The phenomenal singer Jackie Evancho rose from a talent competition into a break out touring performer. After attracting attention on YouTube, she landed at second place in the fifth season of America's Got Talent at the young age of 10. Her holiday release, O Holy Night, made her the best-selling debut artist of 2010.
Her latest work, Two Hearts, is her seventh consecutive number-one release on the classical chart. Her tour in support of this work will soon bring her back to Illinois.
Windy City Times: Hi, Jackie. Where in the world are you right now?
Jackie Evancho: I am in New York. I am here for my shows in the Cafe Carlyle. I live in Pittsburgh.
WCT: I read you are the youngest person to perform at the Carlyle. When did you start singing?
JE: When I was 8 years old. It was because my tonsils were so abnormally large that anytime before I got them removed, which was around 7, it came across very squeaky. My whole voice changed when I got them removed.
When I was 8, I was inspired by Phantom of the Opera to sing like that. That is where the discovery of my voice came from.
WCT: Eventually, you sang with Sarah Brightman from Phantom. That must have been huge for you.
JE: Yes it was. That was on America's Got Talent. When I met her, it was amazing. I will never forget that.
WCT: How was the America's Got Talent experience overall?
JE: It was great. I was a little nervous going into it because with competitions you get people with competitive attitudes. I had only seen TV shows where people were rude to each other when they were competing. When I got there everyone was just like a family. Everyone was supportive of each other. It was a fantastic experience.
WCT: How do you deal with nerves and large crowds?
JE: I don't get super-nervousjust a little. I think if you don't get a little nervous then you don't care anymore, and I shouldn't be doing it to begin with then.
WCT: Has all of this forced you to grow up fast?
JE: My parents gave me the opportunity to be a regular kid, and be the singer Jackie Evancho at the same time. They kept me at home as much as possible, which was fantastic. I don't feel like I have missed out on my childhood or had to grow up too quickly. I was always a bit more mature, anyway. For me, everything is the same.
WCT: Did you have to learn other languages to sing these songs?
JE: I didn't. I only speak English.
WCT: Is it then hard to learn songs like "Caruso?"
JE: For every other song besides "Caruso" it was very easy. With learning that one I had to speak very quickly, and it was very difficult. In general, it is fairly easy.
WCT: So you learn it phonetically?
JE: Right. I just look up a song and learn it. I write it down.
WCT: The song "Attesa" was sung by Sarah Brightman. Is that an homage to her?
JE: Yes, it is. That is the version that I listened to.
WCT: Why is the album called Two Hearts?
JE: It is a symbol of what the album itself is. That is split in two. You have my classical crossover and what everyone knows me for, then the other half is my pop self. That part is still brand new. I am still learning about that as much as my fans are.
WCT: What pop artists do you admire?
JE: I look up to artists for different aspects. I look up to Halsey for her lyrics. I look up to Lady Gaga for her courage and individuality. I like Lana Del Rey for the moods in her songs.
WCT: I saw Halsey perform at Lollapalooza this past summer and she mentioned LGBT rights. You have become involved with our community also, having a trans sister. How has Juliet changed your life?
JE: I was always raised to be supportive and accepting, so I had no problem with that at all. My sister has been the strongest person that I could ever look up to. If I look up to anyone as an artist it would be my sister, because she has gone through so much, and put up with so much.
It is finally paying off. She is finally having the chance to be who she is publicly and comfortably. I am so happy for her for that. When I hear there are issues with her having that ability, I just want to do everything that I can to help her and others who are in her situation.
WCT: That is an important message. By the way, do you have a favorite song to perform live?
JE: My favorite one right now is "The Way We Were." I have always wanted to sing that song but was told it was Barbra's song. I was determined to do it justice in my own way!
WCT: Tell people about your concert.
JE: It is about an hour and a half with an intermission. It is pretty much me singing my favorite songs that I have always loved or people have loved me singing. Since being at the Carlyle, I am going to be incorporating some new things. I haven't figured that out yet, but it is an idea in the works.
WCT: Do people cry at your shows?
JE: They tell me they do. I try my best to sing to people as much as possible, but they lights are blinding.
WCT: Where do your dresses come from?
JE: I pick them with my stylist, and my mom. It is pretty much picking from a closet. Sometimes I will buy a few new dresses then wear then for some concerts before switching them out.
I love it. I get to wear beautiful gowns that are elegant. It is a confidence booster.
WCT: Favorite place you have toured to?
JE: I haven't been in a while, but Japan I really loved. I hope I go back soon. The people and food were all great.
WCT: How do you balance school with all the travel?
JE: I do online school. Right now while working at the Carlyle I am a little behind. It is great that I can catch up when I have time.
WCT: How was singing at the presidential inauguration?
JE: It was a chaotic experience. Two days prior I was sick, and I lost my voice. I was doing a bunch of press. I was worried about getting better, and being healthy for the actual performance. When I did perform I did the best I could. It was an amazing moment for me to be on that stage.
WCT: How do you protect your voice usually?
JE: I don't talk. I drink a lot of tea with honey.
WCT: Well, I appreciate you talking to me today!
Hear her voice live and in person Friday, May 19, at the Genessee Theatre, 203 N. Genessee St. at 8 p.m. Purchase tickets at JackieEvancho.com .