David Myles hitting the glory days

May 7, 2013
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David Herald
Juno Award winner David Myles, back at home in Halifax after winning a Juno for Rap Recording of the Year with Classified for the song Inner Ninja, celebrates his new CD In the Nighttime at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on Thursday.

David Myles is, to put it plainly, on a roll.

Talking to the Halifax singer-songwriter over the phone from Toronto, he sounds like he hasn’t stopped talking or moving in a week, and that’s probably not too far off the mark.

After all, this was only a few days after winning a Juno Award for rap recording of the year with Classified and performing on the nationwide telecast from Regina, and the day before being the featured Friday musical guest on CBC Radio’s Q. And there’s no chance of coming down; he has a new album, In the Nighttime, due out in a week and on Thursday he plays his first headlining show at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.

How do you think you’d feel?

“It’s been amazing, amazing,” says Myles after trying to burn off some energy with a stroll down Queen Street West. “I was just thinking about it, and this has probably been the best week of my career so far. Any kind of national profile has been very elusive to me; I’ve done a lot of touring across the country, I’m touring all the time and I’ve done quite well in certain parts of the country.

“But I’ve never had a chance to have this overall national profile that’s been really substantial. All of a sudden, this week, it’s just kind of exploded.”

To the rest of Canada, this unlikely collaboration probably seemed to come out of nowhere, between an Enfield rapper known to his friends and family as Luke Boyd and a New Brunswick musician with one foot in jazz and another in contemporary folk, draped in a tailored suit and horn-rimmed glasses. But it’s been bearing fruit since Classified first brought Myles to his home studio to record some trumpet parts for his 2009 release Self Explanatory, and continued on his 2011 album Handshakes and Middle Fingers with The Day Doesn’t Die, and Simple Pleasures on Myles’ 2011 release Into the Sun.

If you want to get technical, the Juno went to Classified for Inner Ninja, which is credited as “featuring David Myles,” but Boyd made sure that his bespectacled cohort came up to the podium with him to accept the award (the rapper’s first, after seven previous nominations), and the pair performed together at the weekend’s Songwriters’ Circle, alongside Tom Cochrane, Colin James and Crystal Shawanda.

But despite having plenty of reason to celebrate the whole time they were in Regina, Myles says he couldn’t truly relax until all the gala awards were handed out and the final credits rolled over host Michael Buble singing Home.

“At the end of Sunday night, Luke and I just looked at each other and went, ‘Whoa!’ This has been a pretty amazing year,” says Myles. “The Junos were part of this amazing journey that we’ve had, as a collaborative team, particularly with Inner Ninja, it’s been an insane experience, for both of us. He’s already had big hits, but this is like a different level, and for me it’s all totally different.

“I think performing on the awards show helps people solidify what it is that Luke and I do and how it works together, and they really got into it.”

And their partnership is a long way from having run its course; the second half of In the Nighttime is subtitled The After-Party, with Classified providing a modern R&B undercurrent to bring out the pop in Myles’ tunes. You’d think the difference would be jarring after the amiable acoustic flow of the record’s first half, but there’s something chemical in the way Myles’ knack for melody and lyrics combines with Classified’s quest for immediate listener gratification via beats and hooks.

But that’s not the only attraction to In the Nighttime, with Holly Cole’s pianist and arranger Aaron Davis handling the bulk of the production, with a killer band including guitarist Kevin Breit, bassist David Piltch and Davide DiRenzo on drums, and backing vocals by fellow Juno winners Meaghan Smith and Rose Cousins.

Myles was thrilled to be able to see Cousins, his longtime friend and fellow East Coast Music Awards Gala co-host, earn the coveted Canadian music prize the same night as he did and was glad to work with her “before she attains international superstardom.”

“I’ve been talking about getting Rose on a record, because obviously she’s a wonderful singer as well as a really good friend, for a long time,” he says. “I really wasn’t sure I had the right song, because I’ve been really lucky to have Jill (Barber) and Meaghan on my records, and I did this song with Measha Brueggergosman, so I’ve had incredible luck in getting to sing with these amazing female singers.

“With Rose, I was always waiting for the right song, and when I wrote I Wouldn’t Dance, I texted her right away, saying I finally had the song we were going to sing together. I just knew, because I wanted to write a classic folk-type country melody where I knew we’d work really well together, so that’s how it started. But because she can basically sing anything, she wound up singing on seven tracks on the record. She’s like a featured instrument, so it’s not just a guest spot, it’s this ongoing colour on the record.”

Brueggergosman has already been announced as a special guest at Thursday night’s Rebecca Cohn Auditorium show, where Myles will also be backed by the trio of drummer Josh Van Tassel, bassist Kyle Cunjak and guitarist Alan Jeffries, plus Kim Dunn on keyboards. He also has a duo show scheduled for Friday, May 24, at the Shannon Studio in the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, but it’s at the Cohn that he’s pulling out all the stops, with another surprise or two in store.

“The thing I’m finding is really fun is presenting the Classified-produced stuff live. I get out my electric guitar and do things a little differently,” says Myles. “It’s a really cool show, it’s a bit different from how people are used to seeing me, and I haven’t played a full show in Halifax in a long time, not since I recorded Live at the Carleton.

“I feel bad it’s been so long, but we really wanted to make sure that the next show we did would be a big one, because it felt like things were going so well. And the Cohn is a beautiful room, and it really suits what I do.”

by Stephen Cooke, The Chronicle Hearld
photo credit Ted Pritchard