by Gillian Smith-Clark
Editor in Chief,
with Mike Woods,
"But in the end we're still
the kids on the playground,
best friends who just met and
tears that were just shed."
- Fiona Milner,
Kids on the Playground
Inspiration is elusive. Every artist knows it. You can chase it, you can try to prepare for it, you can wait for it. But it might still slip away.
Chasing inspiration is a theme that echoes through this magazine. And while the illusory quality can easily slip through our fingers, at Inspire working with and interviewing young artists in different genres is our pathway to finding inspiration. I found it again this issue, when I interviewed Fiona Milner on a crisp January afternoon.
Milner is a young, Northumberland musician with a huge amount of talent. On top of that, she possesses a maturity in her music that belies her age: there is a wistful quality and clarity in her voice, combined with great pitch and vocal range. As a bonus, she writes poetic lyrics with some serious depth.
When I heard her music for the first time, I found her style reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell; which is fitting because as I later learned, Mitchell is a musician she greatly admires.
Milner is a young musician to watch: a skilled singer-songwriter with intrinsic natural instincts. You can download her single “Kids on the Playground” on this page for a limited time, for free. What follows below is an abridged version of my interview with Milner and Mike Woods (Garage Dog, Soul Shakers’ Union), at Mike’s Log Jam Music Studio in Port Hope from January 20th, 2020.
Inspire: It’s great to meet you Fiona, thanks for sitting down with me for this interview. Let’s start with a really basic question: How old are you? Fiona: I’m thirteen.
Inspire: Wow! I never would have guessed your age from listening to your voice. Mike: I know, right? And the maturity of her lyrics, too.
Inspire: Okay – so how long have you been singing? Fiona: Since I was ten or eleven. Inspire: Yeah? And how did you get started? What got you interested in music and vocals? Fiona: Well, I took piano lessons and then I saw Grace VanderWaal on America’s got talent, playing the Ukulele. So I got a Ukulele and started learning how to sing.
Inspire: Cool. So, do you still play piano and ukulele? Fiona: Yeah, a little bit, I do.
Inspire: And [do you play] any guitar? Fiona: Yes. Mike: She’s a good guitar player!
Inspire: Is that how you met Mike [Woods], through guitar? Fiona: Yeah. Mike: Yeah, well, you were taking lessons from Tyson [Galloway], right? Fiona: Yes. Mike: Tyson is a friend of mine who plays in the Soul Shakers’ with me. And as far as what Fiona is wanting to learn on the guitar, she’s almost there. She can kind of play whatever she wants to do now. So, for me the next step was to get her recording and work on the arrangements and performance elements and things like that. But she can really play guitar.
Inspire: And I believe you write your own songs as well, is that right? Fiona: Yes.
Inspire: So how long have you been writing lyrics? Fiona: two or three years, I think three years? I think it’s been about three years this summer.
Inspire: Awesome. And what musical genre would you put yourself in, if you had to pick one? Fiona: Umm, probably folk?
Inspire: What would you say inspires you musically, outside of music? Fiona: I would say nature and seeing the way people interact with each other, and just…the way we see other people. Inspire: So basically, psychology and human behaviour? You’re a people watcher? Fiona: Yeah, definitely.
Inspire: And where do your own musical inspirations come from? Who do you look up to as musicians? Fiona: Joni Mitchell… the Beatles, Carol King. Inspire: So, you’re a little bit old school musically for a young person. That’s so cool!
Inspire: What advice would you give to other musicians your age? Fiona: Keep practicing! (giggles) Inspire: That’s a good one. Great advice.
Inspire: What’s your favourite part of making music? Fiona: Sharing it with other people and expressing myself though music when words fail.
Inspire: Have you done much performing yet? Fiona: Yeah! Inspire: Where have you performed? Open mic’s, Ribfest for the past couple of years, and just anywhere I can.
Inspire: And do you have anything coming up where people can hear you live? Fiona: Yes! The Fire and Frost Festival on February 15th and 16th in Port Hope.
Inspire: So, what’s next? Where do you see yourself going from here and where would you like to take your music career? Fiona: I definitely want to perform, a lot, and write as much as I can. And learn as much as I can.
Inspire: I really like the recording of your song that Mike sent me; I never would have guessed your age from that clip, you have a very mature voice. Mike Woods: Yes. And to think of the ideas that are in it, and the phrasing, is really ahead of her age and amazing.
Inspire: Do you do any writing outside of music? Like fiction or poetry? Fiona: Umm, a little bit of poetry sometimes.
Inspire: And your other Interests outside of music? Fiona: Art, drawing and…music. Basically, just everything to do with music.
Fiona has only with been working with Mike Woods a short time, about a month. But in his words, “I’ve seen a lot of people perform and she has a really good sense of what she does and who she is and that’s a good thing. I can just tell; she has a good sense of what should be in a song or what shouldn’t be. And it’s not just experience based, it’s about instinct. Her instincts are really good. So, always follow that feeling you have because it’s probably always going to be right. You have that instinct that a lot of people don’t.” That’s great advice on so many levels, and a great way to wrap up our interview for this issue.
If you want to catch Fiona perform live, she’ll be playing at Fire and Frost on Sunday, February 16th from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm, alongside a great line-up of musical talent that weekend. You can download full the schedule on their website at fireandfrost.com