Column: San Diego singer has roller coaster ride on ‘The Voice’


When the public vote for San Diego singer Kendra Checketts was announced on NBC’s “The Voice” last Tuesday, her parents, Neil and Marcina Checketts, couldn’t bear to watch. They had traveled to Los Angeles to watch their daughter’s live performance against another show contestant the night before. But they skipped the next night’s voting results and returned home to Carmel Valley to await the news.

“I don’t know who would have been able to handle watching that on TV,” says Neil.

The competition has been an emotional roller coaster for the singer, who turned 20 this month, and her family. Initially, she was selected to be on the team of singing coach Blake Shelton, the only coach to turn his chair around for Kendra during the blind auditions.

She subsequently lost a singing duel with another Shelton team member but was saved by coach Adam Levine to be on Team Adam. Last Tuesday, again it looked like she would be going home after the public vote favored her opponent.

“The look on her face when she found out she lost. ... It was a moment of sheer panic. ... She was so upset,” says her dad. “But when Blake hit his buzzer (using his only ‘save’ vote), it was like her heart stopped. She started crying. She was just ecstatic! My wife and I both cried.”

That “save” sent Kendra back to Blake’s team and advanced her to the top 24 finalists. Her parents now face the same scenario. After today’s live performance (she sings Billy Eilish’s, “Bad Guy”) the voting results are announced on Tuesday’s 9 p.m. (PST) show. Except this time, the couple has decided to stay on set for both shows. Eleven contestants will be eliminated.

When she performs, Kendra wears or carries a tiny heart necklace from her late grandmother, Marilyn Checketts of Rancho Santa Fe. “My grandmother has been a big influence in my life. She has been so supporting of everything I’ve done,” she explains. Because the show’s stylists create a certain look, though, she not only can’t wear her lucky charm necklace during her performance, she can’t even slip it into a pocket (because performers’ pockets are sewn shut). So she keeps it in her bag back stage.

Kendra began singing before she started kindergarten and co-wrote her first song at age 11. She found refuge in her music after her dad suffered a brain hemorrhage, followed by four brain surgeries that kept him in the hospital for about a year.

The pop and R&B singer/songwriter is no stranger in San Diego music circles. The Torrey Pines High grad has performed at the San Diego House of Blues, Westroot Tavern in Carmel Valley, Viejas Casino, the Marriott Marquis lounge, Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angeles and has sung the national anthem at school events.

She has adopted a qué será, será attitude. “I’m just riding this wave to see what happens,” she says. “If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.” She is grateful that the show has increased her public visibility and has learned something from each of the four coaches.

Whatever “The Voice” outcome, people will be hearing more from her. Kendra has written several songs, recorded some music videos and plans soon to release an album.