When asked about the musical influences behind his writing and performing style, Evan Miller will bashfully tell you he’s a sucker for Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
“The words in their songs are really powerful, and they just come across as really cool guys,” he says.
Miller’s cool charm and writing style recently won him first place in the 2011 Islands Song Competition, which played out July 22-24 at the Islands Folk Festival at Providence farm.
This year’s theme was ‘Music and Community’.
“It was a cool experience just because that was one of the first songs I wrote,” he said. “I hadn’t really written songs before because I always thought they were too cheesy.”
Miller, 18, was one of nine finalists chosen to battle for the top spot at the festival, from a pool of 27 semi-finalists from across the Island.
His winning entry was a song called Song For Pistol, written for his band teacher at Ladysmith Secondary School, Rod Alsop.
“I focused in on one main person that I think has made a difference both my musical experience and my community experience,” he said.
The top spot earned Miller the opportunity to professionally record his song at Woodshop Recording Studio in Duncan, to be aired on radio stations across Vancouver Island.
“I was really excited, but it was hard to take in because folk fest is so big,” Miller said. “It’s neat that it was recognized by everyone else as a good song.”
The young musician has spent the majority of his life living in Chemainus and Ladysmith, where he pops up from time to time in different locales to play music.
“It’s neat, you do one thing and it leads to the next thing really quickly and people are very inviting and want to help with that kind of thing,” he said.
Recently graduated, Miller plans to head to university in the fall to pursue Liberal Studies. But he hasn’t given up the dream just yet when it comes to his music career.
“It’s just something I love to do and hope to continue as long as I can no matter what,” he said. “If I could make music my job then I wouldn’t feel like I would ever work.”
Miller has submitted a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown to the CBC’s Cover Me Canada contest.
If selected, he’ll get to take part in a new reality television series that pits musicians against each other to vie for the title of the greatest new musical act in Canada.
To do so, they will, in their own unique style, cover some of the nation’s greatest songs of all time before a panel of judges and home viewers. The winner will take home a $100,000 cash prize, a recording contract and airplay.
Miller is hopeful but realistic about his chances.
“It’s tough because since it’s all over Canada it’s so huge, there’s so much more talent out there, so it’s a little bit more scary than something like the Folk Fest,” he said.
According to the Cover Me Canada site, participants should be selected by mid-August and the show premieres September 18.
In the meantime, you can see Miller perform at the 49th Parallel grocery during Ladysmith Days on August 13, from 12-2 p.m.