Despite having started playing the piano at age six and a growing obsession with the trumpet as a teen, the way award-winning singer-songwriter David Myles tells the story, it wasn’t until he picked up a guitar at the age of twenty that his musical trajectory began.
“It wasn’t until very late that I said out loud I wanted to be a musician,” says Myles by phone from his Halifax home. “I thought to be a musician wasn’t a realistic possibility even though, deep down, I knew I liked music more than anything.”
Ironically, it is a statement that seems at odds in a household where music was an expected part of growing up.
Having followed three older brothers who were already well advanced in their musical abilities, playing everything from clarinet to violin and piano, Myles says it was just a part of family life in Fredericton. “It was part of our education,” he says.
And while his musical training started with piano studies through the Royal Conservatory of Music, he realized that despite a desire to follow in the footsteps of his brothers, he had the least interest in studying the piano.
“I didn’t resent it, but I didn’t excel at it, nor did I have any real interest in playing it,” he says. “To my regret now because I would have liked to have learned more.”
It wouldn’t be until age ten when he picked up the trumpet that music would begin to have a more significant impact on his life.
“That was the beginning of when I found my world,” he says. “I played in the school band and being part of a band playing the trumpet, the whole thing just totally made sense to me. I loved it from the beginning. I still do.”
Despite his newfound love for the trumpet, the idea of being a musician was not an accepted professional pursuit in his household. “I have two brothers with PhDs and one brother that is a medical doctor, and there was an expectation that I go to university, get a regular degree, and then onto medical or law school,” he says.
The draw to music was undeniable, though, and Myles eventually broke that news to his parents.
“They finally came around and told me that they would support me in studying classical trumpet, jazz, or whatever,” he recalls. “But as soon as it was no longer an act of rebellion, it became less interesting, and I decided to study political science. I led them on, and they thought I was going to go to law school. But then I picked up a guitar, and it was game over.”
His discovery of the guitar came at age twenty during a trip to China in his third year at university. “I knew I would have a lot of time on my hands because I didn’t have any friends, and so I bought this little guitar and started playing it,” he says.
But while the guitar would be the catalyst, it would be his discovery of songwriting that would once again change everything.
“I thought I would take all of this stuff that I’ve learned, all my passion for music and write,” he says. “I didn’t even know it was an option, but after writing my first song, I knew it was something I would do until someone told me I have to stop or I run out of money, or it becomes obvious that I can’t do this anymore.”
Myles hasn’t looked back since, bringing him to Leave Tonight, his twelfth studio album. Set for release on May 8, it is a record he says is his most personal because it is the one that sounds most like him.
“I love doing other types of records, and there is always lots of me in them, but I was excited to make a record that was my core musical interest, which is this world between jazz and country, crooners and easy sounding music,” he says. “I wanted to make it classy. I didn’t want to make it cheesy, but I wanted to make it easy.”
But while the music might be “easy,” there was nothing simple about putting together Leave Tonight as Myles purposely engaged a producer on the album that he knew would help him level up.
“We had a lot of discussions as to what we wanted the record to sound like, what mood we wanted to create, all of those things before we even started,” says Myles.
Writing and re-writing more songs than he usually would for an album, the process may have been more work, but it paid off. “I am proud of it,” he says. “But what I’m particularly pleased about it is it sounds like me and not me doing something else.”
Joining Myles on the recording are his longtime collaborators Kyle Cunjak and Alan Jeffries, who understood what he was trying to achieve with the album.
“Part of this whole thing of coming home and trying to level up was involving them,” says Myles. “They know my dynamic and not just emotionally. I like quiet music, and they know the dynamic I enjoy. That’s big. It is hard for people to play quietly and understand quiet music.”
Of course, launching any new album is not without its risks. One would think releasing one during the current COVID-19 pandemic would be even tougher. For Myles, though, the thought of postponing the release of Leave Tonight was only momentary.
“There is so much uncertainty right now and likely for a little while that I didn’t think that was something I was ready to sign up for,” he says.
But he also believes the timing for Leave Tonight couldn’t be better. “If it was a tour-oriented record, if it needed to be played in clubs, it might have been a different story,” he says. “But this record is made for moments at home. This record is relaxing, and it is great for right now.”
Extending the album’s vibe will also come from the listening party Myles is planning in place of a tour right now. “People are connected and engaged, and we thought we’d have a party in my studio.”
Still working out the logistics of the live stream release, Myles says it is going to be different from his usual concerts. “It won’t just be me playing the songs, but I’ll be able to pull the band into the conversation,” he says. “It’ll be more of a behind-the-scenes look at the music and how the record came about.”
But most importantly, Myles says he wants it to be a party, a celebration of this new album that is his most personal yet.
As to what he will wear to the party, fans will have to wait and see. Without wanting to give away too much, we all may be surprised as he also has plans to level up on his signature style.