The first time I chatted with Eva Avila she was the 19-year-old latest Canadian Idol winner and, being of Peruvian and French descent, Hispanic-Canadians quickly identified with her and instantly supported and cheered for her during the Idol experience. Now, the young artist is promoting her newest single, Bitter Meets Sweet, and her new album is set to be available in the spring of 2014. Eva is now 26 and even though she looks as youthful as she did seven years ago, in talking to her I realize that she is now a young woman who is fully in control of her career and knows exactly where she wants it to go and what it will take to get there.
She tells me Canadian Idol was a whirlwind experience for her, but she’ll be eternally grateful to have gone through it because it gave her a chance to taste what success was like. At the same time she proved to audiences everywhere that her talent is undeniable. “I’ve always been singing, since I was two years old,” says Eva. “Doing Idol was definitely the platform that I was looking for in terms of being propelled into the industry and being able to do that professionally. And that was really exciting and I will be forever grateful for the competition. The only downside about it is that I’m labelled forever as a Canadian Idol. One day I hope to be just known as Eva Avila, the artist. If you look at Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood from American Idol, people don’t necessarily associate them with the competition anymore because they’ve made their place and they’ve made a name for themselves and that’s what I’m aspiring for myself. But it was a wonderful opportunity, a great experience and a lot of fun.”
The other downside, says Eva, are the expectations that come with having won the competition because there’s a lot of pressure to succeed and the bar is raised quite high from the get-go. “It was such a big whirlwind and (the show) was so big,” she says. “Then when it gets a little quieter, you do feel the pressure.” The pressure, in this case, is to continue being successful after the competition, which for most of the contestants who win through Idol or Idol-like platforms, can be pretty daunting. For Eva, who was only 19 at the time of her win, the pressure was something she had to learn to handle quickly. “Everything happened so fast and I was so dizzy. I didn’t have the opportunity to appreciate every moment, which is why this time around, being able to record a new album, I feel like I savour it more and I’m more conscious of the chance that I have, and I’m also more in control of my career. I’m older and more mature.”
“I think the key to success is a combination of obviously talent but also perseverance and hard work,” she continues. “A lot of people assume that after doing Idol everything is going to come easy. But that wasn’t realistic.” She always knew it wouldn’t last forever, she admits. “I appreciated it because while riding this wave, I knew it wasn’t going to last forever. That’s what the business is all about: there’s waves and there’s ups and downs and it’s unpredictable but that’s what’s exciting about it.”
The experience of Idol did give her a lifetime of knowledge in a very short period of time, which she is now using to her advantage. She’s still very young and there is so much more she knows she’ll be able to accomplish. At 26, this time around she is in full control of her career. She has always had the maturity and foresight to know that maintaining the success that came so swiftly wasn’t sustainable, so she is now doing things slowly, working very hard; she has handpicked the right team for her and hopes to establish a name for herself doing what she loves. “I’m in the driver’s seat, I’m in charge of my career, I ask the right questions, whereas before I was letting people do it for me. I’m really hands-on now.” She is now more involved, and even though it’s a learning process, she’s becoming more and more savvy in the behind-the-scenes business aspect of it.
Right now she’s very happy with how everything is going. She was able to get the grants and also funding from investors to record a full-length album. Her team now includes Rob Wells, the talented producer she worked with right after Idol for “Somewhere Else”, who has also worked with Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, the Backstreet Boys, Matt Dusk and Nick Lachey amongst others, and also with a couple of other writers she had worked with before. But she stresses the fact that her new music is actually a lot of her own ideas, and these professionals helped her shape her vision and made it come to life. The experience has been very different from her two previous albums, where everything happened so quickly.
It’s a different world out there from what it was when she released her first album, Meant To Fly, which went double platinum right after her Idol win. Nowadays instead of buying CDs, people just buy the singles from iTunes. That’s why she’s now releasing a six-song EP by the spring of 2014. The new single, Bitter Meets Sweet, was released last month and is currently available on iTunes and doing very well, and the feedback has been quite positive. “A lot of people say that my sound is a little more mature,” says Eva. “Obviously I grew up as a woman, as an artist, as a writer so it’s a good thing that my sound is more mature and maybe I’ll appeal to a different kind of audience, and that’s okay.” Radion stations like Chum FM are playing it on heavy rotation. She recorded a French version of the song (À Mille Saisons D’ici) for her Quebec fans, who are forever asking her to sing in her first language. She secured a grant to record the official music video and she got clothing company Diesel to provide the wardrobe for the shoot.
Although she hasn’t recorded since her second album, Give me the Music, she hasn’t been absent from the music scene. She has spent the last couple of years singing with the Quebec-based band Les Vikings (The Vikings) doing classic rock covers in the styles of Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Joan Jett and the Beatles. “It is so much fun. It gave me so much stage experience. It forced me to get out of my shell. I discovered a different colour to my voice.” They will be performing on December 21st at Saguenay Lac St-Jean at the closing show of the Célébrations des fêtes du Saguenay Lac St-Jean, a big outdoor winter festival in Northern Quebec. She also has a Christmas bundle with the Vikings as well, available on iTunes, “a little Christmas gift for our fans.”
This time around she’s savouring the experience, enjoying the process and learning a lot as she slowly builds up her music career. She’s been spending the bulk of her time in Quebec. She bought a condo in Montreal, but she’s also been spending a bit of time in Toronto, working on this album, since last year. She’s been travelling a lot mostly by train, which she prefers– she is now a Premier member, she tells me proudly, so she has been travelling for free or in First Class with the amount of points she has accumulated. And it’s not all about music: because she acts too, she has had some auditions for TV shows. Last year she was the runner-up for a part in a big Quebec TV show. She also recently auditioned for a part in the next Guillermo del Toro movie. Hopefully soon she’ll get a break in that side of her career, says Eva, “because you have to be versatile as an artist today. I can’t just do music. I want to do hosting and voice work and acting and musical theatre again. Anything that has to do with performing, I’m passionate about, so I don’t want to limit myself to one thing.”
Before we part ways, she asks me to make sure I let her Hispanic fans know that she is proud to be Peruvian, she hopes to one day be able to do a full-length album in Spanish and that she dreams of one day doing a tour in South America. In the meantime, she is building her career one step at a time this time around, but she’s doing it in her own terms and enjoying– and growing– with every minute of this new experience.
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