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Felicia Temple on Her Time Spent on ‘The Voice,’ Her Album, and Fighting Cancer

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Felicia Temple on Her Time Spent on ‘The Voice,’ Her Album, and Fighting Cancer

In 2015 nurse and New Jersey native, Felicia Temple learned she had a rare form of cancer. Yet even through a Stage 3 cancer diagnosis, Felicia persevered and continued her work as a dedicated nurse and artist. While still on chemotherapy, Felicia completed her heartfelt EP The Balancing Act and was called to compete on season 12 of NBC’s The Voice. Her gratitude and optimism were infectious from the first moment she stepped on stage for the blind auditions. Felicia powered through ballads like “All I Could Do Was Cry,” and “My Heart Will Go On,” her vocal and technical abilities evident through every word, every run, and every riff. She sang her way into America’s heart and while Felicia didn’t win The Voice, she most certainly inspired a nation.

Her debut album The Balancing Act is a call to arms to seize the day and live your best life possible. It perfectly captures the essence of what it feels like if you allow love to enter your heart and shows that even in the darkest of hours, hope is never lost. Soulful and beautifully composed, the six-track EP is only the beginning for the talented songstress who plans to continue inspiring the world through her music and her message.

Photos courtesy of Felicia Temple

Your father and uncle both toured with the legendary hip-hop group Sugarhill Gang, and they weren’t even your only family members involved in the music industry. What was it like growing up in such a musical household?

It was funny to me because I grew up in the studio doing my homework on the couch while my dad was recording, and that’s some of the earliest memories that I’ve had. And there’s always singing in the house. Any family party always turned into a jam session because everyone played an instrument. And my aunt and my uncle were the first artists ever signed to Jive Records, ever. It’s been something that I’ve just grown up with, and it’s something you do and you don’t even realize it. Like when I was first going to school, like, everybody doesn’t sing like us? It was something that we just did.

And for anyone who doesn’t know, Sugarhill Gang is the group behind the first ever hip-hop song “Rapper’s Delight.”

I can tell you, from hearing that song in my house growing up, I’m so tired of hearing it! We hear it over, and over, and over again because my dad DJ’s for them. And I know it’s a classic, but I’ve just heard it my whole life!

Who are your inspirations musically?

Musically one of my biggest inspirations is Mariah Carey. She is my ultimate, ultimate favorite when it comes to writing and singing. And Alicia Keys of course. She’s the reason why I wanted to take piano. Barbra Streisand, I live and die by her Broadway album. I actually use it to warm up. And Prince.

As if having a career in music isn’t enough, you’re also a nurse.

I was always a kid that was super interested by it. I always knew that I wanted to sing, but my parents instilled in me that you have to do something. You have to have some kind of education. My dad, even though he traveled the world, was a police officer for 25 years. He just retired a couple years ago. I majored in science, and I actually was accepted to NYU pre-med and my sister talked me out of it. She said, “You really wanna sing. You don’t want to be in school for that long. Go to nursing school.” And it was the smartest thing I ever did because I could work whatever amount of days I wanted. I could do jobs anywhere all over the world. And it turns out that I actually ended up really loving it.

In 2015 you got the kind of life-changing news that no one wants to hear. Can you tell us a little bit about the cancer you were diagnosed with?

I had something called Carcinoid. It’s a neuroendocrine tumor, and it’s very, very rare. And I had it in my appendix. It started in my appendix, and by the time they found it, it was in the surrounding lymph nodes. I was already stage 3. I had the right side of my colon removed, and then I had 6 rounds of chemotherapy. So it was very, very intense. I just went to the emergency room because I was nauseous, and I had really bad stomach pains on and off for months, and that’s what they found. They thought it was my appendix.

How are you doing now?

Now I’m just under maintenance monitoring. I go to my oncologist regularly. I still get a bunch of blood work done, but so far, so good. In the cancer community, we really don’t like it when we say cancer free, so we say there’s no evidence of disease right now. So I’m healthy as could be.

While undergoing chemo, you were recording your EP The Balancing Act. Why was it so important to record this particular album? How did you find the strength?

When I got diagnosed, at the time I had been planning two weeks after to release a single. But because I got sick, I completely turned directions and I said, “I can’t see that cause I’m too sick.” I never actually intended to make a new project cause I was so sick. I felt like I needed to focus on getting better. But over time, music became my therapy. And writing stuff distracted me from being sick and kind of got my mind off things. And it turned into this doable project. And it just became a testimony of that time.

The world really got to know you and your story through your time on The Voice. Your blind audition was epic, especially when Alicia Keys came up on stage and sang her classic “Fallin’” with you.

