By Joseph Mathieu
Photos by Chris Roussakis
You never know where you’re going to end up, and Ottawa’s Kellylee Evans is a textbook example.
“I never really left Carleton,” said the artist-in-residence (AIR) at the School for Studies in Art and Culture. “It feels right to be here.”
In the mid-1990s, a serendipitous wrong turn on campus ultimately led to her Juno Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album of 2011. There have been more than a few sharp turns along the way, but her discovery of the Music Department while she was studying Law and English led her to pursue music as a career in 2000. She has since released five critically acclaimed albums and one live recording of her debut fight or flight? and has won numerous awards.
One major turn came in 2015, when her subtly funky and soulful album Come On was released on France’s Decca Records on Nov. 13. A day earlier, she suffered a major concussion from fainting in the bath and, as she realized how serious it was, she “basically just put my life and my career on hold.”
Accepting a slower pace of living
Prior to her fall, Evans was already trying to get her health back after she was struck by lightning while doing the dishes at home in 2013. The setbacks forced her to reassess her situation and to accept a slower pace of living.
When Carleton’s James Wright, supervisor of performance studies and music professor, asked Evans to join the AIR program for the winter 2017 term, she was still figuring out what her body would allow her to do.
“I was like ‘yes! There’s no other person you could have that would be more committed to Carleton!'” she laughed.
“I want our students to be the best that they can be, but I wasn’t sure I was ready.”
Evans offers workshops to performing students in both the sizable Kailash Mital Theatre and the intimate Patrick Cardy Studio, where she conducts a monthly interview series. The workshops help performing music students to ascertain that they are delivering their music to their utmost ability. The interview series also offers a view into the careers of arts administrators and successful artists.
Evans interviewed her friend, singer-songwriter Amanda Martinez, on Feb. 3, and plans to host another four chats before the end of term. On, March 3, Kevin Breit and Matt Brubeck of the Juno Award-winning trio Stretch Orchestra joined her.
Ever inquisitive, Evans has turned her touring work ethic into a supportive role on campus. Through laidback conversation, she encourages her interview subjects to share their experiences for students to absorb.
Both artistic director Petr Cancura and executive director Catherine O’Grady of the Ottawa Jazz Festival will join Evans later in March. In April, she’ll be joined by Jon Bartlett, label owner, talent manager and owner of Kelp Management. He’s also the founder/organizer of the annual MEGAPHONO music festival.
Kellylee Evans: Reflecting on Her Career
Although the residency has offered her the opportunity to reflect on her own career, Evans had already accepted her body’s new limits. To take the bad with the good has allowed her to spend more time with her three kids, coach young musicians as she was once coached, and help the Carleton community succeed.
“You know, I have problems walking, I have problems with my arms, just using my hands . . . I would love to have my health back, but I wouldn’t want to change what happened,” she said. “Because at the same time, there are so many ways that my life is so much better than it was before.”
For more information about the AIR series, please go to: Carleton.ca/music/air.