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Where there's a WILLA, there's a way

Whistler's Ali Milner combines talents with Mother Mother musician Ryan Guldemond for new project



Ali Milner has a new thing going on.

And fans of the Whistler homegrown singer get the chance to hear the music she has been creating with Mother Mother's lead vocalist and guitarist Ryan Guldemond this weekend. The pair, performing under the name WILLA, are at the Garibalidi Lift Company on Saturday, Jan. 10, at 10 p.m.

WILLA is both a new persona for Milner and a new sound. She calls Guldemond a "creative freight train." She got to know him after competing in the PEAK Performance Project in 2012. They've been working together for almost two years.

"Until now, the scene I've been involved with has been rock 'n roll or Canadiana. Then I met Ryan and we started doing some writing. We just stumbled upon these sounds and then these songs started to be formed, and now WILLA is in existence," Milner, who now lives in Vancouver, explains.

"It's been a bit of a journey, but every minute has led to us discovering what the sound is. Finally, we are mixing the album and starting to play shows and it's a great feeling."

Musically, the sound is dark, she says, adding it wouldn't be out of place on a playlist with Lorde and Lana Del Rey. WILLA is Milner's own middle name, one she carries in honour of a great-aunt.

"There's a kind of mystery to the music, a sexiness almost. There are growly sounds as well as ethereal sounds. It's about vocals and layering and interesting choices. It's in between indie and top," Milner says.

She agrees it is a departure from her previous work.

"I was into the pop-jazz thing and I loved it, but I would never listen to my own music or play it for people," she recalls. "I'd be with friends and they'd put on one of my songs and I'd be all, 'turn it off,' but now I will be at a party with people I don't know and I'll be asking them if they want to hear my music. I'm so proud of it."

Guldemond was speaking at the PEAK Performance boot camp and kept in touch with Milner after it ended.

"(Milner's manager) Rick Baker is friends with Ryan. We all sat down and decided to write a song, Rick facilitated it. We did and we stumbled upon something awesome," she says.

"There is something about Ryan's way of doing things. He's creative creature and really thinks outside of the box, and I have a pop aesthetic and I like hip hop. There is something about our two vibes and it came together, it really created something special, I think.

"When we were writing, he would play on the synth(esizer) and I would wander around singing things and he would sing things. It was a very free process; we just threw everything at the wall and saw what stuck."

Milner says they are releasing more songs this year, but is unsure when the full album will be released.

"We are just sketching out 2015 now," Milner says.

She was in Las Vegas just before Christmas to shoot a music video for WILLA's first single, Stay the Night, which is already out on SoundCloud.

"I thought it was time we attached some visuals. We did some desert shots and got to wander around the old strip as well, so it was really fun. Just a couple of days but lots of exploring. I love the desert; it's a pretty special spot," Milner says.

In WILLA she says she has found her future.

"The goal now is to let the songs marinate, let people get their heads around the idea that WILLA is the future of Ali Milner," she says.

"It's a new artist's name, it's a new artist because it brand new sound. It's a total evolution and rebirth. It's really exciting for me. I've finally created what the inside of my head sounds like.

"I've always been a huge pop music fan and creating it, I never considering creating pop to the extent I am creating my music now. To create my music currently, I realize I have a capability to do it. I'd say I've finally found myself."

The GLC gig is WILLA's first performance in Whistler. She can't wait to see what her friends think.

Milner says: "I'm so excited. It's going to be so much fun. I'm just really excited for the world to meet WILLA. I can finally reveal everything I've been working so hard on. I am probably more excited and proud of this than anything I've ever created. I'm in such a great place and this music is such a representation of me, 100 per cent."

Following the Whistler gig, WILLA will be embarking of a short tour of the Western U.S., their first.


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