Willa's way 

Whistler-raised singer-songwriter Ali Milner plays the GLC on Friday, Dec. 16

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Not a swan Willa, a.k.a. Ali Milner, has been named one of Canada's 17 Artists to Watch Out For in 2017 by Buzzfeed Canada and Spotify.
  • Photo submitted
  • Not a swan Willa, a.k.a. Ali Milner, has been named one of Canada's 17 Artists to Watch Out For in 2017 by Buzzfeed Canada and Spotify.

Willa's single "Swan" is delightfully dark with a rocky edge, and ready to take a stand.

For one thing, the alter ego of former Whistlerite Ali Milner sings in it that she is definitely "not a swan," "not a trophy" or a "sweet treat" — and she doesn't have the time for love.

"'Swan' is, basically, a strong female anthem. It's about being unabashedly powerful," Milner says during a call from her home in Vancouver.

It can be found on her latest album, Criminals and Dreamers, which came out earlier this year.

It's a continuation of the path away from the piano-playing jazz and pop performer who cut her teeth locally over the years. Willa, so called after Milner's middle name, kicked off in 2014.

Mother Mother's Ryan Guidemond, who has been part of Willa almost from the start, helped co-write and produce Criminals and Dreamers.

"The album got a great response, the most notable was that the streaming on Spotify was added to several big playlists," Milner says.

The result? The album accumulated over 5 million "streams" — or online plays.

"Now that the album has been out and done quite well for an independent release, I'm starting to write the second round of songs. The next single will come out hopefully spring or summer 2017. Nothing is set, we have to follow the muse," she laughs.

Asked if this is something an artist can prepare for, whether marketing yourself as a musician can improve your chances of getting your music onto these playlists, it's clear Milner has given it some thought.

"I was lucky enough to play a show in Toronto, and a lot of reps were there and it grew from there," she says.

She explains that streams do translate to sales, and they also help her build an audience for live shows.

"As an independent artist, I don't share my revenue with a record label. It's great, but it's mostly beneficial for reaching new fans," she says.

"If you have a hot song on a streaming service, then it's about to attract placements in commercials and advertising in film and television."

Because of her following, her song "Dreamers" was featured in two ads, for Vancity Credit Union and Adobe.

Asked about the changing landscape of music, something Milner his grown up with, she called it a hot topic with agents, musicians and management.

"For me, singles is where the music industry is at the moment, as opposed to an album. I'm constantly recording ideas, but it's usually when I have a purpose for them that I pull them all together into a song; get enough of those and I pull an album together," she says.

Willa performs at the Garibaldi Lift Company on Friday, Dec. 16. Tickets are $15. Doors open at 9:30 p.m.

"I don't get home as much as I like, and it's such a treat to visit and see all my friends," she says.

"I'm looking forward to the show, especially to close this year with the people I love. I plan to sneak peak a new song or two."

David Beckingham of Hey Ocean! will be supporting Willa.

About to start down the path of writing news songs, Milner says she is inspired by strong women. This Whistler show is not part of a tour this time, because of her commitment to writing new music.

"I have yet to decide what exactly I am writing about," she laughs.

Guidemond is once more co-writing songs with Milner.

In early December, Willa was named one of Canada's 17 Artists to Watch Out For in 2017 by Buzzfeed Canada and Spotify— and Milner is excited for the New Year as she sees this one off.

"What a great way to end the year," she says.

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