Pop and soul for The Voice winner

Jamaican-Chinese singer Tessanne Chin is not your ordinary reality TV singing competition winner.

Chin, 28, who emerged top in the fifth season of American reality TV series The Voice, is a seasoned veteran back in her hometown of Kingston, Jamaica, having toured as a back-up singer for revered reggae artist Jimmy Cliff, and collaborated with Jamaican-American pop artist Shaggy.

In 2011, she served as a judge on an American Idol-style reality show in Jamaica called Digicel Rising Stars.

But Chin tells Life! in a telephone interview from New York that her desire to be "an international singer" compelled her to try out as a contestant for The Voice.

She says: "I don't want to be boxed in, like, 'Oh, the girl from Jamaica that sings reggae'. I look up to people like Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin... Those are the women I want to emulate - that's a big part of the reason I joined The Voice."

Chin, who says there were times that she doubted herself and struggled as a singer, adds that she "felt like I needed a rebirth of what people saw me as... not as a girl that sang reggae music but as a vocalist".

Chin, whose father is of Chinese and Cherokee descent and mother is of English and African descent, started out in Jamaica as the lead singer of a rock-reggae fusion band called Mile High before going solo in 2006.

As a solo artist, she produced several hit singles in her home country, including Never Let Go, a duet with Shaggy in 2009.

Chin, who is married, was one of the favourites during season 5 of The Voice, wowing all four judges - Adam Levine, Christina

Aguilera, CeeLo Green and Blake Shelton - during her audition on the show. She eventually picked rock singer Levine as her mentor.

On why she picked him, she says: "I'm a big fan of his music and... the fact that he has many genres and influences - you can hear pop rock, soul, jazz, blues, reggae and dance music - I wanted someone to help me to honour my reggae background but also to move forward and embrace different types of music."

Since the show wrapped at the end of last year, Chin has been hard at work on a new album, which will feature collaborations with Shaggy, legendary American singer-songwriter Diane Warren and American producer and songwriter Toby Gad.

She says: "Some wonderful songs have been coming out. Some of them have a bit of an island feel, some of them don't. Some are very pop and some of them are big soulful songs."

Asked about the pressure to succeed like other reality TV music artists such as American Idol winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, Chin says she is "trying not to focus on that".

"People like Clarkson and Underwood and American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson... their star didn't rise immediately. It took time. I'm trying to focus on making good music and having the career that I know I can have," she says.

The themes of love and triumph will resonate through the music in her upcoming album.

Chin says: "The greatest thing one can write about is love, and not just love in terms of love songs or love lost. I think the greatest thing I can do in writing for somebody is to lift him up.

"And for me, I feel a lot of songs on this album are songs of encouragement, love and hardship and songs of triumph and victory as well."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

SERVICES