Talking to David Myles it’s evident why so many different types of musicians are drawn to him. His exuberance, friendly demeanor and obvious love of life and music has allowed him to defy classification and join others to explore many musical genres. He approaches everything as he did the dance contest for the “Leave Tonite” video: He’s all in, gives it all he’s got and has a lot of fun in the process. He seems navigate all aspects of his life in this way, including the year that he moved to China to learn Chinese. Myles speaks of the importance of a creative spirit and works hard to keep his vibrant. This is evident on his new album Leave Tonite which comes out in May. As you listen to his music you can’t help but become a fan if you aren’t one already.
You can view the “Leave Tonite” video by clicking here: And, there’s a link to win a copy of the album below the interview.
Interview by Fredda Gordon. Photo courtesy of David Myles.
Fredda Gordon: Where are you zooming from?
David Myles: I live in Halifax in Nova Scotia. We’ve lived here for about 15 years, got two kids, 7 and 5 years old. It’s a great place to live.
FG: Was there music in your house when you were a kid?
DM: Oh, yeah! There was lots. My dad was a high school teacher and directed the musicals so he was playing music a lot. We were kind of a “royal conservatory” type family. Everybody was doing piano lessons and I took trumpet. I still play trumpet. We all play more than one instrument, and it was quite formal. It wasn’t folk or guitar-based music, it was mostly classical.
FG: Why did you choose the trumpet?
DM: I was the youngest and there was a trumpet in the house [laughter]. In a class of 40 kids everybody wanted to be in the band. We were 10 [years old] in Fredericton New Brunswick, and my music teacher, who we knew because he had taught my three older brothers (I’m the youngest of four), came around saying “Clarinet, clarinet, flute, trombone, trumpet…” and said “Trumpet” to me. I went home and was like ‘Andrew can I have your trumpet?’ I started playing it and basically stopped playing piano. I never took a liking to piano, although I kind of regret it now. I loved trumpet. I still love it.
FG: What was your first meaningful music experience?
DM: Playing in elementary school band in grades 5 and 6. I loved being in a band. In elementary school it was the cool thing to do. Everybody wanted to be in the band, which was really neat. I think it was a function of the music teacher. I liked it, I understood it, and I enjoyed playing with other people. I remember getting a solo and stood in front of the band and played my trumpet with a friend of mine who I still know, David Meyers. He played sax. I remember like it was yesterday. [It was] the first time I stood up and played a solo and it was special. Then I played with one of my brothers. I would play trumpet and he played guitar, piano and sang. We played a lot together from the time I was about 13 to 17 [years old].
FG: You mentioned classical music, but your range includes R&B, country, singer-songwriter and Rap. How do you choose?
DM: A lot of it has to do with relationships. I started as a real band nerd. I learned the theoretical parts, but I love all sorts of music and I listened as a casual listener for my whole life. That’s the basis of it, that my interest is really wide. I’m curious. I’m always trying to learn about different sorts music and the best way to do that is to find other people who are working in a certain world. So, if someone says “Listen, do you want to do this?” For me it’s an opportunity to learn how they work and I can bring my skill set to what they do. My philosophy has always been ‘Stay open and curious and don’t necessarily try to be something I’m not.’
I’ve learned so much working with Measha [Brueggergosman] who is a world renowned opera singer. She wanted to do a pop type record and called me into that. She had a totally different way of approaching things vocally. It was really fun. Then, Alex Cuba a Canadian Cuban musician who’s a massive Latin Grammy winner dude, and buddy of mine, has a different way of looking at music. He’s super well educated musically, insane on tons of instruments.
FG: How do you meet these people?
