'Voice' Winner Tessanne Chin on Album's Quiet Release: 'Unfortunately We Couldn't Help That' (Q&A)
It's been a "whirlwind" of a year for Tessanne Chin — in December, the season-five champ of The Voice won viewers over with power ballads and reggae-rock songs while under Adam Levine's wing, breaking fellow coach Blake Shelton's three-peat winning streak, earning the first commissioned track from the show's in-house songwriter and producer, OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, and previewing what could be the first major Top 40 breakout for the NBC singing show.
Fast forward to July 1, and despite Chin's soaring notes on the Tedder-penned "Tumbling Down," as well as the other nine tracks on Count On My Love, the Jamaican native's post-Voice release debuted at No. 41 on the Billboard 200 with 7,000 copies — the lowest sales debut for a Voice winner to date.
Still, Chin remains as optimistic as the motivational anthems on her album. Before taking the stage for another date of The Voice Tour (which hits L.A.'s Nokia Theatre, San Jose's City National Civic and Portland's Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall before wrapping Aug. 2 in Redmond, WA), The Hollywood Reporter chats with Chin about her album's reception, her possible set list for a solo show and advice for season-six winner Josh Kaufman.
Count On My Love touches on a lot of different genres with just 10 tracks.
It was a natural progression, especially after The Voice, when you're singing other people's songs to discover who you are as an artist. The album is definitely a reflection of where I am now in my life. I've always hated being put in a box, being told I could only do one genre. Even though there are many different sounds on the album, there's a common thread: each of them have a different story or speak to a different situation about love. Finding it, whether it lasts or doesn't last, or just loving what you do in life, I can totally identify with every part.
What was the most difficult part of recording an album with a major label, as opposed to your previous independent releases?
I'm so used to writing everything! I had to learn to let go. I have to tell you, it was also a very freeing experience not to have that pressure to do it alone. I was lucky to have Diane Warren, Toby Gad, Claude Kelly, Chuck Harmon and so many others, and Republic, that allowed me to do writing, and gave me room to put on my vibe and embellishment. When you work with these labels, it's easy for them to say, "OK, we've won awards, we know what we're doing here." But they were accommodating. It was a blessing to collaborate with them and feel like I made something that was authentic to me. Also, I had to learn not to be intimidated by them!
While on tour, have you shared any advice for season-six winner Josh Kaufman on the album process?
He's such an amazing artist with an amazing soul. I can't wait to hear what Josh does; every time he sings, it gives me goose bumps. He is a breath of fresh air in every possible way. I'm happy for him and his family — I totally feel for him, I know the kind of balancing act he's trying to do right now; it's a whirlwind. The biggest tip I gave him was just to try and stay focused and keep your loved ones near. It's so easy to take your loved ones for granted, but they're the ones that actually lift you up the most and help you keep things real.
Did you ever feel pressure to be the major Voice breakout?
You know, I don't really feel that pressure, because I do this because I love it. This is always something I've dreamed of doing, regardless of all the critics, how big [the album gets] or whatever. The Voice was an incredible vehicle for me to move my career from one position to the next, and the fact that I get to sing every day and every night on a different stage is success to me. I know I can do the best me there is, and if people like that and want to buy that, that's great, and if not, that's cool too.
Do you read reviews or keep an eye on your sales? Or just let it go?
It's hard not to, because my fans are very passionate and vocal about what someone says or what people may think. So at the end of the day, I'm at a place of positivity. I can't pay attention to what everybody has to say, whether it's good or bad. Me and my team, we work very, very hard, so I'm very proud of the album that was released.
Count On My Love was a quiet release. What do you want to tell people who don't know about this album yet, Voice fans or otherwise?
Unfortunately, we couldn't help that it was a quiet release, but we can certainly help that we have opportunities like The Voice Tour to sing around the world and tell people more about it. You know, it's a very curious position when you're coming off a show like The Voice and become an artist, as opposed to when you've been signed as an artist — it's a different thing because you're working with impossible deadlines. [Laughs.] We did our best album. I believe it's something very special and that when people do get the chance to hear it, they will feel the same way.
After The Voice Tour wraps, we'll be going full speed ahead on promotion of the album. That's where my heart is right now! I'll probably go home for a minute just to catch my breath, but like I said, I'm making the best of a situation where The Voice Tour is concerned by working to spread the word every single night, wherever we are [with interviews and local appearances].
What from this album have you been singing on The Voice Tour?
"Everything Reminds Me of You," written by Rock City (Theron and Timothy Thomas) and myself, and produced by Supa Dups. I love that song because when we start it, people start to bop their heads, and everybody can sing to it because it's easy to remember the chorus. The response has been great so far.
Which song is the most vocally demanding?
A cross between "One Step Closer" because it's heavily driven by a dubstep vibe, and "Everything Reminds Me of You" because it's very different from my style. It took me a while to get used to it. But first thing in the morning, singing "Heaven Knows" [for an appearance] is a challenge, because let me tell you, boy, the vocal cords are like, "Uh, no!"
Which is the most emotionally taxing?
That would definitely have to be "Loudest Silence" and "People Change" — I think everybody's been there. Also, other ones that are emotional in that they make me happy are "One Step Closer" and "Always Tomorrow." Music is such an incredible vehicle for me, so the messages in those are that we always have tomorrow, today even, to make it right, and we all know what it's like to work so hard for something. For me, music should be motivational as much as it is recreational.
Count On My Love is out now.