According to Variety 4.8 million viewers across America tuned in to watch 2012 Island Trees High School graduate Jesse Kinch defeat contestant Will Roth in a musical duel on ABC’s televised singing competition Rising Star last Sunday.
The humble and supremely talented Kinch, 20, was born in Bethpage and has been in love with music ever since he was a young boy. He spoke to Long Island Weekly from his new summer digs at his hotel room in Beverly Hills, Calif. where he is staying throughout the competition.
Kinch reflected on his childhood “I was a very outgoing kid, especially in middle school,” said Kinch, reflecting on his childhood. “In high school real friends became more important to me because I was so different then my peer group. It caused some social issues on many levels that many kids go through in school but never the less I was a very focused kid… I had tunnel vision on my musical goals of performing and writing.”
Kinch knew he loved music as early as age 6 and would take the time to listen and study to all the great musicians who paved the way.
“I have so much respect for those [musicians] who paved the way,” he said. “The classic rock scene of the ’60s and ’70s and the Seattle scene of the 90’s is deeply rooted in me, but with that being said I am also attracted to the beautiful voices of artists such as Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, and Christina Aguilera. They are deeply rooted in me and maybe you can hear that when you see and hear many of my YouTube ballad videos.”
For Kinch, he draws his inspiration from old school rockers like Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Stevie Nicks, Jim Morrison, and Bruce Springsteen, along with more modern artists such as Kurt Cobain, Jack White, Eddie Vedder, Dave Grohl, and Rage Against the Machine.
Not only does Kinch play instruments like the guitar, piano, bass, and drums, but he also writes music as well. “On several of my recordings I am playing all the instruments on the tracks,” he said.
Kinch had already been in and out of a record deal with a big name producer by the time he was 16-years-old but creative differences gave him no option but to walk away.
“You can’t call yourself a true artist if you let someone write and create music for you, or if they attempt to change your work,” said Kinch. “I will be me always.”
Kinch’s teen years also found him being cast at the tender age of 15 to play the younger Eddie Money in the latter’s Jersey Boys-influenced biographical musical, Two Tickets to Paradise back in 2009. Money was thoroughly impressed with Kinch and made no bones about it during an interview he did around the time of the show.“He’s my protégé,” Money says. “He’s a rock god from Island Trees just like I was. And just like when I was his age and everyone was trying to get me to cut my hair, I can’t get him to do the same. It’s all come full circle.”
Rising Star contacted Kinch and asked him to come to Boston for a private audition.
“They really seemed to want me on this show,” said Kinch. “The audition went so well that they flew me out to L.A. for the final auditions. That experience was incredible and I impressed many top level people. I became one of the 30 contestants that made it to the live show. They thought I was quite different and loved the old school in me.”
After his first performance on Rising Star singing Screamin’ Jay Hawkins 1956 hit song “I Put A Spell On You,” Kinch was invigorated.
“It was incredible,” he recalled. “The immediate reaction of the judges, the audience, and America was just so inspiring and it re-enforced my platform on the show which is that America needs and wants real and meaningful music back on the scene.”
Ever since Rising Star, Kinch has been living a dream. His immediate reaction to Los Angeles has been a positive one.
“It’s quite different then New York and quite a different vibe,” he said. “I have been in L.A. almost 2 months and the best experience about my stay here is meeting and being so respected by many of the top name professionals in the industry.”
Although he said he could see himself some day living in Los Angeles, he still has a love for Long Island.
Before going on stage, Kinch told Long Island Weekly that “The performance tonight will speak for itself. My family and true friends know all that I have gone through to get here; the many ups and downs and my journey to stay true to my roots.”
That night he took to the stage and played a rousing rendition of The Allman Brothers 1969 rock ‘n’ roll hit “Whipping Post” where he garnered 90 percent of the vote.
Judges Ke$ha, Ludacris, and Brad Paisley stood up from their chairs in jubilation. Ecstatic with the results he said “America has spoken. The platform I represent appears to be a huge success and that thrills and inspires me.”
When asked where he sees himself in 5 years, Kinch replied “I see myself reaching a worldwide audience bringing back music and singing that is real. No overproduced recordings or auto tuned material that in my opinion is insulting to the audience.”
Tune in every Sunday night at 9 p.m. to ABC channel 7 to vote for Kinch and make our hometown musician America’s first ever Rising Star.
Dave Gil de Rubio contributed to this story