Chicago musician Todd Kessler breaks through on 'The Voice'

Todd Kessler found his way onto NBC's singing competition "The Voice" after playing the Chicago music scene for a few years with his band, The New Folk. RedEye spoke with Kessler, 30, regarding his song choice for his recent blind audition, what it's like having Cee-Lo Green as his coach, and some of his favorite spots in the city. "The Voice" begins its battle rounds at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 on NBC.

Could you talk about your song choice and what made you want to perform it?
Choosing "Maggie May" was somewhat of a challenge because when choosing a classic song, from the first notes, anyone who hears it is going to have emotional attachment to the song. Knowing that it was "Maggie May" and the expectations for what it was supposed to be like, I knew it was going to be a tough choice, but I thought they would like it because my voice is so different from the original. Rod Stewart had a lot of rasp but my voice is more clean. I think it turned out OK.

What was it like being on the stage?
As soon as those doors opened and you see audience and see chairs, all the nerves kind of dissolved. The weeks before the audition were extremely nerveracking.

What has it been like working with Cee-Lo Green as a coach?
What's great about Cee-Lo is he's never trying to change me or mold something that I'm not. He heard something in my voice that I didn't hear, and he wanted to kind of move forward with that vibe, which turned out to be a really great learning experience. I perhaps didn't see myself as that type of singer, but he brought out something in me.

Give us a little background on yourself and being from the city.
I grew up in Northbrook and then moved down to the city after graduating from [University of Illinois]. I messed around with the open mics around the city. I have since, with my band, worked my way to playing Lincoln Hall, Space, a residency at Schubas, and we just released our album.

What are some of your favorite spots in the city?
I'll keep it to music. I love Schubas. It's just an amazing room, an amazing place to play as artist. It's a great place to go and hang out too. You know it's going to be a good show so, you know, you can peek in and not even know who is playing and have a good time.

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