By Davina Hamilton—
From the moment she had the judges on NBC’s ’The Voice’ in awe of the way she said “bread and butter”, audiences knew there was something special about Tessanne Chin.
The Jamaican singer has consistently wowed judges on the US version of the TV singing competition with renditions of songs including Emeli Sandé’s My Kind of Love and Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers To Cross.
Last week, the 29-year-old made it through to the final six contestants, following a flawless performance of the No Doubt reggae hit Underneath It All, and on Thursday last she hit the semi-final with knockout versions of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and Katy Perry’s Unconditional.
As she continues to garner praise from supporters throughout the world, there is perhaps no bigger champion than the singer’s mother, Christine Weston.
Based in the United Kingdom, Weston never fails to watch her daughter’s performances online (sadly, ‘The Voice’ USA doesn’t air on any UK TV network).
And in an exclusive interview with Life & Style, Weston, a former professional singer, says she is thrilled that so many people in Britain are rooting for her daughter.
“That is one of her big dreams, to come to the UK and sing for the people here,” says Jamaica-born Weston.
“So it’s good to know that England is rooting for her.
“Tessy has a huge family here in the UK and we’re all so excited for her,” the 63-year-old adds.
“Even her grandma – my mother, she’s 88 – she’ll get up sometimes in excitement! All the family here – we’re just over the moon.”
Despite her excitement, Weston admits she has mixed feelings about the possible outcomes for her daughter.
“First of all, I truly believe that God is involved in all that is happening and, therefore, whatever happens, we’re cool with it. For me, it’s whatever’s best for Tess. So I’m quietly confident, but I’m also nervous.
“I am wishing secretly that she can win, but winning might not be the best thing for
Tessanne, you know what I mean? It’s not always the best thing to win these contests. And also – I know this is cliché – she’s already won in our books. By doing what she’s doing, performing on a stage like ‘The Voice’, she’s already surpassed all her dreams. And she’s really enjoying it. So we’re proud of her, no matter what.”
Reggae enthusiasts will know Tessanne had already established herself as one of the genre’s most gifted vocalists. Starting her career as part of the group Mile High and also serving as a backup singer for reggae star Jimmy Cliff, the powerful vocalist went on to establish a solo career, fusing reggae and rock with tracks including Black Books and the massive single Hideaway.
Hailing from a musical family, Tessanne’s big sister Tami, 30, is also a huge name on the reggae scene, while her brother-in-law (Tami’s husband) is reggae-dancehall star Wayne Marshall.
But while Tessanne is no stranger to the music business, her mum says she’s not a fan of rivalry and, as such, had reservations about entering ‘The Voice’. “Tessy hates competition,” Weston laughs.
“She doesn’t like to go up against people; that’s not her thing. She falls in love with people and makes them her friends, so it’s difficult for her to have a competitive spirit. That’s the reason she’s never entered any competitive shows like this before.
“Plus, of course, she’s Jamaican, and who would have thought a Jamaican would have got acceptance on an American TV show? But it was [reggae star] Shaggy who really convinced her to do it. He said, ‘Just take a chance, Tess’, and she did. And it was the best decision she’s ever made.”
A perfect example of the Jamaican motto ‘Out of many, one people’, Tessanne’s heritage is a mixture of Chinese and Cherokee on her father’s side, and black, white and Jewish on her mother’s side.
“It’s a real mix-up,” laughs Weston, who was married to Tessanne and Tami’s father Richard for 38 years. The couple, who remain good friends following their divorce, also have three older children – daughter Terrie and sons Tonniel and Torenne.
Describing Tessanne as “a real Jamaican”, Weston, who has since remarried, says her daughter was initially reluctant to leave her home to take part in the Los Angeles-based contest.
“Tessy is a real homebody. I used to tease her and say: ‘You sure you want to be an international singer?’ She doesn’t like the frills that go with international stardom. She’s not a diva and she doesn’t like too much attention, so I wasn’t sure if this was for her. But she would say, ‘Mum, I’ll be able to manage.’ So even though she had her reservations, this was a great opportunity, and I’m sure she’s happy she’s taken it.”
And in taking the opportunity, Weston says her daughter, who is married to Jamaican radio and TV personality Michael Cuffe, has been a wonderful ambassador for Jamaica.
That much became clear after Tessanne’s phenomenal audition performance of Pink’s hit Try, when the four impressed judges – Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton – began quizzing the singer about her history.
Weston laughed as she recalled the moment, before expressing her joy at her daughter’s representation of her country.
“If you go to Jamaica, you’ll understand what it means to our people to see one of us representing on an international stage the way Tessy is representing. She’s just being herself; being a real Jamaican and not trying to be anything else.
“That means a lot to people in Jamaica, as well as the Jamaicans who live abroad – including me, of course! She’s just representing our little island so well.”
Breaking into stronger Jamaican twang, she adds: “As dem seh in Jamaica – ‘Jamaica pop down’!”
For more information, visit www.thevoice.com Follow Tessanne on Twitter: @Tessanne