It was New Year’s with the sun setting at the 2011/2012 Woodford Folk Festival in Australia when David Myles resolved to take more risks. If this past year is any indication, it was a resolution that he’s kept. Whether it’s playing trumpet in front of a packed house at the Rebecca Cohn, or it’s “dabbling in the rap world” with fellow Maritime rapper, Classified, David Myles has definitely found his “inner ninja”.
Myles has taken Canada by storm with his Buddy Holly style, smooth vocals and timeless love songs. From co-hosting the 25th Anniversary ECMA gala to playing at the Juno awards, this 32-year-old self-proclaimed “nerd” has come into his own. In the past year, the Fredericton-native-turned Halifax-homeboy has has won ECMAs for Songwriter and Song of the Year (2012); released a brand new album, In the Nighttime, seen one song – When It Comes My Turn – be nominated as one of CBC’s top 10 East Coast songs of all time; and seen another song – Inner Ninja (his collaboration with Classified) – become the best-selling rap single in Canadian history.
“It’s been a bit of a dream year as a songwriter, honestly,” says Myles. Known more for his romantic tunes and roots-inspired style, he’ll be the first to joke that he didn’t expect to win a Juno for Rap Recording of the Year, but he says it’s a joy to see the song explode through the charts.
“I feel the Juno is just more icing on the cake with the incredible experience we’ve had with this song. Having the song go to number one on MuchMusic. Having it go triple platinum [in Canada]: it’s just been an amazing year. It doesn’t matter how many songs you write …. as a song writer, these are the moments that you have to really savour because they don’t come around all that often. So I think it has been incredible.”
From the time he was young, Myles says he’s “always been really hungry for music.” His love for music started early, growing up in a household with two pianos and with a father who directed the high school musicals in Fredericton, New Brunswick. As the youngest of four brothers who all play instruments, Myles learned a lot of creating music with them. He started playing trumpet in his school band, and then he became interested in roots and jazz through a local group, Hot Toddy. Despite devouring music, Myles didn’t find his calling as a singer/songwriter until university when he was on exchange, studying in China.
“Obviously I always loved music and always loved playing my trumpet, but I never really knew how I could make a career of it. Then I bought a guitar and started singing and writing songs, and went, ‘Oh, this is it!’ I was totally hooked and I knew this was where I was going to fit in, and it was how I was going to make the career I’d dreamed about. And I was right. It is the thing I love the most. I love writing songs and seeing them come together, and putting them together and recording them.”
The primary force that led him to become a singer/songwriter is that, first and foremost, he’s a huge music fan. “The reason I write songs is because I like how it allows me to get into different styles of music. I can incorporate what I’m listening to into what I’m writing and whatever is inspiring to me.” It’s clear through listening to his different albums (seven albums in total), each one has its own unique flavour. From soul, jazz and roots elements in his early albums, to Brazilian and ‘70s African music influences in Into the Sun, the sounds that inspire Myles can be found just about anywhere. His newest album release is no different. Drawing inspiration from legendary soul and R&B performers like Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Smokey Robinson, In the Nighttime is a two-disc combo that showcases Myles versatility as a singer/songwriter. The first album contains Myles’ trademark love ballads and crooning style. Disc two is an EP with a contemporary flair and high-energy beats produced in collaboration with hip-hip artist, Classified. From the doo-wop feel of Change My Mind to the vintage rock and roll echoed in How’d I Ever Think I Loved You, both records pay homage to the music from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“These are both dream records,” says Myles. “I grew up loving jazz and roots music, where you have a bunch of great musicians playing in the same room, and it’s all about playing with one another and that idea of synergy you get. Disc one is a testament to that idea because it was kind of a dream band.” With experienced musicians who have played for Bonnie Rait and k.d. lang, the first disc is the ultimate studio session with a live band.
“And then, disc two is a dream record because it’s so fun, and it gave [Classified and I] the opportunity to do more than one song on an album together,” Myles adds. “He brings an incredible enthusiasm and risk. He listens to music like no other person I know. So for me, that’s what it’s all about. With this collaboration, I feel like I can tap into a different part of my personality, which is a more contemporary or showman style of singing and performing.”
When it comes to writing, Myles says that, for him, it’s important that he follows the muse and doesn’t edit too much before the song has a chance to blossom. He also adds that it’s a pleasure to see songs like When It Comes My Turn embraced by the community.
“It’s had this incredible power of resonating with people and becoming that kind of cam fire song,” he explains. “To have a song that seems to be slipping into a long-term spot in people’s minds on the east coast. That’s my community. Those are the people that I want to love that song more than anything. When I get videos of kids singing it or choirs singing it, that’s when you feel like you’ve written a great song because it’s way bigger than you.”
The main thing Myles hopes to create is music that engages his audience. “I really want there to be a sense of joy in my music. I want there to be a sense of happiness. That’s my personality and what I bring to it. I want people to feel good and have a sense of hope.” And with a good start to the year, it looks like Myles will continue to take more risks and do just that.