To have Alicia turn around was all I wanted from the experience. I just wanted validation from one of my favorite artists that I was cool. When she turned around I’m like, “Ok, this it. This is all I wanted.” Even if no one else turned, I was gonna be happy. Even if she never would’ve given me a hug, I would be happy. And then for her to come up and sing with me was just like a dream come true. And to be honest, I was terrified. I was thinking to myself, when she said, “Ok, let’s sing a song,” I was like, “Oh my God, this is one of my favorite artists. I hope I can remember all the words!”

What do you appreciate the most about Alicia Keys as an artist?

She commanded the room. And I really, really love that about her. She’s all business. She knows her craft, from A to Z. I hope that some of that rubs off on me.

How did competing on The Voice affect your career?

I think it helped majorly only because they caught me at the ending of a really, really low time for me. I was still on chemo when they called me to be on the show. So I really hadn’t been doing much because I was so sick. I actually got off of chemo early and started to come to the theater to do the blind auditions. I was still pretty sick when I got there. But what better way to be reintroduced than to come back on national TV and sing some of your favorite songs? And then it gave me the opportunity to have a whole new audience. So now I released Balancing Act, I have way more fans than I ever had and people who really genuinely support me and my story. They know all about me. It’s been a wonderful experience.

The Balancing Act is available now, and it seriously gave me all the feels, from the first song to the last. What do you hope fans take away from this album?

I just wanted people to take away a piece of me. Be free. Seize the day. Write a love song. I fell in love when I was writing this, now I’m engaged. I wanted people to have all the feels, as you say. I wanted people to come away with the feeling of knowing who I am and what I’ve gone through these past few years.

If you could pick one, which song has the most meaning for you?

“Ok Alright” definitely has the most meaning to me. I usually remember where I write everything, but that song I particularly remember. I was home sick on chemo, and it was one of the only days I stayed home sick. I went to work while I was on chemo, and I just couldn’t do it that day. I was throwing up, and I was just feeling horrible. I sat down at my keyboard to try to distract myself, and I just started singing this kind of sad lullaby. Sometimes you feel like the world is on your shoulders, and I was crying. I was just so upset, like why is this happening to me? And it kind of became this beautiful song. And then I put real voicemails for everyone who had called me while I was sick to check on me.

Photos courtesy of Felicia Temple

It’s inspiring that even though you went through such a dark time, you were able to make something beautiful come out of that.

I’m really, really glad that I’m able to turn this situation around, and I’m hoping that I could use it to help other people.

What’s next for you?

Shows, and more shows, and more shows until the whole world hears the project, and then I’ll be recording again. I’ll always be releasing music. I still work as a nurse for now, but it’s on my schedule and my time. So I’m still not sure if I’ll ever really give up nursing because it’s something that I really love. It keeps me humble. It keeps me grounded. Sometimes I think when we get into the music world, we get into the glitz and the glam, and the stages and the audience and people love you so much. You start to come off the ground a little bit. You can forget what’s important. And then you go to work and serving others, it humbles you. I don’t know if I’ll truly a hundred percent give up nursing. But I will definitely be doing a lot of touring, and I’ll be doing a lot of recording.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want my legacy to be a woman who gave selflessly to others. I want to teach the world and I would like to do something new and innovative. My ultimate plan is to start a non- profit medical mission called Musicians and Medicine. It would be other musicians who work in medicine like me, whether they’re surgeons or anesthesiologists or maybe even another nurse. And I would then have a surgical team that tours with me that are my musicians. I want them to be my core musicians, and I would like to base my tour around places that need medical help. And on our days off from the tour provide surgery to people who can’t afford it. That is my ultimate, ultimate goal.

That sounds amazing!

That’s my dream. I know that I have a skill that can be really put to good use. I’d like to keep nursing, and I’d like to do it on a volunteer medical mission basis.

Your positivity and outlook on life are so inspirational. What words of advice do you have for anyone going through what you’ve been through?

I always tell people if they’re going through some of the situations that I’ve been through, just don’t stop living your life. I think that’s the most important thing. Because when you get diagnosed with cancer and you tell people, people start grieving you while you’re still feeling healthy, while you’re still looking good. They hear cancer, and they automatically think you’re gonna die. And you start to stop doing the things that you love to do. I stopped doing music because I found out I had cancer; I’m sick, and I had to focus on getting better. And it really wasn’t helping me get better. And the second that I started to do the things I love again, it brought me through a horrible time. So whatever it is that you love to do, just continue to do it.

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Keldine Hull is a Los Angeles based entertainment writer, author, and (self proclaimed) poet. The common thread in all her written work is her love of music, television, and film. Her sense of direction is literally non- existent, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a clear goal in life, which is to share the stories that need to be told and (hopefully) brighten up someone's day. She's also a pool shark; she will literally annihilate you in pool and not think twice about it.

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