Ottawa singer warms up in the Yukon

Lynn Miles used to seek out rocky romantic relations. It made for good songwriting material, said the Ottawa musician.

Lynn Miles used to seek out rocky romantic relations.

It made for good songwriting material, said the Ottawa musician.

“I wrote a lot about romantic angst.”

And it drew fans.

Miles’ has been told her music helped people through divorce.

Others have listened to her songs while giving birth.

“I put my music out there because I want to relate to and transcend my own life,” she said.

“I want to connect with the world and let people know they’re not alone with their pain.”

But pain is no longer a focus for Miles.

At 49, the singer is more interested in freedom.

“I don’t want my thoughts and actions to be influenced by others’ opinions — I want to do my own thing and live my own life,” she said.

It doesn’t make for easy songwriting.

“It’s slowed down,” she said.

“Because I’m no longer drawing on instant pain. These deeper questions require more contemplation.”

With 500 songs to her name, Miles isn’t too worried about slowing down.

In the interim, she’s taken on a producing gig, overseeing Yukon Women in Music’s 12-song compilation CD.

When Miles applied for the job, she knew nothing about it.

“I didn’t know the studio, the engineer, the music or the players,” she said.

Miles mainly co-produces her own work and the Women in Music CD is the biggest producing job she has taken on.

She’s tired.

“We’re working 10 to 12 hour days,” she said with a yawn.

“The studio doesn’t open until about 11 o’clock, because we’re working with musicians.

“So we go until about 11 at night.”

Miles has six weeks to produce 12 songs by 12 different artists.

It’s not much time.

She arranges the songs, figures out who is playing on each track, slots in studio time and makes sure the project doesn’t go over budget.

“It’s a big learning curve,” she said.

Although Miles has the final say, if an artist doesn’t agree with her arrangement she’s not “going to bully them.”

“It’s a balancing act between what they’re used to and pushing their expectations,” she said.

Miles is working with Christine Church, a music engineer from Vancouver.

“I never met her before I came here either,” she said.

“And she’s great.”

Just after she arrived, Miles headed to Frostbite Music Festival to check out the local talent.

“I’ve been using players like Lonnie Powell on drums, Dave Haddock and Jordy Walker,” she said.

Miles is also playing on some of the tracks.

“Whoever’s there plays,” she said.

Miles started writing songs when she was 10.

“I was into nature,” she said.

“So I sang about rocks, trees and mountains.”

As she was growing up, Miles studied flute, piano, voice, guitar and violin.

And at 17 she got her first gig, playing at an art gallery. Three years later she was a regular, singing in bars around Ottawa.

By her mid-20s, Miles decided to make a cassette tape.

“Because that’s what we did back then,” she said.

But she didn’t have the money.

However, Miles happened to live around the corner from Rasputin’s Folk Café — a well-known coffeehouse in Ottawa.

“I spent most of my waking hours there,” said Miles.

“The waitress used to lock the door and let people stay and play music there all night.”

Miles got to know the owner.

“I’d go every day and have coffee with her,” she said.

She told the owner about her plans to record and her quandary. Miles needed about $2,000 to make the tape.

The next day when she met the owner for coffee, she handed Miles a brown paper bag.

There was $2,000 inside.

That first tape led to more and Miles ended up signing record deals in the US and Europe.

She even got a gig earning a salary to write her songs.

“It was like winning the lottery,” she said.

She wrote songs for a company that owned the copyright.

Lost of artists, including the Dixie Chicks almost recorded Miles.

“But at the last minute they don’t,” she said.

When her mother learned Miles was headed to the Yukon, she knit her a hat, mitts and scarf.

But it’s actually nicer in the Yukon, said Miles, who arrived after the cold spell.

“Ottawa has eight feet of snow right now.”

Miles is performing at the Whitehorse United Church on Thursday March 13th.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $10.

Miles is also hosting a number of music workshops. Call Music Yukon at 456-2490 for details.