Monday, July 7, 2014

Church moves Voice contestant Soli Tesema to song

Some of the greatest moments in Soli Tesema's life have been mid-song in church in Ethiopia.

The 19-year-old Melbourne contestant on The Voice, which returns for a third season on Channel Nine on Sunday night, says she will never forget the power of singing in her parents' home country.

"I've visited several times and they have been extremely moving experiences," she says. "I've always wanted to help underprivileged children in an orphanage I know of there. I'll do that whether I'm successful on the show or not."

Channel Nine's ratings-topping juggernaut The Voice features new judges this year. Black Eyed Peas star and Kylie Minogue will join Joel Madden and Ricky Martin in the big red chairs.

Despite the nerves, this year's contestants say The Voice's nurturing, rather than scathing, approach to discovering singing talent in Australia's suburbs has been a boon.

 Tesema, an R'n'B pop artist, whose biggest music inspirations are Beyonce and Jessie J, says she has auditioned for reality TV shows before and found the experience off-putting.

 "I remember in my past auditions the producers would have their heads down and they wouldn't even give me eye contact," she says. "I was expecting similar but The Voice was the complete opposite. So welcoming."

Tesema's clearest memory of the blind audition – in which the judges sit with their backs to the singer – was the door that opened to the stage.

"Then seeing the judges' chairs and the audience, and just the incredible silence," she says. "It was scary. Getting up to that stage was an achievement in itself."

Fellow contestant John Lingard agrees the pressure is high but is driven by years of passion. After deciding music was his career choice at 16, his singer-songwriter aims were dampened as an adult.

"I worked full-time and was really drained each day," he says. Lingard has written more than 100 songs, and performed widely but it was only a year ago that his parents suggested he return home to Bendigo and convert the backyard shed to a music studio to follow his dream.

"I still have to pay rent," he says, laughing. "But it rebooted me. My passion is back and trying for The Voice was a no-brainer."