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This month : Canadian Idol Winner Eva Avila

A native of Gatineau, QC, 19-year-old Eva Avila began singing at the age of two before riding her talent to the top of season four of Canadian Idol, becoming only the second Quebec native to crack the show’s Top 10 and the first to win.  Since the show’s finale last September, the trilingual (English/French/Spanish) artist has signed a contract with Ford Models, released a hit debut album, Somewhere Else, and dropped two chart-topping singles, “Meant to Fly” and “I Owe It All to You”.  Her inaugural tour kicks of Feb. 14 in Montreal at Metropolis before continuing on throughout the country.

 

Congratulations on all your success.  Are you still blown away to think of how far you’ve come in a year?

Eva Avila: Absolutely.  I’m at the point now where I’ve gotten used to it, but for the first couple of months I was definitely in a state of shock. It’s happened so fast; it’s weird to think that just last year I was living at home and working a regular job at the post office, and now I’m in this thing for real and doing it as a profession.  I’m loving this, but it’s been a very drastic change – every aspect of my life has changed.

After you won the show you got flowers from Céline and René Angélil?

Eva Avila: Yeah, it was very cool.  It was about two days after I had won.  I was still staying at this little hotel they had me in, and I got to my room and there was this huge bouquet of flowers – the biggest I had ever seen – and this little note attached that read, “We’re so proud of you in Quebec, and hopefully we’ll meet you soon,” from René and Céline.  I haven’t heard from them since (laughs), but just to get flowers from them was pretty fantastic.

What was your reaction the first time you heard your single on the radio?

Eva Avila: It was pretty weird, actually.  The first time I heard it was after I did an interview at CHUM-FM, and was getting in the car to head to another station.  We turned on the radio and heard the song, and I was totally “Oh my God”.  It was me, on the radio, and it was just so hard to believe.  Of course, by now I’ve heard the songs so many times that I’m almost sick of them. (laughs)

You grew up in Gatineau and supported the QMJHL’s Hull Olympiques.  You still a fan?

Eva Avila: Yeah!  Still a fan… I mean, I haven’t seen a game in person in ages, but when I’m back home I love going with my friends.  I’m not a big sports fan when it comes to watching on TV, but I love being there live because it’s so exciting and the atmosphere’s so cool.

I guess that means you have no particular allegiance to an NHL team, then?

Eva Avila: Because of where I come from, most people I know root for the Canadiens.  But yeah, I personally don’t have a favorite club.  My aunt works for Bell, so she always got me some really great box seats for Ottawa-Montreal games.  It’s just fun to be there.  If I was a huge sports fan, for sure I’d have an allegiance to a team, but I’m not, so I just enjoy watching all of them.

You sang the national anthem at this year’s Grey Cup.  What was that like?

Eva Avila sang the national anthem in Winnipeg at this year's Grey Cup.

Eva Avila: It was pretty nerve-wracking.  It was the most people I’ve ever sung for, and you know, you’re not exactly allowed to screw up the national anthem, so there was a lot of pressure.  You’re afraid of becoming so nervous that you’ll forget the words to a song you know by heart.  And singing outdoors in the cold like that, it’s actually pretty challenging because your whole body freezes up.  I was stressed out – Nelly Furtado was there to perform at halftime, too – but in the end, it was over in like two seconds and I was fairly proud of myself.

Speaking of Nelly Furtado, you met her on Idol and indicated she was one of your favorites. If you had to pick a singer upon whom to base your own career path, would she be the one?

Eva Avila: I do really love Nelly Furtado for her simplicity, and for the way she’s evolving musically and for the way she’s progressed over the years.  But I’d also like to explore different aspects of the arts world and act one day.  I’m not sure if you remember Selena – she passed away [when she was shot by the president of her fan club] – but I think she would have been so big in North America.  The way she started singing in Spanish in her own community and then crossed over to the U.S. and was progressing in her career before she was killed… I admired that.  It was a family business she was working in, too, so I always had a particular love for her story.

You’ve worked with a pretty impressive list of artists already – Nelly Furtado, Chantal Kreviazuk, Cyndi Lauper, Tony Bennett – is there one in particular who has made a special impression on you?

Eva in the studio with Cyndi Lauper

Eva Avila: You know, they were all so special in their own way, and they all brought a particular vibe to our work, but I’d have to say that the one who stood out the most for me was Cyndi Lauper.  She’s so eccentric and very, very different.  She’s just wild; she was having us do things like jumping jacks and stuff, and when she was working with me on one of the tracks for my album, she took the time to teach me vocal exercises and offer very specific advice about how when you sing, you need to communicate with the song and forget about everything else.  There was just something magical about her that I remember quite vividly.

Who has the nastier put-downs: American Idol judge Simon Cowell or Canadian Idol judge Zack Werner?

Eva Avila: Oh, Simon.  Simon is far worse.

If you were a referee and could penalize one of the four judges who gave you feedback each week for misconduct, who would it be?

Eva Avila: Well, probably Zack. (laughs)  But actually, he was also my favorite judge.  Even if he’d say something nasty or mean or something that could hurt someone’s feelings, I always thought it was funny because it really was constructive, in a way.  If he thinks something sucks, then you’ll have to think about that because he’s been in the business for years and knows what he’s talking about.  So you just need to take his weird comments, interpret them as advice, and work on improving your singing.

From what you’ve seen on other seasons of the Canadian or American Idol, which contestants would you rank as your favorites?

Eva Avila: Oh boy, there’s a lot.  In season two [of CI] I must admit I was a big fan of Jacob Hoggard.  He just had these theatrical, wacky, weird ways, and he was so unique and intense.  I liked Kalan Porter, too.  I also really loved Billy Klippert from [CI’s] season one.  On American Idol, I was a big fan of Chris Daughtry.  There’s just so many.  But I have to say that my favorite of all time has to have been Jacob Hoggard.  He was absolutely awesome when I saw him, and he’s doing really well with his band, now.

You’re about to embark on your first big tour.  Nervous?

Eva Avila: Yeah, I actually am.  I’m really looking forward to performing with the band – they’re just kicking butt and I love them, and there’s this really good chemistry between all of us.  But this will be the first time I’m performing so much, night after night, and I’m not really sure how my voice is going to take all this.  I know Céline Dion won’t talk for like three days before she starts a series of shows… So I’m really excited, but I’m also a person who can get exhausted pretty quickly depending on what I’m doing, so hopefully I’ll be fine.

Who would win an arm wrestling match: you or Clay Aiken?

Eva Avila:  Me or Clay Aiken?  Oh, I think I would.  I’m pretty strong, I swear.  I’d do well at arm wrestling.

Listen to Eva’s debut album, check out her blog, or buy tickets for her tour online at www.evaavila.com or www.myspace.com/evaavilamusic.

J.S. Trzcienski is a special contributor to canadiens.com.

This article was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 21 No. 4. See table of contents

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