Even young musicians love singing the songs from the golden era

The Milford Street Shakers lead singer, Ayla Woodland

She may only be 19 years old, but Ayla Woodland is making a big hit with the music of 50 years ago as the new lead singer for 1960s Perth Soul band the Milford Street Shakers.

In fact, she says, her music playlist pretty much matches that of her father Chris Woodland whom some might remember as part of the many television programs created by Elephant Productions, including Flapper and Friends and Perth’s Young Entertainers, screened on Channel 9 in the late 1970s and 80s.

Ayla says she and Chris, who is now retired, often jam together in his home studio and she still gets him to drag out old episodes of Flapper and Friends.

“I’ve been singing with my dad on the guitar or the ukulele ever since I can remember,” Ayla says.

“He’s been a huge influence. He had me in piano lessons when I was in Year 3 and from a young age encouraged me to learn different instruments and was always trying to teach me the guitar. And my brother learned bass and drums which he taught me.

“My Dad really encouraged me to explore my singing voice from a young age and was always very encouraging. 

“I started taking vocal lessons in year 11, four years ago, with Mia Matthiessen (former lead singer with the Milford Street
). I was always singing in high school musical productions and various jazz and rock bands, and I did a diploma of contemporary music industry at WAAPA in 2021.” 

Mia knew that Ayla loved the music the Milford Street Shakers were playing and introduced Ayla to band leader Dom D’Leno. Dom says despite Ayla’s relative youth she was a perfect fit for the band.

Ayla says while most of the band members are older stalwarts of the music industry, she is part of a new generation coming into the band.

The Milford Street Shakers (Ayla Woodland in gold dress)

“I’m a bit of an old soul so I would fit in anyway,” she laughs.

“I love the authenticity of the sound from the 1960s, with real people playing real instruments instead of all this computerised production stuff that is going on nowadays.”

She’s been part of the 11-piece band for around six months performing at venues like the Quarry Amphitheatre, the Ellington Jazz Club, the Perth Blues Club at the Charles Hotel, the Duke of George in Fremantle.

She is looking forward to getting up on stage at the Regal Theatre in Subiaco on Friday June 16 to perform Soulphonic
Strings Attached
with songs from the golden era of soul.

Ayla grew up in a house that was always filled with music that accompanied every household activity. 

“I was always exposed to music from the 60s, 70s and 80s. I think music from those days is raw and utilises musicians’ raw talent and song writing skills. I’m not a huge fan of autotuning and heavily technologically produced styles of music. 

“I also love old music for the performance styles and costumes. I love seeing Elton John’s old performances and Queen’s. How they get the audience involved and how they take their image so seriously and make it unique and fabulous really inspires me.”

That’s also something that attracted her to the Milford Street Shakers.

As well as throwing their heart and soul into the music of the 1960s, the band dresses to impress and goes out of its way to share their enthusiasm for their music with their audiences.

The band specialises in the music of the Motown era with their own take on soul music from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown and Etta James with songs that make people want to get up and dance whether they are 20 or 80 years old.

The Milford Street Shakers are the first major band Ayla has performed with, although she has sung in multiple bands in high school and ensembles at WAAPA.

“This is the most professional music setting I’ve been in but it’s definitely the most fun.

“It feels like an absolute blessing to be singing with such serious and talented musicians.” 

While Ayla is in the spotlight for her performances with the Milford Street Shakers, she is a woman of varied interests, studying architecture and painting as a hobby.

Ayla with one of her paintings

She paints Renaissance-style portraits, mostly in oil.

“My dad asked one day for a Renaissance portrait and ever since then, people just kept asking for them. I also paint people’s pets in renaissance outfits.” 

Ayla has exhibited in several exhibitions and competitions and has won a couple of awards, including the City of Fremantle’s 25 under 25, the Lester portraiture prize and Pulse Perspectives at the Art Gallery of WA.

“I’m studying architecture because it has that creative and hands-on design aspect as well as having a good academic balance. I feel like it’s a good middle of both the left and right sides of the brain and it challenges me. I love learning new things and keeping busy and it does just that.”

Tickets for Soulphonic are available from Ticketek.