The year 1983 was a good year: unemployment was down to end at 8.3 percent, the former lead singer/heavy metal rocker for Led Zeppelin released his second solo album and a new musician was born.
And, as Victor and Luanne Testone welcomed Elise Nicole on July 29 in Kinnelon, N.J., Robert Plant was turning 35 and toning it down with lyrics long departed from his hard-rocking days of Zeppelin.
Little did he know, 30 years from then, the new baby born would belt out a dead-panned rendition of Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” – on stage and with her own orchestra that, with eyes closed, could convince even the most critical ear that it was1975 again.
Testone, a Coastal Carolina University graduate fresh off the release of her new album, will headline the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in downtown Myrtle Beach on Saturday.
She’s become a hit with the locals, said Lauren Clever of the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corp., which pays for the annual festival organized by the Oceanfront Merchants Association.
“She is fairly popular in this area and I know she has a good following,” Clever said, adding she was excited to see the merchants association had picked Testone as the festival’s headliner.
Testone debuted at age 5 singing the national anthem, and continued to pursue her passion.
She took singing lessons, learned to play instruments that included the drums, clarinet, piano, cello and performed in school productions, the local coffee houses – beginning to build a reputation as “a powerhouse vocalist and dynamic stage performer,” according to her bio at elisetestone.com.
For Testone, the journey to 2014 marks more than a few milestones: a degree in music in 2005 from Coastal Carolina University, a move to Charleston and finishing as a finalist on American Idol.
Charleston’s newest resident put down roots, got gigs and taught music while setting her sights on the stars, using every opportunity as a chance to expose raw talent as a “real musician.”
And it paid off: Testone’s debut album “In this Life” came out in February.
“If you can visualize it, you can make it happen,” she said while admitting to 12-plus hours a day spent in the studio, independently producing the album then releasing it through her own label, Red Tambo Records – arranging and making adjustments, too – to the music she either wrote herself or collaborated.
These days, Testone is busy preparing for a tour that will take her on the road, up the coast then back again to Charleston and Georgia before coming to Coastal’s campus to share “In this Life” on April 25.
“I’ve always followed my instincts and they’ve always led me in the right direction,” she said.
“In this Life” has steadily climbed the charts taking her to No. 128 out of 300 for Top New Artists and she’s not stopping there. “I feel good about it,” she said, adding that it’s a joy to make people happy.
Does she have a 10-year plan?
“I want to make a few more albums, maybe produce other people and someday, I’d like to open a school. One that’s half art and design, the other half music.”
In the meantime, she’s also busy being gracious and making new music.
“I’m grateful for everything that has happened to me. Because of those things I can relate to so many people. That’s where a lot of my music comes from. This is a whole new chapter,” she said.
After her performance Saturday in Myrtle Beach, Testone will be off to Philadelphia for a radio show at World Cafe Live. She’ll be back in the area April 25 for a show at Coastal Carolina University.
Does Testone have advice for anyone pursuing their passion?
“Achieving is seeing, believing. Work as hard as you can and follow your heart.”