Hansen: The reluctant rising star

If you've ever been told you have "potential," you know it's not a compliment.

It's a backhanded way of saying you're not doing enough. You don't have to try where others struggle. With your gifts, people either become jealous or turn into show moms.

Local singer Sasha Evans has a lot of show moms.

Combining sweetness, vulnerability and enormous talent, the 27-year-old is like an adorable songbird that has just flown into the kitchen through an open window, spooked and out of place.

People just want to help her.

"She's getting her wings," said bandmate and violinist Doug Miller, 65, of Laguna Beach. "You want to like Sasha right away. She is just lovely."

Two years ago, in what Miller described as a historic August night, the two opened for Grammy winner Shawn Colvin at the Coach House, a noisy dinner club in San Juan Capistrano that at first blush would not seem like a good venue for the soft-spoken Evans.

Within seconds, the place was silenced.

"They quit talking, and they quit drinking, and they just sat there and listened," Miller said. "It was amazing to see the effect she has on people. She rivets people. She has that. I've never met anybody who has that. It's fantastic.

"It was 45 minutes of the most golden moments of our lives."

Evans would not describe it that way. She is too self-effacing.

"The fact that all of America doesn't know me is OK," said Evans, who is a full-time music instructor for children in Dana Point and prefers to buy her clothes in thrift stores.

She turns down about 75% of the gigs she's offered, doing only those that feel right, such as a recent stint with Rita Rudner at the Laguna Playhouse.

She does not sing in traditional bars. She never wants to tour widely and lose touch with her students. She won't try out for "American Idol."

"I'm a very ambitious musician, but I'm not a very ambitious person," she said. "I have a lot of ethereal goals that are not even tangible, like enjoying life completely. As much as I absolutely love music — and I always have — more than success, I seek balance in my life."

But she's not without ambition.

Although still unsigned, she is working on her fourth album — her first three were either self-financed or produced by friends. But this time, she's getting some professional production and management help.

Her goal is to be on the radio and respected like her idol, Regina Spektor.

"She's being pulled up from above, instead of being pushed up from underneath like most of these poor kids are," Miller said. "They are out there in bars and restaurants. She's done the restaurant thing; she got fed up with it, very tired of it, having people yak and yak through her songs. She writes her lyrics to be heard."

Laguna Beach music organizer Rick Conkey first introduced Evans and Miller, and can't say enough about Evans' talent.

"Sasha is special," Conkey said. "She's quite unbelievable and one of the brightest lights on the local music scene."

Conkey, a host on Laguna's new radio station, KX 93.5 FM, invited the duo to perform at the "Music Matters" concert at The Cliff restaurant on Wednesday.

For Evans, the desire to succeed is tempered by her present contentment.

"I have a serious internal battle all the time," she said. "I guess if my life sucked, then maybe I would try harder to improve it or something, but I never feel a lack of anything."

She does, however, admit to wanting something more and perhaps relieving the pressure she sometimes feels.

"I feel kind of ashamed sometimes because people say, 'You could be one of those singers,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, well, I don't know how to do it.'

"I don't want to drive up to L.A. every weekend, and I don't want to do a lot of that stuff that you have to do. I don't want to leave and put my life on hold."

Adopted as a baby by Laguna parents Tom and Shelley Evans, she was encouraged early. Shelley is a longtime artist at the Sawdust Festival. Sasha started singing and inventing her own songs at age 5.

"I think she's due for something wonderful," Miller said. "She is totally different than what's going on. But she doesn't want to lose herself in it, and be doubled over with all the burdens of it, where it becomes homogenized.

"This is a turning point. We're waiting for something to happen. It's like we're out in the ocean, and we have to erect the pole and get the sails up and get some wind coming at us. And that will happen. It's very exciting."

Miller and Evans are like alter egos, antidotes that work well together. His long gray hair and quirky sense of humor contrasts with her demure, approachable stage presence and quick smile.

"He eases my stress," Evans said. "If it were up to him, we would be on the Ellen DeGeneres show tomorrow."

Indeed, Sasha Evans will see fame, if there is any justice in music.

She is in that unnerving space where change happens because there's no stopping it. It's the right time for the right reasons.

Look now and her songs on YouTube barely break 1,000 views, but that will change.

It will change because she has an eager line of show moms ready to take care of her.

All she has to do is say yes and continue to be herself.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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