DM: A lot of it has been organic. I’m a social person, I love people and that’s what I mean [when I said] that it’s often relationship based. Like with the rapper Classified who I have worked with the most. We met at a conference and started talking. It turned out that we were way more alike than we imagined. I was doing totally different music than he does, but at the same time we had all this stuff in common. We grew up in the same generation with a lot of hip-hop. I love hip-hop, it was the music of my childhood in many ways, it was coming out of everywhere. He and I chatted [about] that, and he has three kids and I got a couple of kids and we were talking about being dads and, all of a sudden, we have all this in common. That opened the door. He’s like “You want to play trumpet on something?” I played trumpet, then I started writing hooks and then we wrote a big hit together.
FG: Who would you like to play with if you could pick anyone?
DM: I’d love to play with Willie Nelson. He’s pretty much my hero. Yeah, I love Willie. Speaking of an amazing career, so many years of so many records. He also does it in so many different ways. I love KD Lang as well.
FG: How do you juggle everything? Although because of the current pandemic it’s almost juggled for you.
DM: It’s very interesting that you put it that way because it takes so much off the table. Decisions are a little bit more clear. I know what I need to do during the day. My kids are home, my wife is working full-time, [and] they make their needs known. It’s become very structured. I meditate every morning in my studio from 8:00 to 8:30. My wife starts her day at 8:30 and then she comes in at lunch and I go back [to the studio] from 1:00 to 2:00 and do interviews, play or exercise. At 5:30 we meet up, then I come back [to the studio].
FG: What about when you’re touring, how do you juggle then?
DM: It becomes more complex family decisions, like most working people make. ‘How much do I want to be away from home? How much can I afford to be away from home?’ That’s been something that I grapple with, especially as the kids have gotten older. For so many years I said ‘Yes’ to everything. I had to, I was building my career. As you get older you realize that it doesn’t matter how well-meaning you are, you just can’t do that. I’m glad I figured out how to work from home a bit better, because I knew I didn’t want to be away all the time. It’s always been a decision that my wife and I make together, but now I’m being that much more careful because my time with my kids is just so valuable.
FG: You have a series of online videos called “Songs from the Pod”
DM: Yeah, that’s what I call my little studio. I have all these little things that I do from home.
FG: I love your song “The King” that you recorded in your pod.
DM: Thank you. It came so quick. It’s funny because when songs come quick now I think ‘That’s probably a good one’ because I’ve had enough experience writing songs to know that it’s those that move quick… it was so quick! I was so excited because it was really early in this [pandemic] and like everybody else [I’m] freaking out, and then all of a sudden I was gifted a song. Just like that, out of nowhere! I usually would wait. If I wrote a song I would edit it for months, then share it with the band, then put it on a record and no one would hear it for two years. But, I finished that song three minutes before I posted it because I had an hour that the kids were being chill. I thought ‘Okay we’ll just do this and see what happens,’ and I’m glad I did.
FG: Are you familiar with the Broadway show Come From Away?
Yeah, I haven’t seen it.
FG: It’s about your neck of the woods during 9/11. Were you there for that?
DM: I wasn’t. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in China studying Chinese for a year and had arrived September 9th, two days before. Newfoundland really stepped up. There’s a reason why it’s renowned. I was just there for one of the last shows I played. It’s funny how they live up to the reputation of being so friendly and fun.
FG: You speak Chinese?
DM: I don’t. Well, I do a little tiny bit. I spoke a lot when I finished, but it was nineteen years ago. I was immersed in it and that’s the way to learn. I was doing really well. I can kind of get going in Mandarin and then it runs out and they can see through it, but I do okay. It’s an amazing language.
FG: Your new album comes out in May and you’ve already released two singles. The video for one of those, “Leave Tonight,” was a dance contest, what connected dance contest to that song for you?
