When it comes to music, Ava Carich is a perfectionist.
“I’m very picky,” is the way the 17-year-old Peninsula singer-songwriter puts it.
Her mom, local artist Meghan, recognizes that side of her – not readily apparent from her quiet demeanour.
“She knows exactly what she wants,” she says. “And she’s not afraid to let people know it.”
Emerging from a difficult childhood – including family issues that led to long spells of depression – Carich, of Coast Salish descent, has somehow found a way to express herself and her emotions authentically, with her own uniquely cool-yet-bluesy vocal sound and guitar accompaniment.
Active at music venues throughout Surrey and White Rock and even further afield – including local festivals and events and open mics, as well as busking at White Rock beach and Granville Island – Carich, just going into Grade 12 at Elgin Park Secondary, averages 50-60 performances a year.
Working with the White Rock Children’s Choir family, under the mentorship of Sarona Mynhardt, has exposed her to a wide range of musical material, as well as developed her alto-to-soprano range.
But her self-described “mellow singer-guitarist” mode has been just as much informed by her own explorations of the work of such performers as James Bay, Ray LaMontagne, Lana Del Rey and rhythm and blues legend Etta James.
And she has consistently drawn attention – even in such a rich pool of young vocal talent as the Peninsula currently boasts (singers and schoolmates Josh Bogert and Richard Tichelman are friends and friendly competitors).
Most recently she won third place in the 2015 Roadhouse Live Youth Talent Search (Bogert took first, Tichelman second) and was showcased with other youth performers at White Rock Sea Festival on both the Spirit Stage and the Main Stage.
It’s indicative of her quiet tenacity and resourcefulness that she’s worked hard to pay for two of the guitars that she’s bought at White Rock’s Tapestry Music. But she’s also touched by the help of others – including family friends who chipped in to surprise her by pre-paying at the store for a replacement for an ailing amp – and total strangers who’ve put money in ‘the hat’ while listening to her busking sessions.
“Some people are so kind,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated a $20-note so much – or even a $5- bill – as when I’ve seen it there.”
She also appreciates the support of her older sister, Rachel, and her mom – who she knows has her back when it comes to assessing musical opportunities she’s already been offered.
“We’re in discussions with a couple of local record labels and she’s very excited about that, but it’s important that we make decisions that are age-appropriate and something she’s ready for,” Meghan says.
“She’s very much her own person, though – and her compass is good.”
“I’m still developing my talents and what I want to do with my music,” Carich adds, simply.
And she knows she’s going to have to be patient and rest her voice for a few weeks following an imminent tonsillectomy.
During that time she’ll still be going to White Rock Children’s Choir practices – but just to listen, she says.
“Even though I can’t sing, I can hear it in my mind.”
Not the least of the attention that Carich has drawn has been for original songs like ‘Player’ and ‘Haunted’.
There are a lot more in the works, but Carich is adamant that she won’t let anyone outside the immediate family hear a song until she considers it properly polished. She notes that she works very hard crafting a song, from working out a chord sequence and perfecting the tune even before she attempts to fit lyrics to it.
“I like to have a finished melody,” she says.
“I wish I could be like some of these people who can have a song completely done in four hours, but it doesn’t work that way for me.”
And Meghan knows full well her daughter won’t be rushed to complete a song.
“I tell her ‘keep on working on that song’ – but it has to come when she’s ready.”