Infectious Magazine: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. How are you?
Chevonne: I’m awesome! Working hard to start my solo career as a recording artist. Writing tons of new and interesting music, getting ready for my first live band show at Sullivan Hall in NYC on December 5. Hanging with my man and my dog and seeing friends and family when I can. Creeping around New Jersey running holiday errands. Life is good!
IM: You’re currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to fund your debut album and a music video and you’re already almost a half way there. Congrats! With the recent scrutiny Kickstarter has been under, what made you decide to launch a crowd funded campaign, and why specifically Kickstarter?
Chevonne: My experiences touring with Lady Gaga and Estelle and my time on The Voice were all projects that are fueled by the “crowd.” Live tours are kept alive by fans actually coming out and buying tickets to the shows, and tours are how artists and bands make the most of their living nowadays. The Voice is a show that eventually put the contestants’ fate in the hands of the TV viewers; their votes are what keep people on the show. Plus, The Voice is the only TV singing competition with a strong social media presence and tons of interactive web exclusives. So, I figured that the people who are most invested in my music are the same people who buy concert tickets and vote for their favorite reality TV performers online.
They are Internet-savvy and they actively support music rather than just downloading mp3s and watching YouTube videos. I chose Kickstarter as my springboard for a crowd-funded record because many previous contestants on The Voice have had successful and lucrative projects on the site. Also, I was blown away by Amanda Palmer’s million-dollar-grossing record, tour and art book project on the site! I was beyond inspired by how greatly Kickstarter fan support can affect your future as an indie musician .
IM: Along those same lines, what do you think are the ingredients for a successful Kickstarter, such as pledge prizes, requested amount of funding, etc?
Chevonne: Dream up fun and creative prizes that fans will love and treasure: exclusive goodies that they’ll never be able to get anywhere. Let them request songs to be posted on YouTube; customize merch yourself; give them a say in what material will be put into your project.
Make a profile video that’s fun and engaging; use a simple editing program like iMovie to create cuts and clips. If you can, record a rough version of one of your songs on your phone (or use existing mp3s of original songs) and upload it as background music to your video. Dress up and look hot, so people are dazzled by your good looks as well as your charm and talent!
In terms of funding, just be aware of how you’re going to use the money and let your backers know. For my album and video, the money is going to mixing and mastering the tracks, paying live musicians, wardrobing/styling/retouching/shooting for the album art, printing hard copies of the record, and of course all costs that go into making a video (cameras, renting a space to shoot, wardrobe, hiring actors/dancers, costumes, etc). Actually, I shot WAY under-budget for what all of that normally costs if you’re signed to even a small label. But I’m creative and thrifty, and so are all my friends and collaborators!
IM: You’ve had some incredible feedback from some really well respected and seasoned industry professionals during your time on The Voice. Is there anything you disagreed with or felt they didn’t understand about you and your music?
Chevonne: Actually, all four coaches–especially Cee Lo and Christina—really did understand me as an artist. The critiques they gave me were spot-on, and the advice continues to propel me forward as I’m creating my live band show and writing tons of new songs. I didn’t disagree with anything they said, but I definitely would’ve loved to stay for another round on the show! I had so many ideas for the Live Playoffs round and beyond. But I think the fact that my time on the show was short is a great motivator, and the viewers got a really solid idea of who I am as an artist with the combination of the 3 songs and performances I did before getting eliminated. I’m a super positive person and I believe everything happens for a reason!
IM: How do you think shows like The Voice, American Idol and The X Factor can be either helpful or can be detrimental to both on-air contestants and viewers at home that might be considering a music career?
Chevonne: Reality singing shows are an amazing place to build a large and loyal fan base! So it’s important to stay true to who you are as an artist: don’t try and sound, dress, or act how you THINK you should. Do what comes naturally. I could’ve easily squeezed myself into a short little dress and stilettos and sang a Mariah Carey song, and for some people that’s exactly what works, but that’s just not me. I wore clothes I made myself and sang songs that speak to my rock vibe, my sassy soul moments, and my power-ballad wail. Think hard about what you want to say to the world through other people’s songs.
The danger of coming off of those shows is that some people who aren’t as experienced think that it’s all cake after that: private jets, calls from agents, and appearances on morning talk shows are all just waiting around the corner. But that’s not true at all. Shows like The Voice give you a jump-off point to start your career, but then it’s your job to continue your progress. Use the connections you’ve made and then fans who love you to push you off on your indie hustle! A career in entertainment is all about managing the ebb and flow of gigs beginning and ending. Another job opportunity is never guarantees; you’ve gotta make it happen!
IM: Do you think that musicians are raising today’s generation and if so, what does that mean for you as an artist, with that responsibility?
Chevonne: The world can be such a sad and upsetting place. It’s always been the job of the musician/artist/performer to take people out of their stressful lives and create new worlds and different forms of escapism. And now, with the technology we have, anyone can affect the world on a huge scale. A viral video made in your basement could become a national treasure. A dumb, funny cartoon sketch you uploaded on your Tumblr could end up on the world’s biggest news sites. I think that is so empowering! So yeah, be aware of the art you create, because it CAN be seen and heard by everyone. We are all responsible for elevating culture and keeping it fun and smart and meaningful. And I think about that every day and strive to create music that embodies all of those qualities.
IM: Being a bit of a mentor yourself now, what would you like to pass on to aspiring musicians?
Chevonne: I’d like to inspire everyone to think outside the box. Singing backup vocals, working in wedding bands and bar bands, and participating in reality TV is not the typical pathway for an aspiring pop star. But you’ve gotta take everything that comes to you and turn it into something amazing! Keep your creative brain running at all times, even when you’re watching a movie or driving around with your friends. You never know what will inspire you and make you a better artist. And always have fun, no matter what! You’re an entertainer!
IM: What’s next for you?
Chevonne: Right now, I’m focused on getting the Kickstarter funding squared away. We still have a long way to go to reach our goal, and if I don’t make that goal, all the money is returned to the people who pledged it. After the Kickstarter closes on December 15, I’m going to book a bunch more live shows and play out as much as I can while writing the album. I’d love to secure a spot as a support act for a hot band or artist that I love and respect. I’m very experienced at road life, so it would be easy to just dive in!
IM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Chevonne: Yes! Here’s a limerick just for you, to thank you for this fantastic interview:
I talked to this mag called Infectious,
And spoke with abandon so reckless,
They support indie music
With fierce pride they do it,
I wear love for them like a necklace!
Be sure to support Chevonne by helping her meet her Kickstarter goal by Dec. 15! You can pledge right here and score some incredible prizes!
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