Leading up to and during the Olympics, Whistler's homegrown songstress, Ali Milner, was front and centre on many stages, including during the local opening ceremonies and the Paralympic closing show. While that was a busy time for this 20-year-old performer, things don't seem to have slowed down much since then.
"It's been pretty hectic, I guess," she reflected. "But awesome!"
Late last week, Milner was just catching her breath, coming down from a Canada Day concert that saw her taking the stage with legendary singers Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan and others at Vancouver's Lilith Fair date.
"I grew up knowing they were kind of big stars, but it wasn't until recently where I was really looking them up and realizing what huge influences they had on the world," said Milner.
Milner had met McLachlan a few times through performances in Whistler and Vancouver. A few months ago, Milner received an e-mail from the singer's manager, asking if she'd like to be a part of the Vancouver Lilith Fair date. Milner jumped at the opportunity and was rewarded with an inspiring experience, meeting and working with some female powerhouses in the music industry.
"They're huge stars, but they're also real people, so it was kind of an interesting thing to meet them. It kind of makes it feel possible that I could have a career like that, as well," said Milner.
"It was incredible: so supportive, and you think when you're a young, upcoming artist playing on a bigger tour date like that, you think that maybe the huge artists might not be accessible or anything, but I got to speak with them at the press conference and backstage before the final number and they're all just so nice and real women, and they're just living their lives!"
Milner played a 35-minute set of almost all original tunes from her last album, I Dare You (she played one cover, Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson, at the end to get everyone dancing), and received a "great" reaction from the audience.
"They seemed to be willing to discover new music and sit and listen; it was really great. There were people dancing at the front, and it was awesome."
At the end of the day, everyone got up on stage together to perform one final song, a lesser-known tune by Bruce Springsteen. Milner sings a few words and giggles, admitting she had never heard it before.
"It was a bit intimidating I guess, especially because it was televised. I don't really get nervous anymore, I just get excited. But the Paralympics, for some reason, televised gigs freak me out," she laughed.
"I remember just before I got up on stage at Lilith, I got kind of nervous," she admitted. "And not excited - nervous! Because who knows who's in the crowd?"
As it turns out, at least one member of the music industry was in the audience, watching Milner perform: Terry McBride, Sarah McLachlan's manager and co-founder of Lilith Fair.
"He said he really enjoyed my set, so that was really great."
Lilith was the icing on the cake, of sorts. The Olympic experience has definitely helped to open a lot of doors for this born and bred Whistlerite.
"Performing on a world stage was an incredible opportunity and it was great. I've gotten messages from people from Germany that were like, 'I saw you in Whistler Village!'
"I kind of just keep on chugging, I just keep working; it's been a great thing to add to my resume," she said.
Since the Games, Milner has played a lot of live shows and traveled to some "random" places, including festivals and shows in Utah and England to perform. Straight after the Games, she was off to London with her bass player and drummer to make her UK debut at the City Showcase Festival. There, she played a few shows and made great connections with other musicians and people in the industry.
"The organizers of the festival are starting an agent management company, so I'm talking about working with them, maybe going back to the UK, so it was a really successful trip in that way."
Whistler's singing and songwriting sweetheart released her self-titled debut album at the age of 14, and released her sophomore album, I Dare You , last fall, transitioning from straight-up jazz to a more pop-influenced sound.
"I've been honing my sound and getting more and more comfortable on stage and working with a band and playing shows that way, because it's very different from playing in hotels or something. It's a completely, completely different ball game."
Now, she's getting ready to start writing for her next album, a project that will explore a more soulful sound, reminiscent of the legendary Ray Charles.
"I'm ready for people to see where I'm at now."
To hear some of Milner's latest music, visit www.myspace.com/alimilner.