Foster has been responsible for the biggest artists of the last few decades, divas in particular (if anyone need be reminded). He discovered Celine Dion, and worked with superstars Madonna, Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Barbra Streisand--you get the picture. If anyone can make a call on both vocal talent and the capacity for a long, successful career, it would be Mr. Foster.
Jackie Evancho, who just turned 11 this month, sang her way into American households and hearts by placing second on last year's season of "America's Got Talent" behind a classic underdog winner, Michael Grimm. Just months after competing, Evancho released her first professional studio album O Holy Night to rave reviews and even better sales. With that album, she is now the youngest solo artist to ever go platinum.
While it may be old news that Evancho is an impossibly perfect mix of talent, youth, and cherubic looks, Foster has some interesting insight on working with someone so young on her upcoming album.
"It's so funny--she'll be singing a classical piece one moment, and the next moment she's rolling on the floor playing with her brother, playing with the dog," says Foster. "The thing that really blows my mind as a producer is her understanding and comprehension of the job and her musicality...Her understanding of what I need from her and what I want from her is like any other superstar or great singer I've ever worked with."
For Foster, Evancho's unusually young age actually puts her at an advantage when it comes to the recording process.
"An adult has so many other things going on in their lives, and Jackie's so young that she has everything other than singing taken care of by her parents. Right now I'm working with Seal and Michael Bublé, and while they're very concentrated when it comes to work, they'll then get on their phones and talk to their managers about this date and that release and that photo...She's not mired down in any of that."
But it's not all decisions from Mom and Dad. Jackie had definite feelings about what she would sing on her album. "When I would make suggestions about material, she drew herself to the things that she likes...she already has a good idea of who she is. It's kind of like the poor singers on 'American Idol': Chris Daughtry has to sing rock ballads from the '80s and it's just not his thing, you know? But there are people that do that because they don't know who they are. Chris knew who he was, but he just had to tolerate it when he was on the show. but there are people who don't know who they are, so they'll just sing this song and that song, no direction. [Jackie's] pretty focused on who she is, which is great."
Jackie's upcoming album, produced by Foster, features a mix of classical, Broadway, and vocal-pop pieces, including the ever-popular opera piece "Nessun Dorma." Yahoo! was fortunate to get an exclusive clip of Jackie singing this song with a live orchestra at the Festival Of The Arts in Boca Raton, Florida last month:
Although "Nessun Dorma" was already sung by "Got Talent" favorites Paul Potts, Neal Boyd, Susan Boyle, and Prince Poppycock, there's something about this song in particular that makes it continuously compelling. "I think it is the greatest melody ever written, and the arc of the song is so flawless," says Foster. "I think Puccini was just a great pop writer, even though it's an opera piece. I know we're going to get a lot of flack for singing this song for various reasons [it's meant for an male, adult singer], but I believe Puccini, as a pop writer, probably would love anybody good singing his songs."
While it's yet to be seen how Jackie will fare in the long term, with her personal tastes and vocal talent it's not likely she'll be pulling a Taylor Momsen six years from now. But as far as going straight pop, Foster doesn't think she would take that road. "In my opinion, she has the capability, talent, and the brain to be a real, true, legitimate opera singer, if that is what she chooses to do."
And should she have won "America's Got Talent"? Foster says in the end, it doesn't really matter. "Everyone seems to like [Michael Grimm], but you don't hear much about him. You hear more about Jackie...There could've been a host of reasons for her not winning that I know nothing about. I don't think whether she won or not makes a bit of difference."
It will be very interesting to see how Jackie Evancho navigates her early success and how her career will change as she grows up; historically, it's been difficult for any sort of entertainer to maintain his or her fame while transitioning from child star to adulthood. But as long as her voice and industry veterans like Foster stick by her, she'll likely have live orchestras accompanying her for a long time.
Jackie Evancho's album Dream With Me drops on June 14.