Jackie Evancho’s famous voice can leap octaves. Soon, the 16-year-old soprano’s career is about to take a leap, too — and Williamsville native Robert Kinkel is a member of the team helping her do it.
Kinkel, 59, gained fame as one of founders of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He left his full-time work with TSO in 2010, and since then has been producing for other artists. Evancho is one of his most recent collaborators, thanks to a connection made by Dinai Fanai, the lead producer on the teen star's just-released "Someday at Christmas" record and upcoming album of original music.
Fanai and her colleague Heather Holley worked with Evancho at Kinkel’s New York studio, and brought him in to arrange some of the Christmas music and play piano and keyboards on all the songs for both albums. They also brought in Kinkel to work with Evancho on her original music.
"With one of the songs that Heather and I were writing with Jackie, we decided to go in a completely different direction, and do a full rewrite," Fanai said. "The evening we discussed that with Bob, he started noodling around on the piano and came up with this unbelievable piano riff that we ended up rewriting the entire song to."
[Related: Why fans love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra]
Evancho, who did most of the writing for her album with Fanai and Holley, was impressed.
“The way we’d pick and pen and paper and write down words, he can do that with music,” Evancho said. “He makes it seem so simple and easy.”
Details on Evancho’s original music aren’t being released yet, and she's avoiding revealing the content of the songs, with one exception: She recently previewed one of her originals, "The Haunting," during a performance at Joe's Pub in New York City.
She discussed that song in a telephone interview with The News, and acknowledged the anticipation and palpable nerves she feels about becoming “a real artist who put out original music.”
Here’s an edited version of our conversation:
Q: What’s it like to put your original music out there?
A: It was a little nervewracking because I’d never written a song before. Well, I have, but I’ve never performed it for anyone before, or produced it. I hope people like it.
Q: When did you start writing for yourself?
A: Ever since before “America’s Got Talent.” Right when I could sing. I was very big into poetry and writing. I was 8 years old so I was writing about butterflies and stuff, but some of my writing showed promise to my parents, I guess. Ever since then I’ve just been dabbling. But I’ve been very afraid of the judgment I would receive from my words, so I tried to avoid showing anyone.
Q: Why did you decide to release original music now?
A: I guess I just had a lot to say, and I was sick of hiding what I had to say. I really just wanted to become a real artist who put out original music and wrote songs that people heard on the radio and were amazed by, or just wanted to hear on a daily basis. That was my inspiration.
Q: Tell me about “The Haunting.”
A: The inspiration (for the song) is the stability of your mind, and the ghost that is kind of in your head. It haunts you every day of your life and you have to put up with it, no matter what that voice is. Whether it’s a dark voice or an optimistic voice, it’s always there haunting you.
Q: Bob Kinkel’s best-known work is Trans-Siberian Orchestra. How familiar are you with TSO?
A: I’ve known of them for pretty much my whole life, but never knew he was a part of it, so I didn’t pay much attention to it until this year. They’ve invited me to go see them when they come to Pittsburgh. I’m very excited to see how that goes, and knowing Bob, it’s going to be fantastic.
[Related: WNY native Kinkel synthesizes TSO's sound]
Q: Did they invite you to watch, or to perform?
A: Oh, to watch. (She laughs.)
Q: Do you get much chance to be in the audience at shows?
A: I don’t really go to concerts very much because crowds kind of make me nervous, unless I’m in front of one. So usually I’m the one performing the concert in my life. But every once in a while I’ll get a chance to see a concert, and it’s hard for me to just sit down and calm down and watch a concert, because I’m imagining what it’s like to be that person on the stage and I just feel nervous for them.
Q: Did you feel that way before you turned professional? Or only after "America's Got Talent"?
A: It’s always been there. I don’t know why. I guess I’m very sympathetic.
Q: How about your nervousness in crowds? Has that come with notoriety?
A: I started at a young age, so I couldn’t really tell if it is something I developed over time. But it’s not even just being in a crowd. It’s just that I’m so short and being in crowds, they’re just like, so, crowded, you know? I just get nervous. I don’t know why.