokee descent was an established artist in Jamrock way before she charmed the judges and blew away audiences with her killer pipes.
"Music was always a part of my life," Chin told Crossfade last week from her hotel room in LA. "It's very much a part of my DNA."
Born into a family of musicians, Chin practically learned to sing before she could even talk. The singer grew up following her parents around rehearsals and watching them perform. Since then, it's been a love affair with music.
Now, The Voice champ is recording her debut album with Universal Music Group and getting ready for her solo gig at the 9 Mile Music Festival this Saturday at the Dade County Fairgrounds.
Coincidentally enough, we caught up with Chin on Bob Marley's birthday, and spoke to her about being coached by the Sexiest Man Alive, growing up in Jamaica, learning when it's time to move on, and paying homage to the reggae revolutionary.
Crossfade: Congrats on The Voice. How was it like having Adam Levine as a mentor?
Tessanne Chin: Oh Lord, you know it's so funny because before everything started, I knew I wanted to have Adam as my coach. I've always loved his music ... Moving forward, I knew he would be the perfect coach to [help me] transition from a reggae singer, honoring that part, but moving on to see whatever was available for me. A lot of the time, they [viewers] think it's just smoky mirrors, but I can say he [Adam] really pushed into it and took it very seriously. He gave it his all.
Was it hard to focus having the Sexiest Man Alive around you all the time?
[Laughs] No, because he's so mischievous! He is so hyper, but wonderful. It's so funny when it comes to music, he's so excited and passionate. When it's not music, it's all chaos. As corny as it may sound, I already met the Sexiest Man Alive [she said alluding to her husband]. People would always joke around and ask me, 'What does it feel like when you hold him? What does he smell like?' I was like, 'I don't know! I'm just there to learn.' Your mind is in a completely differently place. You're too busy being nervous all the time.
Were you star struck when you first started?
You know what, when they all first turned around, there was definitely an element of shock. They're the biggest names in music. It was literally an out of body experience. It's what you dream of happening and hope to God will happen, but when it does happen, you're like, 'Oh my God, did this happen?' The hardest part, you can't tell anybody what happened, so I had to hold the secret for about two months before the show aired.
It's an experience I would treasure for the rest of my life, and put me in contact with some very special people as well. It's not about the songs and the outfits, it's the people you go through this whole thing with. It's a very odd situation to be in. You want to win, but you want the others to succeed as well.
What's the biggest lesson you learned from him?
Quite a few, but the one that stands out is to always connect to the song because that's how the song will connect to the audience. I also learned to create moments. That's the one [lesson] I'll take with me forever. It's not just a song, you have to create a moment, create something that's memorable. One of the best bits of advice was to not think about winning or loosing as a competition, just go out there and sing.
I never expected to win. I'd hoped, but at this point, you get to love the people you're competing against. I love Jacquie and Will. It was hard to say I wanna win because you respect the people to your left and right. I didn't know what to expect. That's completely honest.