Chevonne: The Voice, The Awkward and The New Album

In 2008 I was beyond obsessed with American Idol. So much so I went to every taping but one, stupid school assignment…But after that season I couldn’t really find it in me to give my heart to another season, let alone any one of the other Idol-like shows that popped up. Then walked in The Voice. Since quitting Idol, The Voice is the only show I do watch. I might miss an episode here and there because I can’t deny my sitcoms for reality TV, but I like most couch potatoes love the auditions. That’s where I came to know Chevonne. She was the “Gaga singer” with the big hair. She had a great story, look and could sing. But of course the judges are oblivious to her marketable appeal; they only went by her voice. So I was sitting there stressing over nothing because she was soon swooped up by Cee Lo.

Now I didn’t realize Chevonne was out of the competition until I had the chance to interview her. So I of course jumped at the opportunity to sit down with someone who had been in the presence of the love of my life, Rob Thomas and who was on the only singing show I respected still. Plus, she was on my favorite team this season, Cee Lo’s “Team of Misfits.”

In person interviews are always worrisome for me because I am awkward, but thankfully sitting in the 101 Café with Chevonne was like having lunch with an old friend, well your more stylish and talented friend. Before diving into her time on The Voice and admitting that the whole save thing “saved her life” and how she’d never really seen what was beyond New Jersey until landing a gig singing backup for Lady Gaga, we talked like 14 year old girls. Being around the same age we shared an appreciation of 90’s pop culture, Degrassi and Taylor Hanson. She for a different reason than me, but love is love and Taylor is hot no matter what gender you thought he was back in those “MMMBop” days.

One time I met someone who was on Idol a week before they were voted off and he told me he hated it. Chevonne is the complete opposite…She had nothing but nice things to say about not only The Voice but the crew. Seriously, one of my favorite interview experiences, so read on to experience my afternoon chat with Chevonne from The Voice about her past, present and future which hopefully includes a record with the help of Kickstarter.

Kendra: Why did you pick The Voice to go out for and not Idol or X Factor, or did you try those?

Chevonne: Well I had watched The Voice season 2 and I was just really impressed by the format and the way that show allowed artists, even though they’re singing covers, to express themselves and show America who they are. The audience totally could get a feel for what their solo album would feel like. You could feel their spirit even when they were singing other people’s songs. So I watched it with my boyfriend and we got so into it. We we’d be screaming at the TV, and the more we talked about the show, the conversation became more about what would I sing if I got on it, and oh my God if I made it to the live show I’d do this and I’d do that. I would choose this coach or that one. It just started to feel like the necessary next step. It just seemed like something I should try and so I auditioned and figured if it doesn’t work out, it wasn’t a fit. If it does, then I might as well dive in. I’m very…I love to take risks. I love to push the envelope with what I’ve done with my career and you know, just see what I could get to happen.

Kendra: Did the idea of the “Chevonnterage” come before the show?

Chevonne: Actually it was something I toyed with many years ago just because I’d always been sort of kicking around in this industry. I’ve been a writer for years and I’ve made demos of solo stuff, but none of it ever got off the ground, none of it ever felt quite right. I just knew there were other things I had to do, other ways I had to grow. I would joke around with my friends; I wonder what my fans will be called? And “Chevonnterage,” I just thought it’d be funny. Now this is a real  thing where coming up with a hashtag or a name for the fans is something people do, and they kind of want you to do. The irony is there is no exclusivity with me. Everybody is in, everybody gets hugs, and everybody gets to hang with me on my journey.

Kendra: Let’s just stop and appreciate the greatness that is Rob Thomas for a second. Did you know beforehand that he was going to be the guest mentor?

Chevonne: It’s a surprise. I didn’t know because on the previous season it was Babyface and Ne-Yo, so I figured, oh maybe it’s Usher or some R&B guy. And the only hint Cee Lo gave us was that it was a guy, and you’re all going to know who he is, you all know his music. And when I saw it was Rob Thomas, everything just made so much more sense. First of all I was completely fangirling out. For me, I’ve been a fan for years. I grew up on Matchbox Twenty. I’ve always admired his writing. My boyfriend and I actually play his music. We drink whiskey, I play piano and we both sing and way before The Voice was even on the table, at least three or four of the songs that’d we do every night would be a Matchbox Twenty song or a Rob Thomas solo song. It meant a lot to me to work with him and he said a lot of awesome stuff to me. He Googled me; he saw one of my old YouTube videos and the first thing he said was, jokingly, “Oh my God you’re the Chevonne that did this YouTube video,” and I was like Ah! You watched my YouTube video?!

Kendra: Was it ultimately your decision to talk about your past struggles with an eating disorder on the show?