DM: It was so funny because none of it was planned. We were working on the artwork in Toronto. We had done the photos [and] were doing the cover of the album. We were there for three or four days and a friend said “There’s a party going on tonight, do you want to go downtown and dance?” I love dancing! I don’t go out, I’ve haven’t been out for years. I said ‘Yeah, sure!’ and he said “Actually there’s a dance contest.” I was like ‘Wow! I should enter!’ Then I heard this voice of a friend of mine, Bahamas [Afie Jervanen], saying to me “If you think about music videos less as a video for the song and think about the song being the soundtrack to another movie it will liberate the possibilities.” We had no plan. ‘Let’s just imagine what it’ll look like in slo-mo and we’ll make it the video for a ballad’ which is totally counter to the pace of the dancing. I danced so hard because I was desperate to make sure the video was going to work. Anyway, it was really fun.
FG: Did you win?
DM: I didn’t. I lost in the finals.
FG: You made it to the finals!
DM: I did and my first round was great. I was a little disappointed. I got caught up in the competition and I wanted to win. I laid it all out there and I lost. It’s not bad. I’m not a great dancer as you can tell by the video. Had there been any real dancers it wouldn’t have been a contest, but thankfully no one was super fancy so that helped.
FG: Can you tell me about the new album? Any songs you’d like to mention?
DM: We started by talking about collaboration, this record was really all about finding out what I do without any of that. ‘What’s my main thing?’ It’s James Taylor, Chet Baker, a little bit Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, some classic country… it’s somewhere in there. I wanted the record to sound beautiful. I wanted the singing to be strong. There can be a lot of pressure to make things hyped, really loud and energetic. It’s funny because now times are kind of demanding a different kind of pace so maybe it’ll be well timed.
We’re in the early stages of putting the record out so people are just hearing it for the first time. I’m always curious to know what resonates. I love “Leave Tonight.” I was glad we chose [to put it out] first because it’s representative of the sound of the record. There are fast songs, but ultimately the record is a chill, easy record.
“Consider this Goodbye” is a traditional country song that I was happy with because I love the poetry of traditional country, where the lyrics wrap up in a bow at the end of the chorus. It’s an upbeat song and so fun to play with the band. I wanted to make sure that we didn’t sound like we’re too serious. I wrote that song so we could jam with the band. I love bands, I love the grateful dead, I like that collaborative spirit. I didn’t wanted to just be ‘this guy takes himself real seriously and he’s just crooning all the time,’ I also wanted to have fun.
FG: What’s your biggest challenge?
DM: The biggest challenge is a spiritual challenge. As you get into a career longer and longer you realize that finances fluctuate. I always say ‘You can either run out of money or you can run out of spirit.’ You can’t be in the creative pursuit without having a very deep well of spirit, energy, creative momentum and those kind of things. We all know when we have it and when we don’t, and it’s not necessarily tied to when things are going great or poorly. It’s not based on likes or album sales. It’s really important to make sure that you’re restoring your creative spirit and that comes with balance. If you’re going to do it for awhile that becomes more of a challenge than just becoming a big star. I can’t figure that part out either.
FG: There’s a mystery in that.
DM: And there’s lots of stars that are desperately unhappy. Early on you’ve got to realize that it’s out of our control. Even though we might put out the best thing, a lot of it has to do with maintaining your spirit through all of that. Otherwise you’ll just quit and then you’re not servicing the thing that you’re supposed to be doing.
FG: What are your future plans?
DM: The traditional parts are pretty up in the air because we have no idea how long it’s going to be before we’re touring again. Every day I talk to my manager [about that]. So much of the business model is not only that we tour a lot, it’s that that’s where we make our money. You can do as many instant-live performances that you want but it’s not monetized. We built this system where a substantial part of our income is through touring. So you take that out and I’ve got all these other things going on, but so few of them are monetized. I think that it will be a challenge to find out how to monetize them, but I’m interested in it.
I have a weekly radio show that I do at a listener-supported station in Alberta. It’s really unique, very popular, cool and interesting. I have a podcast that’s going to be coming out pretty soon where I talk about the inner lives of musicians. I just started doing my interviews before this happened. Very interesting people, how they deal with their own inner workings of their lives.
FG: I look forward to listening!
You can register to win an LP copy of the album, and an Orbit Plus turntable, when you click here to pre-save the album.