Upper East Sider Chloe Temtchine on singing in church, Steve Martin, and being brave
That recognition was even more special because it came after her being diagnosed, only months before, with a rare disease called pulmonary hypertension. The illness caused her shortness of breath so debilitating that she was unable to perform on stage for six years. It also resulted in her having to travel with an oxygen tank at all times.
From this experience, the 31-year-old has only become more inspired to make music. Her single, “Be Brave,” which she wrote after coming out of the critical care unit, was released on March 29th. When asked what she’s learned from all of this, she said, “Life is the absolute gift. Everything else is an added bonus.”
Did you always know you wanted to be a singer?
Yeah, I did. I was very inspired by music. My father used to take me to a Baptist church in Harlem and I would literally just sit there for hours and listen to music. I started learning the songs and singing along. That was the beginning of music of me, church.
Where did you group up in the city?
I was born on the Upper East Side and was there until I was 13. Then I went off to a liberal arts school in Massachusetts, Concord Academy, because I was very focused on music. After that, I was at Berkeley College of Music for two years, but I’ve been back ever since.
How can you explain pulmonary hypertension?
It’s high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs and what that does is it causes the right side of the heart to work much harder than it should have to. Which causes it to enlarge and essentially leads to potential heart failure.
How were you finally diagnosed?
It was hard to diagnose me because it’s not necessarily lungs or heart – it’s both. You rarely can find somebody who really understands the connection, so for years I was misdiagnosed. I was told I had asthma, I should workout more, that I had blood clots, tons of different things. And then, it finally got so bad that I ended up in the emergency room. My heart was beating out of my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t even get from the bathroom to the living room to sit down. I had put 10 pounds of water on overnight. It took that to actually be able to diagnose me, and our goal is to have it not take all that. Because if you don’t get lucky, that could be it.
You carry around an oxygen tank you named Steve Martin. Have you met him?
No, not at all! He’s obviously someone who makes me happy, because he’s done movies that when they come on, I’m like, “Oh yea!” But there’s no reason for it. I was searching for a name for a few days and it literally came to me. It felt like a perfect match for my tank.
I wanted to write something to remind myself to push through and not give in. And hopefully inspire others to do the same. The feedback has been amazing. I have people writing on Facebook. They’re really connecting to the song, which as a songwriter, there’s nothing greater.
You recently sang it at a gala for pulmonary hypertension here in New York.
It was so wonderful because it was for all the doctors and everybody who helped me get better. So I was able to thank everyone for making it possible for me to be on the stage. That was really great because the last time I performed, years before, I coughed. It was my first standing ovation, ever. So that was really nice.
Where do you write your music?
Generally alone in a dark room. This album, for sure, has been very much more of a quiet, “me” experience. I have a little room set up at home to make music with a keyboard and my guitar in there. I just sit in there, close the doors, and there it goes.
What are you working on now?
Now, I’m working on the album. Half of it is done. The other half is written and in production mode. And that will be our next release. “Be Brave” is the title of the album. That’s my next project, the combination of the album and preparing for all the shows we have. In addition, an official music video for “Be Brave.”
Your husband, Marvin, is a producer. How did you two meet?
We actually met through my sister. They had known each other for a long time because they’re both in the movie industry. And then he executive produced a show for Bravo and it happened to be about musicians and my sister said, ‘I think you guys should meet.’ And then we met and it was supposed to be music talk, and we ended up not talking about music at all. And here we are! [Laughs]
Who have been your favorite people to work with over the years?
In terms of favorites, there are so many people who have made an impact in my life. But the one who sticks out the most is a producer, Crystal Johnson, who really was my mentor when I was 13 years old. I met her randomly through my father and kind of moved in with her in Jersey City. She couldn’t get rid of me. She taught me how to produce, and I was watching her do everything. It was so inspiring to me. That was exactly what I needed at that time.
Who do you still want to sing with?
That changes literally on a daily basis. Right now, I wrote a song called “Loving You,” and really want Ray LaMontagne to sing that song with me. The minute I wrote it, I heard his voice singing the chorus.
Visit www.chloetemtchine.com for more on Chloe and her music.
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