Jesse Kinch, the Seaford-born rocker who outperformed every other contestant on Rising Star, ABC’s contribution to competitive singing, took home the top prize on season finale Sunday night.
He was awarded a recording contract with the legendary Capitol Records. The 20-year-old had faced off against opponent Dana Williams, 24, with a growly, heartfelt rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” The soft-spoken singer let loose with wild abandon, letting the music overtake him. Those who’ve been following Kinch have learned to expect such uninhibited, triumphant performances.
“I can’t really explain it myself,” Kinch told the Press over the phone in between rehearsals in Los Angeles late July. “It sounds funny. Josh Groban, he first met me in person and then he heard me sing. He said it’s like I have two people living inside of me. I have this one quiet, soft-spoken guy. Then I have this other guy who belts out a song with all of the emotion and passion as he possibly can. And that makes sense to me. I don’t know whether it’s coming from someplace else or if it’s living inside of me.”
Rising Star was an experiment for ABC, a brand new show where viewers download an app that allows them to vote in real time to decide who gets to stay in the competition—and who gets booted. Though there are celebrity experts, the only judges are the ones at home. Each show features a live performance from the competitors, who play their own instruments.
Kinch’s electrical charge that comes over him is just the beginning of his talent. A performer since he first picked up the guitar and tuned it perfectly at age seven, Jesse Kinch has been working since childhood to perfect his craft. This dedication includes studying not only the melodic and technical aspects of his song choices, but the lyrics as well.
As his father—a poet and songwriter himself—taught him, in order to perform a song at its highest capacity, he needed to understand the meaning of the words. He’s undertaken that task with profound ability.
“My dad always taught me the belief that you have to feel the lyrics of a song and you have to really believe what the song is saying and you have to live those lyrics,” Kinch said. “That’s the kind of environment that I grew up in.”
Throughout the season, Kinch performed his song choices to great effect, from his debut “I Put a Spell on You” to a rockin’ version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” inspired by Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. Although he displayed his love for 1960s and ‘70s rock, his audience crossed genres, earning him fans in all three expert judges: Kesha, Brad Paisley and Ludacris.
On Aug. 22, Kinch performed to an enthusiastic crowd at the PNC Arts Center in New Jersey with country star Brad Paisley. But it was pop star Kesha on whom he truly made a lasting impression.
Her response to Kinch’s performance of “Fortunate Son,” was that he “slaughtered all over her face.” It was meant as a compliment. Kinch admires her right back.
“What’s really cool is that Kesha told me is that she listens to old time rock ‘n roll, which is pretty damn cool,” he gushed. “She has total respect for that style of music even though she’s a pop artist. She grew up on rock and roll. You’d be very surprised by how she is in person. She’s actually very humble in person. “
His final song, and the performance that sealed the deal in the hearts and minds of ABC’s voters, was the Who’s “Love, Reign Down on Me,” beating out opponent Austin French’s version of Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road.” With 76 percent voter approval versus French’s 61 percent, Kinch was awarded the crowning honor of winner, while his visibly emotional parents looked on.
It’s safe to say that Kinch’s parents are abundantly proud. As for Long Island, he’s the “Fortunate Son” of all of us. The sky’s the limit.