Surname originally Byles; born December 25, c. late 1950s; daughter of William (a broadcaster and nightclub owner) and Sheilagh Byles. Addresses: Agent --1810 Birchmount Rd., Scarborough, Ontario, Canada MIP-2J1. Record company --Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.
Shortly after the 1989 release of Alannah Myles's solo hit "Black Velvet," the song hit the Number 1 spot on Billboard magazine's Top 100, and the name and face of this remarkable singer, previously unknown, shot into the limelight. This raven-haired, green-eyed beauty has an amazing self-confidence, described by some as arrogance. She possesses a strong sense of bravado, and a joy derived from the rewards that have come to her after years of relentless pursuit of a precise musical identity. Few performers, especially those as new to the scene as Myles, have her strong sense of direction and drive. Her voice has a wide dynamic and expressive range; she can belt out a raunchy, Madonna-like rock sound, or slip into a smokey torrid blues voice. There is a strong country flavor to her sound that shows the influence of singers like Mavis Staples and the Judds.
Myles has a no-nonsense, aggressive approach to her music. Her self-titled debut album was released in 1989, and was an immediate success. An eclectic mixed bag, it seems to have come out of nowhere, but, in actuality, five years of preparatory work went into its making. Much of her success comes from the combined teamwork of Myles, producer/songwriter David Tyson, and manager/songwriter (and former boyfriend) Christopher Ward. The team did not come about by accident. As Myles told Music Express: "I made the choice of working with David Tyson because I thought he was a really good producer. I made the choice of Christopher Ward because he writes songs that no one else in the world writes. I knew if I had challenging songs, I could meet the demands of pushing myself."
Myles was born on Christmas day (she refuses to give her age but is reported by Maclean's to be in her 30s) and spent her childhood alternately living in Toronto and on the family ranch in a little northern Ontario town, Buckhorn. By the age of five she knew that she would be a singer and began playing guitar, an old Spanish classical guitar that belonged to her mother, at age eleven. At that stage Alannah was a fan of such singers as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. By fifteen she was writing her own songs. At nineteen, Myles got herself an agent and began performing solo in and around Toronto, singing mostly original compositions. A couple of years later she put together her own rock and roll band, which has been called the Alannah Myles Band ever since.
Everything about Myles is fiery and intense. Her speech, her singing and her devotion to music. After ten years of being rejected by Canadian record companies, Myles shifted her sights to landing a deal with a U.S. record company. She picked the three songs that were to appear on the demo tape and recorded them her way. This resulted in a contract with Atlantic Records in the U.S., an unusual move for a Canadian artist--particularly one with no proven track record. The people at Atlantic were so impressed that they gave her free rein to make the entire album as she wanted it. Their faith was rewarded with a quadruple platinum record in Canada. Four of her singles hit the Top 5 in Canada, with "Love Is" and "Black Velvet" hitting the Number 1 spot. "Love Is," re-released in the U.S. after it became a winner in Canada, fared much better there than after its original release.
Myles loves to do live shows. Following the release of her first album, she toured Europe and the U.S. as the opening act for Robert Plant. Myles, a musician who marches to the beat of her own drummer, feels that she has learned to hone her skills sharply enough to give her audience exactly what they want. Her act has definite sexual overtones, but as she told Music Express: "I'm not ashamed of that.... Perhaps I can bring a 1990's contemporariness to that image that doesn't have to be submissive." Myles feels she can take her place in the rock scene without sacrificing her femininity. With that conviction and her intense drive, she cannot fail to create waves on the music scene in the years ahead.
by Heather Rhodes
Alannah Myles's Career
Learned to play guitar at age 11; joined first band as a backup singer, 1980, later appeared as opening act and featured vocalist; also supported herself working as a makeup artist, interior designer, and model; solo artist, 1984--. Composer of song "Lover of Mine" on debut album.
Alannah Myles's Awards
Winner of five Juno Awards, 1990, including best single (for "Black Velvet"), best album, for Alannah Myles, and most promising female vocalist.
- Selective Works
- Alannah Myles (includes "Black Velvet," "Still Got This Thing," "Love Is," "Lover of Mine," and "Just One Kiss"), Atlantic, 1989.
- Canadian Musician, June 1990.
- Maclean's, April 2, 1990.
- Music Express, February 1990.