Jess Kellner, a former North Texan competing on NBC's The Voice, has had her sights focused on just one career goal for a very long time.
"I want to create good music that people will enjoy and can relate to," the aspiring soul-pop singer says. "And that's not just something I want to do for now. I want to pursue this for the rest of my life."
Kellner -- who grew up in North Richland Hills, graduated from Birdville High School and now lives in Austin -- seems to be on the right path. She was one of the first singers selected in last week's season premiere of The Voice. She'll be competing as a member of Team Usher.
If Kellner continues her mastery of songs the way she handled Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling in Love, she will be a force to be reckoned with.
We chatted with Kellner last week about getting this big break on The Voice, which airs at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday on NBC.
What made you want to compete on The Voice , as opposed to any other singing talent show?
I liked the fact that it wasn't based on appearance, that the show is pretty true to being all about the talent. That was a big thing for me. I tried out for American Idol and it felt a lot based on how you looked to get you through. But on this show, the judges' backs are turned and it's more true to the talent.
What was it about Can't Help Falling in Love that spoke to you? Why did you feel it was the right audition song for you?
I've been singing that song for a long time. Plus, to me, the lyrics are pretty much talking about the relationship I'm in now: "Wise men say only fools rush in." I'm getting married in November, and we were very quick to fall in love and rush in. People have said it's crazy that's we're getting married so soon, but it's true love. So that song meant a lot to me.
Was it a big confidence boost when not one but two judges (Usher and Shakira) turned around right away?
It was nerve-wracking to go out there, but for some reason I still felt calm, which never happens. I'm always a nervous wreck and very anxious. But I was very calm that day. I knew that they were in their chairs, but the fact that they were turned around, not facing me, made it a lot easier to sing.
And once I saw them, when Usher turned around, I was like, "Oh, my gosh. This is real. This is really happening, I'm sticking around." And it was so awesome that they turned around so quick. It was huge for me. Like, "OK, I really am good. I really do have talent."
When did it become clear to you that you had the potential to go far as a singer?
It started when I was in church choir at the First Baptist Church of Hurst. My director started noticing that I was a little different and started giving me solos, and that started me getting a feel for performing in front of a lot of people. That's when I started enjoying it. I really got a rush out of it.
Beyond Elvis, what genres of music are your favorites? And what genre do you think you'll ultimately like to be associated with as a performer?
I love a lot of the soul kind of music: Joss Stone, Adele. I love people who sing from their hearts and you can just feel it. I like a lot of folkie stuff too. And also stuff in the Florence + the Machine category of indie rock. But as far as myself, I would consider myself singing in a soul-pop realm.