Deerfield’s Todd Kessler, ex-‘Voice’ contender, releases new single

Yes, there is life after “The Voice” when you don’t make it to the top. Todd Kessler is proof.

Chosen by Cee Lo Green in Season 3, Kessler lost in a battle round to a singer who made it to the final four.

Kessler, who recently moved to Deerfield with his wife and infant son, said that experience gave him knowledge about the business side of performance as well as ways to improve his already endearing style of alternative folk pop.

Kessler and his band, The New Folk, release their latest single, Aug. 22 at Schubas Tavern in Chicago, and it’s a testament to his love of music and appreciation for being able to make a living doing what he loves.

It’s called “Exactly Where I Should Be,” and includes some soulful harmonica playing by Kessler.

“This song was a response to coming back to reality after reality television,” Kessler said. “Reality television is not reality. That being said, when you’re in that bubble, everything that’s happening to you and everything you’re experiencing is definitely very real. The day I came home to Chicago, I was back to teaching and playing my regular gigs. I was definitely a little down. I was kind of in a funk.

“But eventually there was this realization, that this was part of my path, part of my journey, and that I’m still very lucky to be able to do what I do. Lots of people really hate their jobs and I don’t.”

Kessler teaches guitar lessons and does gigs and releases singles and albums with his group, The New Folk. His wife, Mollie, is a social worker. They moved from the city to the suburbs to raise their 18-month-old son, Benjamin.

Kessler has wanted to be a performer ever since he got the lead singing role in a fifth-grade musical at Meadowbrook Elementary School in Northbrook, where he grew up and where his parents still live.

Then came the high school garage bands, variety shows and musicals, followed by earning a degree in music composition and theory at the University of Illinois. After that, Kessler cultivated a style of his own, playing acoustic and electric guitar, singing and writing songs and playing gigs in Chicago.

Kessler admits he never cared for “American Idol” and hadn’t watched “The Voice.” Friends encouraged him and his wife to watch it one day, and they both liked what they heard.

It took him two tries, but he got on the show.

After “The Voice,” “I got recognized a lot” he said, adding, “I don’t get recognized in that way as much anymore. It didn’t change my path. It got me some great press, some great gigs and some tours.”

Cee Lo Green taught him to sing more soulfully, he said. “He helped me grow as an artist. I also learned a lot about the business side. An artist needs a good team around, a band that’s dedicated and a legal team and managers — all those things are really important.” Kessler now has a publicist.

Kessler has done solo albums and performed with different groups of different sizes, but as his new single states, he’s right where he should be, performing with The New Folk, which includes Oak Park resident singer Mollie Parlier and her drummer husband, Bob; lead guitarist Shane Hendrickson and bass guitarist Graham Burris.

Their 2012 album, “Sea Fever,” received critical acclaim.

“I’ve heard us described as Bob Dylan meets Cold Play, and that’s incredibly apt,” Kessler said. Of course, Dylan and Cold Play are two of his favorites.

Molly Parlier said when she and Kessler first sang together, “it just clicked immediately. We just got along really well. We felt our voices really blended well together.”

Singing harmony as far back as she can remember, Parlier said she loves Kessler’s genre of music and his newest song.

“It has more of an old-school country side. It’s reminiscent of that 1950s country sound, which I love. It just sounds like Todd. He’s a great songwriter.”

The New Folk are working on a new short album. But what happens next “is somewhat up to the universe,” Kessler said.

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Todd Kessler and The New Folk Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport, Chicago 10 p.m. Aug. 22 $10 schubas.com Band information: thenewfolk.com

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