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Ali Milner covers the waterfront

Musician draws on wide range of influences

- Concerts in the Square, Saturday, Aug. 27 from noon to 8 p.m. in Shipbuilder's Square at the foot of Lonsdale on North Vancouver City's waterfront. Free admission.

ALI Milner treats her music like a craft, and part of learning any craft is studying the greats.

Working on her third album already at the age of 21 - her first, a collection of classic jazz compilations, was released when she was 15 - she's just as happy to talk about the music that inspires her as she is about her upcoming CD.

Combining jazz, Motown and classic rock influences, she covers songs that range from an oddly upbeat, loungy version of Nirvana's "Lithium" to "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," leaning towards the Creedence Clearwater Revival version of that song. Another of her favourites is "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," written by Robbie Robertson.

"It's amazing how he wrote such an incredible tune about something he was never there to see," she says. "I enjoy doing covers. It's fun to take a piece of art that has got its own life but breathing your own personality into it."

But Milner's got plenty to contribute to the making of musical history today, and that's something she's aimed for right from the beginning.

One song she's particularly proud of is her recording of a Christmas song, though it's hardly the season right now. Her second album, released in 2009 and titled I Dare You, was a collection of mostly love songs with some decidedly more poppy influences.

But her next album, which she's currently writing for, will take a different turn, she promises.

"I'm sort of sick of love songs to be honest," she says. "While I was writing (I Dare You) I basically was at the beginning, middle and end of a relationship."

She's keeping the final details and inspirations close to her chest, but she did confirm it's the first album where she will be writing the songs without a co-writer as well, following a gradual evolution along with her career.

She first got interested in music when she joined a choir, after seeing some posters in school in Whistler, where she grew up and still plays regular gigs.

"I didn't even know that I could sing. It was self discovery for sure," she says, but from there it was all her drive.

She started learning piano at 15, at the urging of her mom, knowing that singing alone wouldn't carry her as far, and she's put in plenty of time playing local shows and corporate gigs - really wherever she can play.

Her voice has caught the ear of several other major Canadian talents, from Sarah McLauchlan, who included Milner on her Lillith Fair revival in 2010, as well as Michael Buble.

"These people have had such incredible success, such talents, and they're such humble, real people," she says.

At the Concerts in the Square, Milner takes the stage with a lineup that includes Portage and Main and the Sumner Brothers. Dustin Bentall, who has played several high profile gigs around the Lower Mainland this summer including the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, will close out this year's Concerts in the Square series at 7 p.m. with Kendel Carson. For more information go to www.cnv.org// server.aspx?c=3&i=693.

tholloway@nsnews.com

CONCERTS IN THE SQUARE

Performance schedule for Saturday, Aug. 27

1 p.m. Shiamak Davar Dancers

2 p.m. Megan Metcalfe

3 p.m. Kokoma African Heritage Ensemble

4 p.m. Portage and Main

5 p.m. Ali Milner

6 p.m. Sumner Brothers

7 p.m. Dustin Bentall and Kendel Carson