Todd Kessler, the folk-rock musician and Northbrook native currently competing on NBC's prime time talent show, The Voice, admits he and Cee Lo Green might seem like a musical odd couple.
"Someone who comes from a more folk background, it doesn't necessarily seem like a great fit on the surface," Kessler said after joining Cee Lo Green's team in the episode that aired Tuesday night. "But when we got down to it we found out we did work really well together and I've learned so much from him."
"The most important thing he taught me was to really connect to the lyrics that you're singing," Kessler added. "That's something I'll take away with me forever. Being a good performer is so much more than having a good singing voice, you really need to connect with the story behind the song."
Kessler, 30, has been a musician since attending Glenbrook North. He is a former member of GBN's a Capella group Ow! and the GBN choir. After graduating in 2000, Kessler studied music theory and composition at the University of Illinois.
Kessler worked as a waiter after college, until he decided to focus entirely on music. It was an "uphill battle" since then — for a while Kessler was living off $120 a week.
"Things have gotten better and have progressed throughout the years," he said. "I'm hoping maybe this is going to be the thing that bumps it up just a little bit more."
Kessler said he had no pre-conceived notions about a team to join if his audition went well.
"It really comes down to 'I need one of these people to turn around.' I was singing to all of them at the same time, really just trying to perform my heart out and do my best on the tune," he said.
Kessler picked Maggie May by Rod Stewart for his audition, even though his smooth vocals have none of Stewart's rasp, because he liked the challenge.
Kessler is also a guitar teacher and pianist, and had the chance to play guitar during his Maggie May performance, but carefully decided against it.
"It's really easy to fall back on your guitar," he said. "But I was coming on the show to step out of that and step out from the guitar and gain more experience as a vocalist and as a front man."
Kessler is married to a fellow Glenbrook North alum. A social worker, Kessler said she's been a part of his life throughout his entire music career.
"It's been validation for both of us that I picked the right job."
Kessler's band, Todd Kessler & The New Folk can be heard online.