Eighteen-year-old singer-songwriter Mila Bonin of Sturgeon Falls won a trophy and some valuable exposure after participating in the North Bay’s Next Top Performer Singing Contest on April 19th, winning top spot in the 18-and-under category and a chance to perform at another event. The local contest, organised by performer Sam Harvey of North Bay, is half competition and half charity fundraiser for the AIDS Committee of North Bay. “Instead of myself sitting up there with a guitar, I decided to create a signing contest,” describes Harvey of the inspiration for the event. The result is that people from all over the area were able to hear Bonin’s talent on display.
Despite Bonin being the only contestant in the 18-and-under category, the judges still had no doubt that she was one of the most talented artists they saw that night. “She really impressed all the judges (…), not only with her beautiful voice but she was the only contestant who accompanied herself on guitar. She’s very good! I have no doubt that, had there been more contestants in her age group, she still would’ve won,” recalls Danielle Roy, who was a judge at the competition. Roy, originally from Verner, was invited to be a judge due to her own talent as a singer for the popular band Roadhouse and as the 1st place winner of the Country Open and ‘North Bay a du talent’ contests.
For Mila Bonin, the event was mostly about exposure. “I went into the contest because I’ve always wanted to go into contests, but there wasn’t really a lot that I had heard about around [the local area], and it was also for a good cause. I really wanted to expose myself a little more with music. It was good, it was a very good place, it was chill, it was low-key,” she describes. She performed Keith Urban’s Blue Ain’t Your Color, a country song, despite that not being her usual style. “I like to say my music is more alternative, or sad music, or R&B. I’m not much of a country [artist]. I don’t mind country, it’s not going to be my first choice to sing, but I thought it was appropriate to sing [at the contest]. I’ll sing whatever depending on the vibe of the place,” she explains.
Bonin says she has been both writing music and performing since she was 9 years old, or at least as long as she can remember. She sees herself making music professionally and has been taking more active steps to reach that goal. This contest was one of those steps. “I’ve only performed in front of my school, or my family. This is the first contest I’ve ever done, and it was the first time I was trying to expose myself. I often get very nervous, and I back out. I decided that I’ve got to stop doing that because I’m not going to go anywhere if I do that,” she laughs.
The young artist has recently begun publishing music on multiple platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and SoundCloud under the name Astéria. “I started last year. I’ve always wanted to publish my music, but I never knew how to, and I didn’t have a computer. I bought a computer and a mic and all that stuff maybe three years ago, and now I’ve stopped procrastinating, and I started publishing my music. I’m my own producer, and I came in peace with the fact that I’m not a Hollywood producer, so I just do what I can for now,” she says, describing the process as complicated the first time she tried it. Lately, she estimates that she can record, mix and publish a song in only a few 9-hour days, depending on the song.