Sasha Evans sings at the summer Sawdust Festival. (Courtesy / August 17, 2011)

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.