Tessanne Chin’s Life of Music

Paul Whyte

On September 24, 2013, an experienced vocalist walked out in front of four coaches on National television and not only caught their attention, but also made a deep impression with those who watch the vocalist competition show, The Voice. Tessanne Chin had dedicated herself for years prior to that moment, but her take on the song “Try” by Pink made it instantly clear that her dynamic voice was impressive even by the most scrutinizing of standards. With each episode of the show, Tessanne kept delivering astonishing performances and ended up winning the fifth season of The Voice. While the show did launch her music career into a new era, Tessanne has been working at her life in music from the very beginning. This Saturday she will be headlining the Bayfront Festival Park’s 10th Annual Reggae and World Music Festival with her band and a number of other talented acts. We got the chance to speak with her a little about her background, The Voice and following one’s dreams in music.

Reader: You’re going to be performing up here in Duluth, Minnesota this weekend for the Reggae Fest and I know that performing is nothing new to you, it actually seems to be your life. At what age did you decide that you were going to pursue being a performer?

TC: That’s difficult to pin down because I grew up with musical parents. I know first thinking at around five, “ok, that’s what I want to do.”  As far as going off and doing it professionally, I was around 17.

Reader: There must have been a lot of development. Your voice is very powerful and full. I know that you’ve had training, but what was building up before The Voice? Bring me a little through that.

TC: I was in Jamaica but actually went to high school in England. When I came home I got into vocal training with an amazing lady, an American lady, Lecie Wright. She helped me to perfect my voice and after that I got into a rock band in Jamaica called Mile High.
Shortly after, I became a back up singer on tour with Jimmy Cliff. That was a major turn and that was when I was absolutely sure that’s what I wanted to do. I had a career in Jamaica and released an album. It took off there in the Caribbean and Jamaica, but after awhile I got put in this box and I wanted to move past that.
It was at the suggestion of a friend called Shaggy, who is an amazing artist, to go on the show and that’s how that happened.

Reader: There must have been hundreds before you could even get to the point to sing in front of the judges.

TC: Definitely. There were three or four auditions to even get to that point and I was so nervous because you don’t really know what to expect. I have to say the producers did the best they could and it was an amazing experience with the whole process.

Reader: With The Voice and the songs that you got sing, especially the song “Try,” do you get to choose that or was that song chosen for you?

TC: It’s like a collaboration. When you go in for your first audition they have a few songs that you can pick out. In my first audition that was one of the songs that I did. They went with something that would be the strongest song or something that would give you the best shot.

Reader: So they didn’t pick a Johnny Cash or Tom Waits song for you.

TC: Maybe for another artist they would, but it just so happened for me that it was that song. I absolutely love that song and that artist and the message. I was very happy to sing that song.

Reader: Since after The Voice I know that you’ve gone on to do a few things. How does one end up performing for the President at the White House?

TC: At first when I was told by my management I thought she was joking. They weren’t. It was just an opportunity that came through. They had seen me on The Voice and they wanted to include me in that. I was very very honored to be able to do that. It was an honor and pleasure to meet them. He had came to Jamaica just a  couple of months back. It definitely opened up some amazing doors for me in that way and I’m extremely grateful.

Reader: So are you on tour?

TC: No, we’re in the process of recording as well as performing. Each weekend we’ll go off and do a show but we’re buckling down with recording. After this month, we’ll be off to L.A. to finish up some recording.

Reader: Do you have a dedicated band then?

TC: I do have a dedicated band. They’re amazing. They’ve been with me since before The Voice. It’s been an amazing experience to finally travel with a band. That’s always been a dream for me. They’re like family and it’s been a great experience.

Reader: Have you ever been up to this area?

TC: I don’t think so. I’m not sure about The Voice tour, but I’ve never been there as an artist by myself. I was kind of freaked out because I didn’t know how to pronounce Duluth.

Reader: Duluth is the easy one. There’s plenty of Native American words for places up here. Some are harder to pronounce than others. Either way, you picked a great time to come up here.

TC: I’ve heard it’s very cold there.

Reader: Yes, but in the summer it’s not too bad. But if you’re used to L.A. it still might be cold depending on the day. Bring a jacket just in case.

TC: Always. *laughs*

Reader: For the person working their way up as a performer is there any advice that you would give them?

TC: First and foremost, be sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. I think a lot of people look at the lifestyle and think, “oh, great, I get to travel.” It’s actually a lot of hard work before you even get to that point. You’ve got to have passion. Also, never give up and know who are. I can’t tell you all the times I wanted to call it quits. It’s a hard industry, I’ll be very honest with you. When you know that you love what you do and when you reach that stage, it’s all worth it.

Reader: Well, you definitely deserved it. Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap things up?

TC: Can I mention that we have a new single out called “Fire?” It’s available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, they can reach me on Instagram, Facebook or my website.

Reader: This is going to be coming up on the new album that you’re recording?

TC:  Definitely. We just finished filming the video for it. I’m really excited for the new material.

Reader: I’ll be sure to check it out. Thank you for your time and I hope you have a great time when you get up here to Duluth.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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