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Artist Profile: Toneisha Harris

Singing From the Heart

By Ellen Samsell Salas


Listening to local vocalist Toneisha Harris sing, one is drawn into her music. Gifted with perfect pitch, The Voice’s Season 18 runner-up learned to harmonize and arrange through years of singing gospel, musical theater, R&B, and pop. She brings passion, pain, joy, and love to her vocals, essentials that cannot be taught.

“My passion for music is vital,” Harris said. “Music is life’s soundtrack. There’s something out there in music that will speak to whatever is happening with you — heartbreak, happiness, whatever — there is a piece of music that will speak to it.”

As a child, Harris sang with her cousins and hoped to join the family’s gospel group someday, a feat she accomplished when she turned 12.

“My gospel roots are deep and have shaped my love and passion for music, my sound. I sing from that spot whether I’m doing rock, R&B, or pop. That soul is always there.”

Singing to one person or a thousand, Harris connects with her audience, an art she credits her mother for imparting. Looking into the crowd and “pulling from their energy,” Harris said, “excites me, energizes me.”

“The performance isn’t just about me. I’m telling a story, and I attempt to take the audience on the journey with me. You need to connect with what you’re singing. Facial gestures, my hand movements, I want my audience to be in it with me,” said Harris.

A lover of all genres, from opera to country, Harris incorporates elements from each of those into her singing. She can go high or low, “take it down or get bigger,” whatever the music dictates.

“There are moments that I don’t want to get lost in the music, so I pull back, get soft, and listen to the music,” said Harris. “It’s storytelling. If they’re invested, they’ll lean up and listen.”

Harris begins by exploring the song, listening to it, and asking, “What is the pivot of this story?” and “How do I want to sell this story?” She plays with different riffs or runs, and she watches herself sing in front of a mirror to gauge what gestures and movements help convey the tale. Whether she is wowing with her power or a more subtle approach, her vocals are so dynamic that listeners can’t help but be drawn into the performance.

Harris said that her success on The Voice has meant even more than getting a four-chair turn in the first round or making the finale — accomplishments she never expected.

Thankful for the knowledge she gained from working with great musicians and singers, Harris says that The Voice was a rebirth for her.

“It pushed me forward. It reconnected me to my music. It was like a resuscitation.”

That renewal now includes mentoring up-and-coming singers, writing songs and jingles (one of which was picked up by McDonald’s), performing as a background vocalist for Nick Jonas on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live, and creating her own throat spray, Ton’s Tonic. Her recent focus has been writing and producing a single with an anticipated spring release date.

“It’s inspirational. It’s rock; it’s pop; it’s an eclectic mix. I describe it as ‘world music’ that touches us all. That’s where my heart is.” Harris said. “I hope it will be healing for us as a nation. I hope it will become a mantra and make us believe we’re better when we do it together.”

To learn more about Harris, or to hear her music, look for her on Facebook (Toneisha Harris), Instagram (@iamtoneishaharris), and TikTok (@toneishaharris).

Photos courtesy of NBC’s The Voice.