Pittsburgh native and child star Jackie Evancho is saying "eff it" with new album, Solla - www.jackie-evancho.dk

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Jackie is saying "eff it" with new album 'Solla'.
3 may 2024 - Pittsburgh City Paper By Kate Oczypok.

If Jackie Evancho looks familiar, it’s likely because you’ve seen her on the small screen belting out operatic versions of well-known standards, or perhaps even the national anthem. But the Pittsburgh native is no longer the classical singing 10-year-old who came in second place on America’s Got Talent. Now 24, Evancho has ventured into pop music as a singer/songwriter, with a new EP, Solla, released May 3.

“I think honestly, as somebody who grew up never really following or conforming to what’s normal, it’s OK to be the kid that doesn’t fit in and it’s okay to embrace the things that make you different,” Evancho tells Pittsburgh City Paper. Her new music is a far cry from the covers of “O Holy Night” and “All I Ask of You” that used to be her bread and butter. The pop sound has an ‘80s new-wave feel.

While Evancho calls all the songs on the EP her “babies,” she really likes “Smoking Gun” and “Consequences”. ’Consequences’ was the very first song I ever wrote that I kind of saved in the vault for years,” Evancho says. She wrote the song at just 15 years old, and with lyrics like: “Consequences filling up my mind/ doctors keep on telling me I'm fine,” it’s hard not to hear echoes of the struggles Evancho went through in her early years.

Photo: Mars Johnson

Photo: Mars Johnson

Photo: Mars Johnson

As a child star, Evancho battled some terrifying people and situations. Men would try to get backstage at her concerts, claiming they held trustworthy occupations — including priest — to gain access. She also sang at former President Donald Trump’s 2017 Inauguration, a decision made by her team that she “kind of just had to go with it,” she told USA Today.

“I was always afraid to share what I had to say with people,” she says. “The thing is, I’ve always been a writer since as long as I can remember — I was always writing plays, songs, poems. I just never thought that, one, I was good enough to share them, and two, that it was something that was meant for me.” Evancho always thought she’d just keep singing classical and classic songs.

But once she turned 18, Evancho decided to take greater control over her career. She moved to New York City, where she currently splits time with Pittsburgh. She has also advocated for transgender rights with her trans sister Juliet, and started opening up about mental health issues, including struggling with disordered eating since she was a teenager.

A January 2021 car accident was what Evancho called a “wake-up call” as to how mental illness had affected her both emotionally and physically. She broke her back in two places and the breaks were abnormal, like what you’d see in an octogenarian. That is how Evancho learned that her eating disorder had created osteoporosis. Evancho enrolled at an inpatient facility and now sees a therapist. While she still struggles today, she’s moving on cautiously.

“I also move forward with the idea of I’m sick and tired of feeling like I’m not living my life for me, I’m living my life for 10-year-old me, and that’s not me anymore,” she says. “There’s no point in doing what I love if people don’t get to know me for me now — I moved forward with that idea and just kind of said you know, eff it.”

Still, Evancho does grapple with whether it’s good for people to see her currently struggling with her eating issues. Posts about eating disorder recovery and simply social media in general can be hard for her, she says. However, at the same time, she feels like she can encourage people to get better even if they are still working through mental health issues.

“We can’t give up on trying to achieve happiness in life, even though things are difficult,” she says. “That’s something I struggled with for so long, the concept of fighting for myself is a newer one, but it’s pretty fulfilling.” As far as advice for aspiring singers, Evancho encourages them to cherish what makes them different, and to not to give up. “You just have to really embrace that in your soul,” she says.

When Evancho is back in Pittsburgh, she loves to bike and fish in North Park. She also likes going to the Roxian Theatre. “There’s a lot that Pittsburgh has to offer and it’s fun,” she adds. “I discover new things all the time.”

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