Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 | 2 a.m.
It’s been such a remarkable rise to fame around the world for young singer Jackie Evancho that she’s already forgotten that she performed at the Smith Center in her first Las Vegas headlining show two years ago.
Now she’s returning as a platinum-selling 14-year-old Jan. 31 coinciding with her new and third studio album “Awakening.”
I’ve talked with Jackie often since the then 10-year-old was runner-up on Season 5 of “America’s Got Talent” won by Las Vegas soul singer Michael Grimm. Since then, she’s hopscotched much of the world dazzling fans with her beautiful and lush classical-crossover compositions.
Billboard Magazine twice named her to its “21 Under 21” to watch, and she went on to make her feature-film debut with Robert Redford as his daughter alongside Susan Sarandon and Shia LaBeouf in “The Company You Keep.” Her album “Songs From the Silver Screen” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard.
Now at age 14, Jackie will be displaying her maturity tackling original songs “Take Me There” and “Open Fields of Grace,” plus “The Rains of Castamere” from the HBO hit series “Game of Thrones.”
Previously in Las Vegas, she appeared in Cirque du Soleil’s first “One Night for One Drop” benefit show at Bellagio and for musical conductor David Foster. Jackie has already had her own one-hour PBS special. She’s now on a tour that takes her across America from California to Florida and then to Asia with dates through Oct. 23.
It’s not just her unique soprano voice that captivates. It also is her warmth, poise and charm. It was great to have another conversation with the teen sensation:
You don’t think you’re missing out as a kid on anything by working so hard?
No, even though my world changed overnight. I think that I’ve had my childhood experiences that every child should have, plus things that every child hasn’t had, and it makes me feel really privileged. My record label got Jennifer Lawrence to sign one of my Katniss dolls. That’s awesome because she’s my favorite actress.
You’re sounding a very grown-up young lady for being nearly 15. Do you think you’re all grown up?
No, I’ve still got plenty of growing to do.
Since your last visit to Las Vegas, where is the most exciting or most interesting place that you’ve performed?
It was really fun to go back on “America’s Got Talent” a few months ago. I had a lot of fun.
Has your voice changed at all since “America’s Got Talent”?
Yes, it’s changed a lot. I feel my voice has become a lot more mature, and what changed was my control. I can control my voice a lot better. My breathing is better, so I can hold notes longer.
Are you still amazed at what you’re able to do and what you’ve achieved?
Yes, I am, and I hope that I don’t sound selfish saying it, but I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished so far. There’s going to be a change in material when I come to Las Vegas.
I have my new album out, “Awakening,” so I’ll be singing new songs from it. The last time I was there with you, I didn’t sing those songs. There’s more of a pop feel in some of the songs that I’ll be performing, which I’m excited for because I get to dance on the stage with them.
So you’re shifting musical tastes as you grow up — a little less light opera and classics?
It’s more of just experimenting with other sides of my voice. I think I’ll always stay true to my classical roots. I do sound a lot more mature than I used to, but still to me I sound like a little girl. I don’t know why everyone says I sound old and mature.
Are you still a kid at heart?
Yes. I think I’ll always be a kid at heart. It’s a lot more fun.
How do you manage to combine schooling with your global travels?
I attend public school, and usually what happens is I tell the teachers where I’m going and how long I’ll be gone, and they’ll give me the work ahead of time and then I turn it in when I get back from my trip.
I usually do my schoolwork any free time that I have. I usually have a lot of free time before a concert, like the day before we leave to do rehearsals and then do the concert. So I usually do it then.
“Awakening” is your third album, and it coincides with this new tour?
It’s kind of just released, so I’ve only gone out of the country so far to Costa Rica. Everything else is in the United States. I do hope that we’ll be having some concert tours in Asia and Europe.
Did you watch “Game of Thrones” before you sang “The Rains of Castamere”?
No, I’m not allowed to. I can sing the song but not watch the show. The song doesn’t have as much mature content as the show does.
And why did you choose “Take Me There” and “Open Fields of Grace”?
“Take Me There” was just something that would be fun to sing and dance around with and experiment with because it’s more of a poppy side of my voice, and “Open Fields of Grace” is just a really beautiful song, and the lyrics meant a lot to me.
“Think of Me” that I performed on “America’s Got Talent” is from “The Phantom of the Opera.” It’s more of a classical crossover song.
After you were the runner-up four years ago and when you were here in Las Vegas with David Foster the first time around, you were only 10 years old. Now you’ve grown up to be a beautiful young lady. The photograph of you promoting the show at the Smith Center is stunning. You could be a fashion model.
Thank you. I do feel like I’ve grown up a lot since then. I’m very excited about performing at the Smith Center. I hear it’s beautiful, but I don’t remember being there. I’ve been so many places, I’m losing track. I think I’m going to be knocked out, though, there.
You’re only here for one night, sadly, and then you travel all of America and then to Asia. Where haven’t you been yet? England? Italy? France?
I have been to England but not to Italy or France. I don’t think I’m missing out on anything, but first I still want to go to college, either to NYU or somewhere in Pennsylvania. I want to be a literary major, and I’d like to study philosophy and psychology, too. I’m really interested in those topics.
But you’ll continue singing for as long as you can?
Any surprises when you come to Las Vegas?
I don’t think so. I just hope that you guys have as much of a good time as I know I will have. I think that I’ll have an orchestra, but sometimes that varies. It’s just me on my own, though.
That’s a lot of responsibility on your tiny teenage shoulders.
Yes, and I still get stage fright. I get nerves for every performance I do, but I see it as if I don’t get nervous, then you don’t really care for it as much as you used to. But the longer I do it, the more I enjoy it.
Jackie Evancho performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Smith Center in downtown’s Symphony Park.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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