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Jackie Evancho's prez performance was 'for the honour'

By Jane Stevenson, Postmedia Network

Jackie Evancho tells 24 Hours she performed at President Donald Trump's inauguration "for the honour", not the politics. HANDOUT

Jackie Evancho tells 24 Hours she performed at President Donald Trump's inauguration "for the honour", not the politics. HANDOUT

Sixteen-year-old classical crossover star Jackie Evancho of America's Got Talent fame - circa 2010 - says there's just one reason she performed the U.S. national anthem at Donald Trump's Jan. 20 presidential inauguration.

"Not for the politics - I did it for the honour," Evancho tells 24 Hours before Friday's (March 31) release of her new classical and pop album, Two Hearts.

Subsequently, Evancho and her older transgender sister Juliet asked for a meeting with Trump to discuss his administration's policies regarding rolling back trans rights issues.

"We're working on it actually," informs the singer, who's had six No. 1 classical albums and also performed for the Pope and the Obamas.

"We're hoping for something by the end of this month but we understand that the president's very busy. [Juliet] understood that I [sang at the inauguration] for the opportunity."

24 Hours caught up with Evancho down the line from her Pittsburgh home recently:

Are you glad, in hindsight, you did the inauguration gig, considering the flak you took?

Yes, because I stayed true to my own opinion and what I believe. And I was very proud of myself for that, to go against the [grain] and face my fears of judgment.

What was the performance like?

It was such a crazy experience. There were so many things happening that day. I was sick. I lost my voice two days before. I was very nervous, especially considering I'd have to sit outside in the cold two hours before I sang with no talking, no warm-ups, no tea to keep me warmed up or anything. And when I got on stage and performed, it was like everything went silent and I could just do what I do best.

Did you meet the president that day?

I did briefly. We met, he shook my hand, said congratulations and thank you ... all the formalities. He was formal and polite.

How did you come up with the track listing for Two Hearts - which includes classical songs and classical treatments of soundtrack songs by Taylor Swift (Safe & Sound) to Sam Smith (Writing's On The Wall)? Plus, five new pop songs co-written by you for the first time.

There are a lot of classical songs that I had been really wanting to sing for almost my whole life and so I finally had the opportunity to do that with some of those songs so that was exciting. And then there's the other half, the pop half and I wrote about four of the [five] songs on there so I'm pretty nervous to see what people think. It's kind of my first time writing.

You're going to become the youngest person ever to have a residency at New York City's intimate Café Carlyle from April 11 to 22.

I'm very nervous just because I've never done anything like this and I have a whole new show set-up so it's going to be a really different experience for me. But I'm excited. I leave the day after my birthday [on April 9] so it'll be a celebration.

Do you have a preference of performing in a small space vs. a large one?

The most nerve-wracking thing I've ever done was a private gig I did in someone's living room with ten people [present]. It was no one famous but that was the most terrifying thing I've ever done. It was nothing like singing for the president or the Pope.

Do you adopt an onstage persona then?

My performing me is completely different from the everyday, shy Jackie. Jackie the performer is definitely not shy. I go in head first and take a risk, you know? If you go through life afraid of everything, you're not actually going to live your life.

Any plans to come to Canada for Two Hearts?

I hope so, I love Canada. I love the people - and how kind they are. Last time I was there was for the filming of [2013's Robert Redford movie The Company You Keep]. Yes, the weather was a bit colder but I didn't mind that.

And the food was really good. Also, the TV shows were different, which is so refreshing.

Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

I hope that I can build a life off of [singing] and be as successful as people like Lady Gaga. I really want to inspire people and change things with my voice. I do want to go to college and study criminal psychology just for the heck of it.

What do you like about Gaga?

Just the fact that she's not afraid to be who she wants to be. She knows how to play the game. She seems very smart and knows what she's doing so she seems to be in control of her life.