"I guess I am like an actor in a role, if I can relate to a song, then I put myself in the writer’s shoes. I try to deliver it as though I am the writer (of the song) and I try to get the story told. During the couple of years that I was with Les Miserables (she performed on stages throughout Canada and the United States), the director kept telling us, ‘This is a story, and people are paying to come to hear this story. If you don’t believe what you are singing, then the audience will feel that as well.’ You have to put yourself in that role. Every song is a role, unless it is a cutesy song. For the most part, I am a passionate ballad singer. I am a really emotional person and I prefer to sing ballads (that tell stories). When I touch people, I prefer to touch them on a more sentimental side, more than on another (level). As sappy as this may sound, I like bringing everybody to an emotional state when the hair is standing up on their arms, when they are choked, and it brings back a childhood memory," says jazz vocalist Shari Chaskin.
After sitting and talking with Shari Chaskin for a while, you begin to understand the passion that floods up from her soul and feeds her performances. She is a woman deeply in love with her husband Jeff, speaks fondly of her friends, and lives to see the look in the eyes of her audience that tells her that people are connecting with her music. Her soft-spoken demeanor offstage belies her performance persona that covers the spectrum of personalities and emotions including, the gentle woman in love, the brazen vixen, and the sassy almost cabaret like singer. Chaskin can coo a gentle love song, such as "You’ll Never Know," one moment, and the next minute belt out the rip roaring "All That Jazz."
Chaskin feeds off her audience’s energy and emotions. "It is the intensity in their eyes, and the smile on their faces. I can tell when they are listening and when they are really into my music. For the most part, it is the women who are really taken (with my singing). They will have their heads in the palms of their hands, and they will be leaning (forward) on the table. I can see in their eyes that they are taking it all in. I will look around the room to see who I have grabbed and they grab me back in the same way," she says.
The gifted singer channels the soulfulness of Oleta Adams when she sings, "We Belong Together," and exudes raw passion with the words to "If We Don’t Have Us." The tear soaked "So Quiet," will rip your heart from your chest, and you may catch a tear as it slides slowly down your cheek.
With songs for which she has not been one of the writers, Chaskin makes the lyrics her own. "The lyrics have to mean something. I can’t just sing lyrics that were thrown together quickly. I like intense lyrics that touch many people in different ways. Love songs are the most emotional for me to perform," she says.
Her desire to connect with her audience is evident on stage, but she also takes that same sensitivity with her to the studio. "When I do my recordings, I think of the listeners who will hear the CD. I think of them as the audience," she says.
The attitude and energy that she delivers to her studio recordings, plunks the listener down in a front row seat, as the songs flow from Chaskin’s full length 1995 CD Secrets, and her 2005 EP Sultritude. The EP opens with "Into Your Life," a recording that prompts memories of Swing Out Sister. Her breathtaking performance on Doug Davis’ "I Want You Back," is passionate, while her pop/R&B "Let Love Fly," should send a clear message to radio stations that Shari Chaskin is a world-class talent.
Songs from her more contemporary album Secrets received significant airplay in the heavily populated Canadian markets of Quebec and British Columbia.
As you read this you are probably asking, if this lady is really this good a singer, how come you have not heard of her. Shortly after the release of Sultritude, Chaskin’s career was derailed due to a herniated disc in her back and a lengthy recuperative period.
She has resumed singing with Calgary’s Prime Time Big Band, which features several outstanding Canadian musicians, including saxophone virtuoso Pat Belliveau. Chaskin also performs as a solo artist, and once again, her future looks bright.
Few singers can match her passion, and combine those emotions with vocals second to none. She is chasing her dreams again and in the words of one of her favorite songs penned by Donna Summer, "If there is music there / I’ll have to go / Never been anything in my / life that I wanted more" ("If There Is Music There").
"It ("If There Is Music There,") touches so many people. I love that song because it is about the character who is singing it. The individual is a performer who has been away from performing for a very long time. She has a passion for it once again, and she has to leave the one that she loves to go out and follow her dream," says Chaskin.
Shari Chaskin may very well be one of the best singers, of any genre in Canada right now. As you dial into her website, you will soon understand why.