Smitty: My next guest at JazzMonthly.com has such a great voice; and she’s got such a vibe that is so mesmerizing. Her debut solo release is called Fight or Flight? and it’s loaded with spine tingling grooves, mesmerizing rhythms, and infectious lyrics. You’ve got to hear this great new record and I am so happy to talk with her. In fact, we have been talking so much before the recording here, we’ve probably done the first interview already, but we’re gonna do this again and share it with everyone out there! Please welcome the wonderful and amazing Ms. Kellylee Evans. Kellylee, how ya doin’?
Kellylee Evans (KE): Hey, thanks so much for having me. I’m doing really well….by talking to you. (Laughs)
Smitty: Yeah. So, now, I love this new project because, as we were talking before, I think when I first heard it I was mesmerized by your voice. Just listening to you talk, your voice is so melodic. It has such a flow. And then when you put that great voice to your music, it’s just amazing. I really love this new project of yours.
KE: Thanks so much. I’m so happy that you like it and you’re not related to me, so you have no real reason to like it.
Smitty: Yes, that’s right. (Laughs)
KE: I’m not paying you to say that, am I?
Smitty: Oh, no, you’re not paying me say that at all.
KE: That’s good. It’s always good when somebody that’s not related to you likes your record.
Smitty: Oh yeah, I love it, it’s fantastic. You know what I love so much about it is that you are reaching such common ground with your audience with this music because you’re singing and you’re talking about things that people identify with automatically, and that’s life, and you do that so well by putting it to music.
KE: But, you know, I really didn’t know that other people have these feelings. I know it sounds really silly, but I didn’t think there was common ground with other people. I felt that these were issues that only I was dealing with, and when I found out, when people began to come up to me and they say “That song, that’s about me” or “That song really made me cry” or “No one’s ever put it in those words, but this is how I’ve been feeling.” All of a sudden these ideas that I’ve been having that I felt were just solely my own, they become less forbidden. And I realized that it’s part of the human experience and I feel less isolated in my feelings and that’s always a really good thing. It’s good to feel a common ground with others.
Smitty: Yes, and isn’t that the way that most people feel when they have things in their heart or on their mind, that they sort of personalize it to the point that they feel like certain experiences and feelings are isolated to them….That they are the only one feeling a certain way. But then when they hear it from someone else, there’s such a comfort and there’s such a coming together when they hear that from someone else, and there’s a measure of relief too.
KE: Huge relief, huge.
Smitty: Yes, and by the way, I just want to mention that these are all original songs on this project.
Smitty: Absolutely. So talk to me about the title track, “Fight or Flight? (Help Me, Help You).”
KE: “Fight or Flight” is about not wanting to connect with others and being really apathetic in society and so many things happen in the world outside of our country and you only have to have to watch one week of Oprah. If you don’t watch the news, Oprah brings the news from outside into your home. If you’re not into finding out what’s happening in other countries in the south and the so-called Third World, and it’s very easy to kind of not wanna be involved in others’ lives. There’s often this gray issue of just feeling like you’re being ineffective and feeling that you’re the one that need more help than somebody else. So the whole idea is like, saying to this person that’s in need “Help Me, Help You,” tell me how to help you because….the lyrics are “Help me help you, though I’m not sure I want to. Teach me to know, show me which way to go. Help me help you, although I’m afraid.”
Smitty: Yeah. I totally get it. Now, you were born in Toronto.
Smitty: And if I understand it right, your first solo was in kindergarten?
KE: Yes, in kindergarten. You know, you do those little recitals. I’m sure it was a Christmas recital, that was the first time that I can remember performing for a group of people was in kindergarten. My first solo, yeah.
Smitty: Yeah, now, you’re gonna have to help me with this one because I’m just baffled….someone said that you could be heard vocalizing at three months old in church.
KE: Yes, and that’s true. When I was growing up I was Seventh Day Adventist and my uncle….my mom was a nurse and so I don’t know if you know what nurses’ hours are like, but they’re pretty crazy hours….and so my dad’s brother and his wife would take care of me during the day when my mom was working during the day. And they would take me to church with them, and they would hear me and I would be on pitch, in cue, in tune, singing along or making sounds along with the choir and with the other singers in church.
Smitty: You were on pitch and in cue?
KE: Yes. You know, I loved to sing and it’s funny. I see my daughters now love to sing too and trying to write little songs. And my grandmother, who is now in her eighties, she still directs the choir at her church….At a Baptist church in England. I guess singing is just in my family.
Smitty: So you were just destined to be a singer.
KE: I was, and it’s funny. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I was also really good at a lot of other things and so the feeling was, well, you know, it’s great that you can sing and everything but you’re also really good academically….I was a gifted student and so it was all about crack and hit the books. There was always something else that was more rational to do. When you think about it, I’m a child of immigrants, so they came here to Canada with the hope that I’m going to do well. There were really only three choices in terms of a career growing up, is a lawyer, a doctor, or an engineer. That’s it. I think those are the choices for most kids of color when they’re growing up, that’s what they’re told. I think most immigrant parents at that time felt like that was the way you gain respect in society and that was the way that you would be successful. You want to take care of your parents, you know?