Caroline Wiles' vocals will blow you away as soon as you hear them on her latest album, Lover's Lane. The Ancaster singer/songwriter has a rich, awe-inspiring voice with incredible range.
-Hamilton Blues Lovers.
Some pine for the past. Others fixate on the future. For Caroline Wiles, there's no time like the present.
"In the last year or two, I've done a lot of soul searching," explains the Ancaster, Ont. singer-songwriter. "We do that as we get older. We reflect on life — where we've been and where we want to go. And sometimes we forget where we are. When you're raising a family and working at a job, you're constantly thinking, 'What do I have to do next?' But I've realized it's just as important to take a breath and just be in the moment. When you have a crazy-busy life like we all do sometimes, you really need to just slow yourself down and feel the joy of simple things. Take a walk in the woods. Smile as much as you can smile. Make the most of it."
That homespun, heartfelt philosophy is the guiding light behind Wiles' fourth studio album Living in the Now. Her most mature and uplifting work to date, the 11-song release captures one of Canada's best-kept musical secrets at the height of her powers, brilliantly showcasing her unique blend of thoughtfully moving lyrics, intimately and endearingly warm vocals, and timeless pop songcraft. It's a sound that recalls immortal artists like Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Heart, The Pretenders, Anne Murray and Karen Carpenter. A sound that takes thousands of hours to develop. And a sound that takes decades of living to fully and truly embody.
The years and experiences, the triumphs and tragedies, the loves and losses — they're the life lessons that inspire and inform Living In the Now's slate of touching, transfixing songs. You can hear them in the grace and gratitude of the folk-pop title cut, when Wiles' rich contralto asserts "the present is a present, a gift that's meant to last." Similar sentiments are voiced in the life-affirming The Odds of Being Born, a reminder that even at its worst, life is still the biggest lottery win you can score. "I heard that statistically, the odds of you existing are one in 400 trillion," Wiles says. "I think that's a really good message for people to remember: Do you know how lucky you are just to be here?" At the darker end of the spectrum, there's the confrontational slow-burner How Dare You, which recounts an uncomfortable encounter with an abusive former lover who showed up out of the blue at a gig. On the sunnier side of the street sit the gentle hip-swiveler Googly Gaga Over You, a playful poke at online addiction, and the bouncing, bluesy boogie of Petting a Dead Mouse, which is precisely what Wiles found herself doing when her new kitten plopped a gift into her lap — ironically, while she was practising receiving meditation. "I thought, 'Hey, universe, you got some sense of humour,’ " she says with a hearty laugh.
A far more welcome gift that fell into her lap: Her long-running partnership with world-renowned, award-winning producer Bob Doidge. The owner of Hamilton's famed Grant Avenue Studio has worked with everyone from Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot to U2, often in the company of old pal Daniel Lanois. He's also helmed all of Wiles' albums, and works his audio alchemy once again here, setting her lyrics and vocals against a flawlessly crafted, tastefully understated blend of pop, rock and folk. "He's a musical genius," Wiles says. "I don't think he even has to put much thought into it. He just does what feels right and it always turns out great. I just trust his ability. After all, he's been doing this a very long time."
So has Wiles. Born and raised in Quebec, she began singing and playing guitar at age 11. She became a full-time professional musician at age 18, fronting a rock band. By her early 20s, she was living in the Toronto area and writing songs. A self-taught artist and songwriter, she's spent a lifetime honing and practising her craft. Her self-titled first album appeared in 2000, followed by 2006's I'd Like to Know and 2016's Lovers Lane. Her first two releases earned multiple awards — the whimsical Little Boobs won the Ontario Council of Folk Festival’s Songs From the Heart Award in the humour category, and the songs Taken, I Believe, The Man That I Love and The One received honourable mentions at the Billboard Awards, John Lennon Awards and Unisong Awards. Lovers Lane garnered her nominations for Best Female Artist and Best Contemporary Folk Recording at the Hamilton Music Awards, along with two Music Industry Award noms. As a performer, she's shared the stage with artists such as Ian Thomas, David Bradstreet, Tom Wilson, Blair Packham, Wendell Ferguson, Carter Lancaster (Gordon Lightfoot), Chantal Chamberland and Rick Fines — and moonlights in the local trio McCurlie, Doidge and Wiles. Not bad for someone who's also raised a family and held down a career in dental hygiene for much of her adult life.
With Living in the Now, Wiles is finally following her true path. And her own advice. "I'm very passionate about songwriting, and now is the time in my life I can finally pursue it and give it the attention I've been craving to give it. Music is a gift I was given. And I feel it's a calling. I'm meant to write songs that inspire people and give to others. It's not about a need for attention. I'm not doing this for fame. I'm not doing it for fortune. I'm doing it because I feel it's what I'm supposed to be doing: To make music that's enjoyable and uplifting. That's my goal and that's my purpose."
And there's no time like the present.
written by Darryl Sterdan.