Every 10 years or so, classical pop artists have a major crossover breakthrough like Josh Groban, Il Divo and Andrea Bocelli. Jackie Evancho is having one of those breakthroughs. Since finishing second on NBC's "America's Got Talent" in 2010, the 12-year-old Pittsburgh native and "popera" powerhouse has become a fixture among the classical crossover set and on the Billboard charts. Having sold 2.1 million albums (according to Nielsen SoundScan) since her TV stint, Evancho returns with two releases for Syco/Columbia. "Songs From the Silver Screen" (Oct. 2) bows at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, and "Heavenly Christma"s is an Oct. 16 wide release of a 2011 Walmart exclusive. In addition, Evancho recently scored her first major branding deal as the face of Guess Kids' fall ad campaign and an acting role in next year's "The Company You Keep." On Nov. 3, she begins a 25-date tour of performing arts centers (booked by AEG) at the Talking Stick Resort Ballroom in Scottsdale, Ariz.
1. How did you select the tracks for "Songs From the Silver Screen"? Did you grow up with these songs?
My recording experience was very fun. There were so many times where I'd have to go in and sing, but this time it was just really fun. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," "My Heart Will Go On," "Reflection" -- all these have been fun to sing since I was younger. I was very excited to include "Music of the Night," which was my favorite song from the movie "Phantom of the Opera." [That's] also the movie that inspired me to start singing, so it's a very special song to me. There was also "Reflection" from the Disney movie "Mulan." That song feels like it says a lot about me.
2. You recently filmed "The Company You Keep" with Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon. How'd you score such an impressive cast for your first movie?
I don't know the full story, but from what I know, Robert Redford had called my mom and asked me if I could send in an audition. From what I heard, he thought that it was a pretty good audition, and I got in.
3. In addition to "Songs From the Silver Screen", you're rereleasing your holiday album "Heavenly Christmas" this month. What are some holiday traditions you have?
We turn on the TV and we play Christmas songs from those channels that just play Christmas music endlessly, and we decorate the Christmas tree. Then we go to my grandma's house on Christmas Eve with all my relatives and get a surprise visit from Santa.
4. You're about to embark on a tour of concert halls and symphony spaces. What's it like being able to headline such big venues at your age?
It's always exciting to see different cities I love, and go on tour buses. It's so much fun to travel. My favorite part is being able to perform live in front of all these amazing people, being able to connect with them and seeing their reaction makes me feel very special.
5. You are an alum of "America's Got Talent" and signed to Simon Cowell's label. What's some valuable advice that you've received since your career took off?
It's interesting because what I do and what I sing is, to other people, pretty unique. I feel I'm creating my own path...and I'm working on growing as a performer, continuing to explore my own sound. I've just heard so much from many people. I do remember Smokey Robinson saying, "It doesn't matter what people say, you should always continue and never give up. There are going to be people out there who will try and put you down and make your career plummet. You should always ignore those comments."
6. With so many talent shows on TV right now, what advice do you have for other aspiring singers?
My advice would be to follow your dream. Most of my life I was in second place, before I came in first place. I hope that inspired people to never give up. I never gave up and I continued to do what I do now. My career has just progressed so much. It's fun to see it from where I was-it's such an amazing thing to me.