As a music fan, Ali Milner gets bored pretty easily.
So when she set out to make her recently released sophomore album I Dare You, the 19-year-old singer/songwriter, who divides her time between Vancouver and her native Whistler, B.C., said she made a conscious effort to impart variety on her own listeners.
“When we were writing, I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, does this song sound the same as the last song we wrote, or the one before that?’” she said on the phone from Whistler, just after returning home from a pre-Olympic performance in Tokyo, “I want them all to be fresh, different and a new experience for the listener.”
Milner’s motivation is clear on I Dare You. The album, largely comprised of love songs that feature her on keys and vocals, diverts from the jazz-driven sound she put into gear on her self-titled debut at age 14. This time, reggae, R&B and rock all accompany the record’s jazz-based-pop numbers, underscored by Milner’s sweet but strong vocals.
She can’t quite pinpoint how her diverse musical influences developed. Drawing inspiration from artists as mixed as Sam Cooke, Puccini and Led Zeppelin, Milner boils it down to innate feeling, “I just get into different moods and want to listen to different stuff,” she laughs.
Though her ear may be in many places, Milner’s mind appears focused. Lyrically and melodically, she said she’s grown into a level of confidence that allowed her to fashion an album in a more personal niche as she’s matured.
“I definitely feel I’m more certain who I am,” she said, “(In between albums) I played at the Four Seasons in Whistler a couple times a week for two years. With all those hours under my belt, my performing is a lot more confident.”
Milner’s performance practice has already paid off. She won glowing praise from Sarah McLachlan after performing at a children’s hospital event. And jazz-popper Michael Bublé invited her to sing with him on stage at a post-Juno Awards party.
“It’s really interesting gratification to get because I feel like they’re along the same vein of music that I am. They’re far ahead in their careers and have achieved a life from it,” a sentiment Milner said encourages her to think she, too, could make music a life-long vocation.
But first, she’s set on improving her songwriting ability by working with new minds she hopes to meet with any success garnered by her new album. “That’s what cultivates a life-long career.”
• Ali Milner plays the Free Times Cafe (320 College St.) in Toronto tonight.
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