Tessanne Chin evolved in front of an audience. Performing at the age of six with Cathy Levy’s Little People, her coming-of-age experiences as a vocalist are documented by the media. From overcoming comparisons and touring with fellow artistes such as Jimmy Cliff, to launching a solo career and then going on to win season five of NBC’s ‘The Voice’ — the one thing that remained constant was, and still is, her passion for performing.
“I think we tend to always want to put things in a box and with that, people too, but we’re ever-evolving and ever-changing,” said Chin.
On February 1, 2020, she welcomed her daughter, Zaia, adding the title of mother to her name. She shares that it has been a period of enlightenment. “It’s been an interesting two years. I believe the rest of the world would agree with me, that it was unlike anything any of us has experienced, but we were blessed to have our daughter,” she said. “Being new parents to a little baby means some amount of anxiety, and it only brought us closer — it kind of created a little bubble to focus on our little family and [helped] us to look for the silver lining. Yes, it was hard; sure, in many ways, it was hard on the entertainment industry in terms of people being able to do what they love and also to earn money, but there’s always a silver lining.”
She is quick to remind people that she has never abandoned music, or, more so, singing. She also privately began providing voice and performance training lessons and has shared her vision for Voice Box. In this week’s Five Questions, Chin delves a little further into the concept, explains the gift that motherhood has given her, and shares her excitement for her performance at tomorrow’s Jamaica Rum Festival.
1. Some persons are under the impression that you have retired from performing and recording new music. How do you label this chapter of your life?
I have rearranged. This is a period of rearranging. I don’t think I will ever retire from singing, but it has a new space in my life. I [realised] that when I had my daughter. Persons have to understand that before this, my whole life was singing; I was dedicated to being an artiste and making the music. Then when I had my daughter, it wasn’t about that any more. It was about being present and able, and it’s fine that a lot of people are able to do that when singing; but for me, it was a different sense of purpose in my life. I will always sing and make music, but I want to make other things a priority, to branch out and see what else my craft and skills [have] to offer. It is a legacy thing, and I will always sing; I am [a natural-born] singer and performer. It so happens it has led to teaching, and I get a great sense of purpose and fulfilment from it, too. It is something that fires me up and brings me a sense of joy in being involved in part of our next generations’ talent; to pass on what I know to them. Sometimes we have to rearrange what is priority, what is joy, and what is a necessity, and that’s the process I am in.
2. How has motherhood been treating you, and what has it taught you?
It is the hardest, most wonderful work me ever do and the most rewarding. Zaia is getting into that age...she is two...so it is a lot of ‘no’, ‘Zaia, come here’, but she is a good child. And [I am] not saying there are good and bad children, but she hasn’t done anything terrible. She is only expressing her rights, preferences and curiosities, which is what every healthy two-year-old does. It is a hard job to parent a child, and to do that without trying to re-parent yourself. In certain ways, it is a massive deal and it can be triggering and extremely enlightening. She has reminded me about certain things about myself [that] I forgot, about my own childhood and who you were as that core being, and she is also a wonderful reminder of now. She loves water, her food, singing, melodies and dancing, and she’s in school now and loves it. And it is a joy for me to see her love school.
3. In March, you would have hosted your first singing workshop alongside the efforts of the Tourism Enhancement Fund. What has come out of the partnership since then?
That was a lovely introduction for me in terms of taking on this new role as teacher or coach, and lovely to put together what I learned so far, and condense it into a workshop. But it was more rewarding to see the talent Jamaica has to offer in absolute abundance. And I had the opportunity to go back last month with a few of the selected singers and form the workshops to prepare them for their showcase. I had a bit more time with them, which I really enjoyed because there’s only so much you can learn when coaching; and getting through a workshop is just being able to lay down the basics of something. But having quality one on one with them for the course of two days was something special.
Voice Box is also a little different. I teach a lot of children from six years up, [so] I try to lead with love and also make each singer, each student, understand it is a safe space to make all their mistakes, and for them to be able to test out their vocal abilities and not feel afraid or embarrassed or criticised if it does not go as planned. It is for them to build confidence and express themselves. I had planned to do a performing arts summer camp, but a few developments came into play. In [the] future, I want it to become a performing arts school. Right now, I’m in the process of trying to build a scholarship and get sponsorships for children who may not have opportunities to participate in similar workshops, or afford lessons.
4. As you prepare to grace the Jamaica Rum Festival stage, what are you most focused on as it relates to delivering during your performance, and why?
First and foremost, I am not gonna lie, I am super nervous. But at this point in my life and career, my main focus is to have a good time and encourage all who are there to have a good time. I think sometimes, as an artiste, we get caught up in wanting everything to be perfect, and I think it’s another thing motherhood has taught me — it’s not about everything being perfect, but doing your best and having fun in the process. So that’s my focus — we all have a good time on stage and that the audience has a good time singing along with us, and being so grateful [that] we can do a live show again.
5. The event is not only a celebration of our rum and culture but also showcases food which through your YouTube channel we have learnt you are also passionate about. Do you also look at the festival as an opportunity to add to your knowledge for future vlogs?
Aside from looking forward to seeing see Sevana perform (because I’m a big fan) and just being where live music, which in itself is a real treat in these times, I am a foodie. So, of course I’m looking forward to that. I use rum in recipes too; there is an incredible recipe that I altered with rum, it is croissant bread pudding and a little bit of Appleton goes nice in it. Brandon, my husband, does these wicked rum pancakes, lawd dem nice. And I’m not going to hide and say it. I’m a big rum fan too. Don’t give me wine or any other liquor. Give me rum. Don’t ask me how this or that wine taste… no… doh dweet!
Brawta: Do you have new music coming out anytime this year, and can you tell us a little more about your plans to record?
It’s so funny you ask that. I’ve had new music waiting to be released, but with my current situation and rearranging where I am at, I don’t think I’m ready to do so. I’m not there yet.