They say you can never go home again, but Whistler’s favourite songstress, Ali Milner will prove that theory wrong for her performance at Millennium Place Saturday (Nov. 24) as part of Whistler Arts Council’s Performance Series.
The 22-year-old homegrown talent has enjoyed a year of increased exposure nationwide following her appearance on CBC’s singing competition, Cover Me Canada, where she placed third out of more than a thousand hopefuls.
The nationally-broadcast series wrapped up its first season almost a year ago and saw some of the country’s best undiscovered artists cover the most beloved and iconic songs in Canadian music history for a $100,000 cash prize, airplay on CBC Radio 2 and a recording contract for their original single, released by Universal Music.
“I came back (from the competition) feeling a little conflicted and confused about my musical direction. With all the covers, I took it in so many directions, so since coming back I’ve explored genres,” said Milner. “What it’s done for me is expose me to a whole new fanbase, so it’s been priceless.”
The crimson-haired singer-songwriter first cut her musical teeth as a nine-year-old when she joined the Whistler Children’s Chorus because she was “super interested in singing Disney songs and hanging out with my friends.”
Before long, she was belting out solos during chorus performances and was encouraged to join the Vancouver Children’s Choir at the age of 11. Here, she beefed up on her “Bach and all this wonderful classic music” and toured extensively with the group, honing her now-renowned vocal skills in the process.
She began writing her own songs at 14 and started getting into jazz music, a genre that continues to colour her increasingly diverse live performances.
An even bigger influence on the sultry songstress was the community she called home until two years ago, when she made the move to Vancouver to bank on the success of her previous full-length albums; her eponymous debut in 2005 and the velvety-smooth I Dare You, released in 2009.
“Whistler’s such a huge part of my identity,” she said. “Being a sports town, it presented so many opportunities because it was kind of a ‘small pond’ sort of scenario. I was the girl they called if they needed an ‘O Canada’ singer. When I was 15, I started singing at the Four Seasons every week doing covers in the hotel lobby. It groomed me for performing and being comfortable singing in front of people.”
The move to the big city has been a fruitful one for Milner, however, who has seen her star rise in the past few years, performing her timeless blend of soul, jazz and R&B at the Junos and alongside musical icons like Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan at Lilith Fair in 2010.
“The move to Vancouver has been really cool for me. It’s opened up my eyes and introduced me to a whole other music scene. I’m meeting so many amazing musicians, opening the doors for co-writers or people to share shows with,” she said, admitting she never questioned the decision to follow her burgeoning career to a bigger market.
“I’m kind of a head-down move-forward sort of person so I rarely look back … I remember feeling super revitalized to take on this new territory.”
With Saturday marking her first show in Whistler since February, Milner will unveil some of the new material she’s been working on for an upcoming EP, as well as some old classics.
“I want to do well for the people at home. I know the support I get there is unmatched and it’s always such a pleasure to go home and play for the people I know and grew up with,” she said.
Milner opens Saturday at 8 p.m. for New Brunswick recording artist David Myles, who blends African and Brazilian rhythms into his genre-defying style that’s sure to get the Whistler faithful out of their seats.
The $25 tickets are available artswhistler.com or at the Millennium Place box office.