For three years, it is the same routine every Wednesday. Sometimes mom, sometimes dad, but one of them drives 16-year-old Ali Milner away from the glossy green million dollar homes of Whistler and into the grey messiness of east side Vancouver for Milners weekly jazz piano lesson.
More than 150 times, Milner drives by the always-on-play slide show of junkies, homeless and prostitutes littering the city streets. She watches from behind the glass of her familys vehicle, a looking glass often polished for a better view by a spare-some-change squeegie kid.
"I cant imagine living in a place like this, but I dont because ignorance is bliss," she sings of the drug torn alleys in a jazz refrain executed in a voice as rich as velvet on her track East Side.
The jazz track is one of six original songs on her debut, self-titled, 10-track album set for release Tuesday, Sept. 5 in Canada on the Venus record label and distributed by EMI.
"I sort of drew on personal stuff for the album," she says. "When I drive to my piano lesson, we go through the east side of Vancouver."
She pulls out one of her two music binders, never far from reach these days. One holds penciled out chord charts of her music, the other lyrics. She reads: "The east side of town has ragged faces, hide in doorways and leave no traces. They search for gold in garbage bins. What they find is bitter sweet. There is no judgment on any sins. Just the need to survive, East Hastings Street."
These are not the thoughts of a 16 year old, but in fact a 14 year old or even younger. Milner recorded the track when she was 14 in a Toronto studio after a whirlwind of events landed her with manager Zack Werner, best known as the cranky Canadian Idol Judge but also the owner of Venus Records. Her talent was scouted by a woman who put Milner in contact with Werner after witnessing Milners performance in the 2010 Cultural Cabaret presented by the Whistler Arts Council three years ago.
She sang Some Where Over the Rainbow and a Blood, Sweat and Tears number for Werner, illustrating Milners love of everything from Puccini and Ella Fitzgerald to Led Zeppelin and Queen.
"He didnt like it," she said of Werners reaction to the David Clayton Thomas song. "He said he couldnt get over picturing it being sung by a gravely-voiced old man."
Just another memory for her scrap book, one of the inspirations behind her song Scrap Book Man, which follows the story of someone who tries to fit their life into a scrap book.
The talented songstress readies herself for the new chapter her album will open for her. Weekly piano lessons with Bob Murphy, Canadas leading jazz pianist who accompanied the likes of Miles Davis, and vocal coaching with Juno-nominated Joani Taylor are more crucial than ever now. Werner has booked a series of shows around the Toronto Film Festival to introduce Milner to the glitterati of the Canadian music world.
"This album is about introducing me to the music world," she says. "Its about getting my name out there. What I want to do is do a lot of performing and traveling. I hope to make a living out of singing. It is something I love to do."
Any regrets with the album?
She was 14 years old when she recorded the tracks. "My voice is huskier now," she says. "Its a lot different. Im a lot older now."
The difference two years can make. Whistler can only guess what the next 730 days will bring for the jazz chanteuse definitely more trips down the Sea to Sky Highway.
Milners album is available for pre-order at www.shopemi.com. Visit myspace.com and enter "Ali Milner" in Friend Search to sample album tracks.