Sacramento’s Tessa Evans, about to explode
Tessa Evans is a soulful, raspy-voiced local R&B singer who is now working in some mysterious capacity with Grand Hustle (8 Ball and MJG, B.O.B., Killer Mike, T.I.). In fact, Evans’ relationship with the label is so hushed that she asked to see what I was going to write about the label before it came out, just to make sure it didn’t reveal too much.
“Hell no,” I said, “I’ve got ethics!” But then I sent it anyway, because journalism ethics don’t apply to hot soul singers.
Point is, she’s been working super hard. Evans just dropped a Jae Synth-directed music video where she destroys Lil Wayne’s “She Will” track with some gnarly, sadomasochistic lyrics that would make Robert Mapplethorpe blush. The controversial song will appear on her mixtape Champagne & Cocaine. And with some help from her team—Jason Geter, Mike Lace, Cal-E Porter and Young Dizzy—the girl’s about to, uh, blow.
Tell me about Champagne & Cocaine.
Well, it kind fits with the whole vibe of all the records. With mixtapes, you’re allowed to be a little more edgy. It’s just the real Tessa Evans, uncensored, not having to worry about radio edits and stuff like that. I love mixtapes because they’re honest.
I thought you were going to say, “I love cocaine.”
(Laughs.) No, but the vibe of the mixtape is about that life—those late nights, early mornings and everything that comes along with the shows and the trips and all that kind of stuff.
What’s the origin story of Tessa Evans?
It all started with lessons. I sang so much, and I was so loud that my family was like, “We need to get you lessons if you’re going to be singing around us.”… I started when I was 6. It was just a hobby for a long time. I’m really, really shy, and it was a way for me to open up. I had my first band when I was 16. That’s when I started doing the live-music circuit.
You have a really stripped-down, jazzy, folky thing going on.
A little bit. My approach to recording is—real. I don’t do Auto-Tune. I don’t do a lot of layers to cover it up. I have a more old-school approach of like, “Here are my vocals.” … I always keep it raw, because it’s a real voice. That’s something that doesn’t happen a lot anymore.
Speaking of which, do you watch American Idol?
Oh, man. Goodness. My old voice coach was actually the voice coach for American Idol. Let’s just say there’s some behind-the-scenes stuff, and I’m not fond of it anymore.
Why, they doctor it up or something?
Well, obviously, it’s a TV show, but I didn’t realize they pick who stays every week. So it’s kind of fake at the end of the week. So I just stopped watching it.
Hey, does your family ever get bummed out on your bra-and-lingerie photos?
My goodness! At this point … they’re like, “She’s a grown-up, and she will do what she will do.” I think at first some of my edgy stuff was shocking. But they’ve adjusted.
The Internet says you’re Latina.
My mother is Latina. My dad is Welsh. If I [started] going into my bloodline, it would bore you to tears.
That’s like me, I’m half.
It’s like Heinz 57 [Sauce]; a little bit of this and that.
But if it’s for scholarships, I’m hella Mexican.
You know what? My mom says the same thing. She’s like, “We’re going to list you as full-blooded Latina.”
Does it make you mad when you see artists who aren’t super talented but they just have luck?
I think it used to. It doesn’t anymore because there’s an X-factor in what makes people want to see you. You might not have the voice, but you might be entertaining. I feel like this is the “entertainment industry” not the “Can she sing opera?” industry. I used to look at it as a purist.
By the way, have you seen D’Angelo lately?
I really thought I was going to get married to D’Angelo.
He’s like a crazy, fat, crackhead alcoholic now.
Well, OK, I mean, I still have love, though, because that’s like when you love someone truly, you never give up on them. You’re always like, “Well, maybe I could get in the gym with him.”