Anyone who hears Ava Kay’s 2021 single ‘Wild Again’ – co-produced by Ryan Stewart (Carly Rae Jepsen) – and her most recent release, ‘Go’, will recognize the depth of the Toronto-based singer/film composer’s talents immediately. Not just as a vocalist, but as a producer, composer, and songwriter.
“These songs are definitely a fusion of my pop songwriting capabilities and my work as a film composer. I really put my vision of who I am as an artist on them.” The tracks also help close the loop between where Ava started in music, and where she finds herself now, creatively and professionally: “You can find my work as a writer, but until now I don’t think you could discover what I truly sound like.”
With their haunting piano, deep orchestral backgrounds and powerful vocal performances, the tracks showcase Ava’s emotional range in a way that, simply put, is closer to her heart. “All my songs and compositions are very personal to me. When I’m writing lyrics they’re coming from my soul. I very much believe that when you’re in that inspirational moment it feels like you’re just a vessel the music is coming through, where it’s like, ‘How did that happen?’”
Both tracks took some time for Ava to release as singles as a recording artist in her own right, however, she explains: “I wrote ’Go’ in 2017 as part of an record for a music library company, but it ended up having a life of its own after it was placed in a film.” Recorded with producer and fellow composer, Craig McConnell, Ava soon found herself with a song that was resonating widely with listeners. And while ‘Go’ reads like a highly personal breakup song, it’s far more than that, she explains: “It’s about leaving, but not just leaving because you’re fed up with something, but because taking the next step in your life is required. And, although it’s personal for me, it’s written from the perspective of a good friend writing to someone and saying, ‘you have to move on.’” It could be about any kind of parting, she adds.
Similarly, ‘Wild Again’ was intended for a different purpose – for release by another artist. “So, it’s gone through several iterations, but they were very much in your face, radio-friendly pop. I wanted my version to be moodier, more emotive. I call it cinematic pop.” It’s a fitting description of the direction Ava is headed musically overall – one that’s reflected in her choice of instrumentation and Ava’s effortless delivery of a highly personal, but universally accessible sentiment. “It’s basically about things in life that are fleeting – when you fall in love with a moment in time, or a person – and just enjoying them while they last.” The idea for the song was prompted by watching YouTube videos of surfers,” she continues, “Because waves are fleeting. They come, you get a rush and a huge amount of joy, and then they’re gone, and it’s over until the next one comes along.”
That’s also an apt way to describe the arc of Ava’s career since she first discovered her voice as a teen, a talent that took her completely by surprise. “My brother was a DJ, and one day he came up with this beat and I just started singing on it. It was like, out of nowhere, I could sing. Before that, I didn’t realize that.” Soon enough, however, they found themselves with “a sleeper hit” in Europe. On the strength of that song, ‘Raging Bull’, the first track she and her brother released as the indie-electronica duo, Boss & Swan, the pair signed landed a placement in the cult-classic horror film, American Mary, which ultimately caught the attention of legendary DJ/producer ATB.
“It’s a wild story,” Ava says, laughing. “We were working on an EP and here’s this DJ, trying to get a hold of us. But we were in the zone and not paying attention. It turns out he heard the song while watching the movie on a flight, and he was like, ‘I need you to come to Germany and help write my album.’ So, we did.”
Remixed by ATB, the track garnered even more attention globally, leading to an extensive tour of the US with ATB, and sparking an ongoing collaboration between Ava and ATB that continues to this day.
As the youngest of four children born and raised in Toronto to parents who’d emigrated to Canada from Palestine, and of Armenian heritage, Ava was encouraged musically, but always with the caveat that she should be pragmatic about the future. “So, number one, get a good education and, number two, get a job, so I was like, ‘Well, that happened, that’s interesting but just I went on to university and then started working.”
Music, while important to her, wasn’t the primary driver in her life early on. “I started playing piano at age of six because sisters played, but I’d just mimic them. My mom tried to take me to lessons, but I did not comply. I hated them, we fought over it, and I just stopped going.”
For a time, Ava let music slide into the background but ultimately found her creative instincts leading her back towards performance; singing at open mic nights and meeting people who had the goal of making music for a living. Inspired, she began making trips to Nashville to strengthen her songwriting chops and soon found herself with a publishing deal, interest from a variety of producers and music industry professionals, and opportunities to write with artists in Northern Europe and the UK. “I just put myself out there and things just started to happen.”
After landing a residency for emerging film composers at the Canadian Film Centre, she took her first steps toward becoming a producer in her own right. Throughout her career, Ava has continued to hone her composition and production chops relentlessly, carving out a unique niche as a multi-talented, multi-lingual singer and composer and providing music for television networks including Disney, The Family Channel, CBC, Corus Entertainment, and The Hallmark Channel. Ava also received a nomination from LA’s prestigious Mark Awards for a previous album of compositions that were licensed to various projects and went on to collaborate with artists such as Grammy award-winning producer Afrojack, Britain’s Got Talent finalist and Eurovision star, Ryan O’Shaughnessy, as well as multi-platinum-selling Canadian talents Raghav and Tyler Shaw and popular K-Pop artists, After-School and Lead.
Additionally, Ava contributed the Gold-Certified song ‘Só Depende de Mim’ to an album by Portuguese chart-topper, Rita Guerra, and has composed soundtracks and original scores for critically acclaimed and award-winning films including The Door, Show & Tell, among others. In all, her compositions have amassed over 40 million streams across all platforms and is set to compose the anticipated upcoming feature movie, “Hysteria”.
More recently, in mid-2021, Ava began participating in the Women in the Studio program for Music Publishers Canada, a program committed to increasing the representation of women in music production; something she hopes will allow her to collaborate, communicate with, and mentor other women striving to make their mark in the industry. “If I can mentor or inspire anyone, even just through a song, that would be amazing.”
Passionate, prolific, and driven, Ava is eager to find more outlets to expand her reach as a composer and a solo artist. “All my experiences – good and bad – are key to my path. They all helped me find the direction I needed to go in, but although I’ve released a lot of music, it’s not like you’d know that it’s me. I felt I had to do something to showcase myself as an artist; something that embodies who I am at the core.”
With ‘Wild Again’ and ‘Go’ Ava Kay has accomplished that beautifully with a pair of tracks that speak to the power and brightness of the impermanent moments of joy so key to a life in music, while encouraging listeners to savour them fully be they bitter or sweet.