Chevonne: It was my decision, but I mean I didn’t go in saying like, I’m going to be the “eating disorder girl,” but I realized how many people would watch the show and get to know me and know my story. I think back to that time in my life where you know, at that time pop culture was focused on the girl with the 6-pack who had the thong coming out of her pants and the perfect sort of tan and the straight hair. I could’ve really used a role model in pop culture saying, it doesn’t matter that you don’t look like that. Britney Spears was the sort of ultimate icon at that time and I didn’t look like her and I just, although she wasn’t my trigger at all. That was sort of the archetype at the time, and there were no weirdoes really. Even TLC, they were my favorite girl group and even they had perfect bodies. They were so stylish and I was so awkward, and I feel like now there’s this new wave where everyone is sort of embracing their awkwardness and their weirdness on the radio, on TV and in movies. And I want to take that a step further and be on TV and represent the kind of girl I am and the way I grew up, and the darkness I had to go through. I knew that there’d be a lot of young people watching, and I wanted to help them in any way. Have them relate to me or be motivated by the fact that I got through it.

Kendra: I honestly didn’t even realize you’d gotten eliminated…Just because you were a stand out and I expected America to keep the memorable people. Moving on though, you’re doing a Kickstarter to help make a record and a music video. One of the incentives to donators is clothes you’ve worn on the show. So those are your actual clothes when you perform and not wardrobe?

Chevonne: There is a wardrobe room full of awesome pieces but it’s really up to the artist. If you want to wear all your own stuff, you can. I’d always loved fashion and playing with pieces, and you know clothes are fun. You could really express louder parts of you through your clothing. I’m sort of reserved in real life and I use fashion to express things that I can’t necessarily say myself. So I came in with some of my own stuff, especially shoes. I’m big on saving shoes, so a lot of the shoes I wore were mine. The jewelry I wore was mine. It makes since for me to give those clothes away, to give back to the people made me who I am now. I don’t need to keep that. I would rather pass it on. I actually already gave away some of my rings from my Blind Audition, some other pieces of jewelry when my Twitter followers went up every like 500 I started giving stuff away to followers. To me it’s very sentimental. I would rather pass it on and get them hyped the way that I was over my favorite pop artist.

Kendra: If you could own something from your favorite pop artist who and what would it be?

Chevonne: That’s a good question…A hair from Freddie Mercury’s mustache. That’s what I would want. I’d put it in a little ziplock and tack it up on my wall and every morning I’d go kiss it for good luck. It’s creepy. I’m a total freak.

Kendra: I noticed you have a thing for Scrabble. So with just 3 words, I want you to describe the feel your debut album will have…

Chevonne:
– Rabblerouser: I would say the songs that I want to put on the record are a party feel, very joyful; celebrating, having a good time, having fun. I just want to spread joy.
– Pop Tart: The sexiness sort of comes in.
– Hair band:  It’s a part of my musical upbringing. My dad loves arena rock and hair metal, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Foreigner. All these really commercial, obnoxious hair bands. But there was something about hair bands…They were poppy yet rock, kind of girly, and that sums up a lot of what I want to do with my record. Although you might get the wrong idea from me as citing hair bands as an influence. You’re not going to flip through the album and hear that sound per say, but that sentiment, that vibe will be there in terms of the looks and the statement and the boldness.
*In her handwriting on a napkin:

Kendra: What lessons did you take from touring with Lady Gaga and Estelle and how will you apply them when you set out on your own?

Chevonne: Lady Gaga and Estelle were both paradigms of talent and candor, everything a star should be. The way that they spoke to the crowd; they were flamboyant, cheerful and dramatic. One big thing I learned is take your time and be big. Gaga would hold a pose for as long as she felt like holding it. Watching her take her time made it feel like the songs were never singing her, she owned it. She was in control. As a female pop star, that’s important; never let the show work you, you work the show. To be a part of that magic…Made me realize it’s really about confidence. And as for Estelle, I got really close with her; the real Estelle, which is the stage Estelle, which is a beautiful thing. She was would just sit in the airport and eat at McDonald’s with us, laughing. And that was amazing to see that she was just always herself. I could tell that she never lost her sense of self after the stardom. She treated us like her peers. We were just her band and she didn’t have to do that, but she respected us and made us part of the experience. She’s a saint to me.

Kendra: Gotta ask, who do you think’s going to win The Voice?

Chevonne: It’s so hard to choose because they’re my family, my friends. It probably sounds cheesy and everyone says that, but it’s true. Nobody else knows how it feels to be on The Voice except other contestants. It’s a weird world, a weird but awesome world. It’s a whole other universe that we all live in together, so I have a hard time picking, but I would like to see someone from Team Cee Lo or Christina win because they were my coaches. I love who’s left on Team Cee Lo, and Christina not only because the save, but she’s so near and dear to my heart. I died working with Cee Lo, but Christina, to work with a woman and to work with a woman that I have been listening to since I first started singing, that’s a just a very…My life has come full circle sort of thing. But I’m a total fangirl for Amanda, and if Amanda won I’d be happy too. I just love her choices. I loved when she did “Dream On,” that for me was the performance of the season.

Kendra: Since you have a love for 90’s slow jams, can you give a mixtape with your top 5?

Chevonne:
Ginuwine “Pony
TLC “Red Light Special
Blackstreet “Don’t Leave Me
Aaliyah “One In A Million
Next “Too Close” *recognized it wasn’t a slow jam, but had to put it for the grind factor*

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