PHOTO | OLIVIA BROWN
Sheila Carabine (right) and Amanda Walther, the acoustic folk pop duo known as Dala, met during their time in a Toronto Catholic high school.
Before they were Juno nominees, Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther were classmates 15 years ago in Mr. Jatiouk's music room.
The foundation for their award-winning harmony began in music class at Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School in Toronto's east end.
"It really felt like a family," said Walther.
Today the pop duo is known as Dala and has won awards for their unique sound, which Carabine calls a "little bit folk, little bit pop and a lot of harmony."
The best friends have opened for Jann Arden at Massey Hall, won the 2010 Canadian Folk Music Award for Vocal Group of the Year and toured North America.
Walther and Carabine studied music throughout high school and, says Carabine, those years were the building blocks for today's success.
"Mary Ward is a self-directed school, which as a teenager I found very empowering," said Carabine. "I think that kind of responsibility helped prepare me for the demands of the music business."
They had been friends for years when they wrote their first song together and knew instantly that there was something "magical" about what they had created. That was 11 years ago. They've been writing and singing together ever since.
Carabine also studied piano with the Royal Conservatory of Music from age eight to 18.
"As far as singing and playing the guitar, we are both self-taught. We follow our ears," she said. And their ears have lead to their almost ethereal sound.
"I grew up in a wonderful church community and my first experience singing was in our church youth choir. I'm sure those years of singing from the heart have seeped into our music somehow," said Walther.
Walther is extremely proud of Dala's most recent of their five albums, Best Day, which was released in 2012.
"I feel like it took us our whole lives and all the courage we could muster to make that record," she said. "I think every hard thing we've had to learn along the way has led us to write the songs we write now. I wouldn't change a thing."
But being in studio is no match for performing live, says Carabine.
"Being on stage and looking out into a darkened theatre is a thrill like no other. That's the easy part," she said. "The challenge nowadays is the amount of travel required to maintain a full-time career. You have to tour constantly."