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A little selfish works for Kellylee Evans

For Ontarian singer-songwriter Kellylee Evans, being a "good girl" can be a bad thing.

"Everybody has this kind of idea of how you should behave. And I think I've always tried to toe the line," Evans told The Telegram in a phone interview this week. "And then I just had a period where I just couldn't deal with toeing the line anymore. I was thinking about not toeing the line and what happens when you don't toe the line."

In her latest release, Evans tried the opposite. She acted the bad girl - shaking off any "why don't you try" suggestions to make something entirely her own.

Singer-songwriter Kellylee Evans will perform tonight as part of the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival in St. John's. Submitted photo

For Ontarian singer-songwriter Kellylee Evans, being a "good girl" can be a bad thing.

"Everybody has this kind of idea of how you should behave. And I think I've always tried to toe the line," Evans told The Telegram in a phone interview this week. "And then I just had a period where I just couldn't deal with toeing the line anymore. I was thinking about not toeing the line and what happens when you don't toe the line."

In her latest release, Evans tried the opposite. She acted the bad girl - shaking off any "why don't you try" suggestions to make something entirely her own.

Evans will perform some of the music tonight at the Martini Bar on George Street at 8 p.m. as part of the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival in St. John's.

"I think from a musical standpoint ... I'm not a huge musician. I don't play a lot of instruments," Evans said. "I'm just starting to play the guitar on stage now and I just started playing the guitar. So in order to express myself (musically) I need to work with other people. When you've got to ask other people for help and you've got to ask other people to help you create your music, you have to have people agree. And I think, for this CD, I wasn't up to having anybody agree with me at all."

She said she got "a little bossy" in the studio and on stage, but said the results - her dream collection of smooth songs with lyrics of cool defiance - have been worth it.

"I know my place in this world/ and it's not as your good girl," Evans sings in the upbeat, urban pop-jazz mix of the album's title track.

"I feel like I'm just becoming more free to be myself, but I'm also learning more who 'myself' is," she said. "And when you're free on stage, the audience is more free. ... They feel permission to cut loose more."

Before "The Good Girl," in 2006 Evans released "Fight or Flight" and earned a Juno nomination. She did not take home the Juno, but did take home the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for best female artist in 2007. And in entering the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, where she claimed second place, Evans sang for Al Jarreau and Quincy Jones.

"Quincy Jones especially, with Michael Jackson and we always heard about all the work he did and I was like, 'Quincy Jones, I want to meet Quincy Jones.' But when you're actually faced with that and they talk to you afterwards, I ask anybody to try to remember what they said afterwards," Evans said of the experience of meeting the icon.

"It was all a blur and that's totally how I felt - really happy and excited that one of my dreams came true, but then every time I try to think back on what he said, all I remember him saying was, 'I saw you up there with no shoes.'"

Shoeless performances have become a trademark of Evans, identifying her as much as her recent short hairstyle. She said people shouldn't expect to see footwear when she takes the stage at the Martini Bar.

"I feel funny. I feel weird when I have (shoes) on. Once I got on stage and I had them on and I was thinking something's wrong, something's wrong, something's wrong. Then I looked down and I'm like, 'Ah.' So I kicked them off," she said. "It makes me just feel a lot more grounded. I like to be able to feel the ground and walk around. ... I think it's the same reason we take off our shoes when we get home - we want to be more comfortable."

She paused for a half-beat before adding, "It's not like I'm performing with no clothes."

The performance tonight will be Evans' first visit to Newfoundland.

"I'm excited," she said.

Evans had been providing a free download of her song "Through" to members of the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival's mailing list. The song can also be heard on Evans' website.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: George Street, St. John's, Newfoundland

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