"I think music on a whole has the power to distract, to uplift, to enlighten, to soothe. It’s so amazing. I’m happy to be a conduit of that light and sound."
Kellylee Evans: Jazz With Soul
Six albums deep and Juno Award winner Kellylee Evans is still shaking it up on Come On, her latest Decca album. The stylistic connoisseur has tackled everything from jazz to R&B and pop in such previous tasty classics ﬁght or ﬂight?, Nina – her Juno-winning tribute to the legendary Nina Simone – and I Remember When. Praised by the Latin Jazz Network for a “gorgeous voice (that) rises to the heavens in rapturous wonder as if in consanguinity with a chorus of angels” and by the Yukon Arts Centre for “a stunning crystalline voice, both powerful and emotive,” Evans now pushes her muse ﬁrmly into the soulful pop territory with Come On: a wonderfully refreshing album about love and life that comes on the heels of two nearly career- ending accidents: a freak lightning strike in her Ottawa kitchen and further eﬀects of a concussion suﬀered during a fall at her home. However, Evans is nothing if not resilient: the runner-up of the 2004 Thelonious Monk Competition oﬀers views on love and loss in an alluringly rhythmic approach that has touches of psychedelic pop, resonating soul groove and that je ne sais quoi that is strictly Kellylee and forged by her jazz discipline.
From the stirring soul-stomper “Come On” - which combines an eﬀervescent Motown feel with traces of psychedelia – and the funky groove-a-liciousness of “Hands Up” to the string-and-horn-spiced magnetism of “Know His Worth,” the 10 songs of Come On ﬁnd Kellylee at her most magically potent. Produced and co-written by Eric Legnini (Stefano Di Battista), this is post-romantic soul at its ﬁnest; a project of strong vision and great execution that signals the return of Kellylee Evans as a bold explorer and interpreter. It only gets better when you experience her live, in her element. Kellylee Evans’ time is nigh, and Come On is just the catalyst to get her there.
Interview by Michael Limnios Photos by Anne Staveley
How has the Soul and Jazz music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you've taken?
Soul was one of the first types of music that I fell in love with as a young person and that love continued as I grew up. It was music that chose me, since it was what my mom listened to and that my uncle would play in the basement at parties. And then as I got older, I began to choose to listen to soul music myself as well. Finally, as a student in University, I found jazz and it followed me through my academic career and beyond. Today, my music is a mix of all the sounds that accompanied my youth - jazz, soul, world music, reggae, calypso, country, pop. I love music. Period.
How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?
My sound is a mix of what I mentioned above and comes even more alive in a live concert setting. I love the improvisational nature of jazz and what the musicians I work with bring to the project. I am happy to have found songwriting in my early twenties and that I didn’t listen to the voices in my head telling me that I couldn’t be a songwriter. Being able to express my ideas and feelings through song is incredibly healing for me. My creative drive has tended to come in spurts in the past. It is generally project and deadline based. I’m moving more towards of model of constant creation to keep those juices flowing all the time.
"I don’t really see myself in that way or the world of music that way. It’s just not an issue in the world I inhabit at the moment. I just keep my head down and keep working and I keep my head up and I keep dreaming. I work around and with amazing people of all genders in all areas of this business."
Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I have met a lot of amazing people in this business. A couple of days ago, I met Willie O’Ree, the first player to break the colour barrier in the NHL. He is incredibly inspiring. When you hear about what he went through to get to where he is today, and that he played the game secretly blind in one eye, you feel like you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. He just said to keep going, keep driving for your goals. And that he still is working towards goals at over 80 years old.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I don’t really have anything that I miss from past music or hopes for the future. I’m so focused on today. That’s all I have.
What does to be a female artist in a Man's World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?
I don’t really see myself in that way or the world of music that way. It’s just not an issue in the world I inhabit at the moment. I just keep my head down and keep working and I keep my head up and I keep dreaming. I work around and with amazing people of all genders in all areas of this business.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?
Keep moving forward. After my encounter with lightning in 2013 and the head injury in 2015, I could have given up, but I continue on the road to recovery. My family needs me. I need me. I’m still here and I’ll keep going until I’m not here.
What is the impact of Soul and Jazz on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?
"My creative drive has tended to come in spurts in the past. It is generally project and deadline based. I’m moving more towards of model of constant creation to keep those juices flowing all the time." (Kellylee Evans / Photo by Anne Staveley)
Let's take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
I would love to spend another day with my mom. She passed away in 1999. I would just love to be up in bed on Sunday morning, smelling her cooking cornmeal porridge and come down and see her smiling face. Just one more time. That would be pretty amazing. Otherwise, I’m good. Life is pretty awesome.
Comments are closed for this blog post