All those self-appointed divas, overwrought soul sisters, affected caterwaulers, and auto-tuned tarts ain't got nothin' on Rochester's Teressa Wilcox. It would seem everyone who parks themselves in front of a mic with a dream in their heart and a song on their lips tries for honesty, raw emotion, and energy. But it's that effort — the trying — that trips them up. Wilcox doesn't try; she just is.
"I didn't like my voice for a long time," Wilcox says. "And I would try and think maybe I should sound like this or sound like that. I finally decided to sing like me. That's the best way I can do it. The more real it is, the better it sounds."
Well, it sounds beautiful.
Wilcox's pretty contralto moves from a breathy purr to a bright, throaty wail as the music dictates. There's no forcing it. No fluff, no flash, no bullshit. And it's been that way since she sat down in front of the piano at the age of 5.
"I taught myself how to play by ear on piano and guitar; just listening to stuff on the radio," she says. "I started writing songs at 13. I started playing out at 20."
According to Wilcox, she was composing standard teenage fare.
"I was writing about stuff that didn't even exist," she says. "I wrote a song called 'Dead Silence' it was about someone never talking to me; it was real cheesy and stupid, but everyone loved it."
While a senior at Mercy High School, she recorded her first CD. She sold out of all 200 copies.
After high school, Wilcox and her guitar started carousing around the Boulder Coffee scene. At the same time she was flying over to England to work with several producers who had shown interest in her songwriting.
"I sent them some of my songs," Wilcox says. "They thought they were great and brought me out there three separate times. I played London, Scotland, and worked with their songwriters."
These sessions rendered two Top 40 hits including Australian pop singer Tammin Sursock's 2005 "Something Better." However this proved to be more a lesson in exploitation than reward for Wilcox. "I never saw any money," she says.
As her repertoire grew, so did the urge to flesh it out with a rock 'n' roll band. So at age 22 she threw one together. The advantages were immediately apparent.
"I found out I didn't have to be quite so structured," Wilcox says. "I found out there was room to add different things. Like I never had the chance to have someone do a solo or breakdown before. It allowed me to be more dynamic in my songwriting. But playing with the band is harder, because solo, I have absolute control over it, if anyone messes up it's me, I have no one to blame."
Plugged or unplugged it's still a healthy, stealthy dose of real rock 'n' roll that plays fair with the songs. And Wilcox wields her open-tuned Strat rhythmically with a unique, yielding, almost percussive attack.
"It's definitely rock 'n' roll," she says. "High energy rock 'n' roll especially when I'm with the band. But throughout it all, I think it's the songs that stand out, that carry over and never get drowned out."
Wilcox is currently in the studio hammering out her third CD, "Perfectly Out Of Line." And though the 31-year-old singer-songwriter's sound has matured, she claims to be writing from the same spot.
"I always seem to write about relationships," she says. "But I can't write a comedy song. I know what I can do and I know what I can't do. I know what it takes for me to write a song, I know how long I can go without writing a song."
You can catch Wilcox, solo acoustic or with her band of heavy hitters — including bassist Nate Coffey, guitarist Herb Heinz, and drummer Matt Rammerman — tearing up stages around town. Either way, it's all Wilcox. She promises, "I'll never get up there and sell myself for something I'm not."