"I like to re-create songs," explains Brenda Files. "To sing a song that everybody already loves and cannot comprehend another rendition of is a real challenge."

Files, a native of Birmingham, Ala., has been performing in the Washington area since she moved here in 1981. She'll appear with Dwight Talley in a program of song and poetry tomorrow at 7 and 8:30 p.m. in the Helen Hayes Gallery of the National Theatre. Admission is free, but due to limited seating, reservations must be made by calling 783-3372.

Files and Talley will sing, solo and in duo, show tunes, ballads and some of Talley's originals. Files, who had some of her poems published in the October issue of Essence magazine, also will recite from the poetry of Langston Hughes. Accompaniment will be provided by a quartet that includes pianist Thom Minor and guitarist Lewis Cottom Jr.

"I'm impressed with Billie Holiday and Nina Simone because of their uniqueness and because of what they stood for," Files says. "As a jazz artist it's hard to find space to be political and social. I try to bring some kind of dialogue into my work so they won't label me a soul singer. If you're black and you don't start in the beginning making a statement about who you are, they're going to label you a soul singer. They'll label you a soul singer if you come out singing opera."