Anya Smith remembers when she first started writing songs.

She was 17. Her father, musician Geoff Smith, had been teaching her guitar lessons for a couple years, but one day she decided to write a song and play it for him.

"He didn't know that I wrote the song and I went and said 'Hey dad, I wrote this song. Do you want to hear it?' And I sang it to him and he was just really surprised," Smith recalled on CBC's Mainstreet P.E.I.

Seven years later, Smith is asking an entire country to hear one of her songs. She is one of 11 Islanders entered in CBC Music's Searchlight, a cross-Canada search for the best up-and-coming musicians.

Inspired by last year's contest

Smith, a Holland College music student from Murray River, P.E.I., said she was inspired to enter the contest after watching Islander Dylan Menzie make it to the top four last year.

"It did a lot of good things for him so I was kind of hoping it would do the same for me," she said.

'I like to spend a lot of quiet time, just kind of thinking, and that's kind of what the song's about.' - Anya Smith

Smith said a lot of her songwriting is inspired by her love of nature, including I'm Staying Up, the song she has entered in Searchlight.

"I like spending time walking on the beach," she said. "I like to spend a lot of quiet time, just kind of thinking, and that's kind of what the song's about."

Anya Smith

Anya Smith dropped by the CBC Mainstreet P.E.I. studio this week to talk about her entry in the Searchlight competition. (Angela Walker/CBC)

Music has 'been in me for a really long time'

Smith said she is new to the business and hopes Searchlight will help introduce people to her music. After graduation, she hopes to start a music career and go on tour.

"It's something that's kind of been in me for a really long time," she said. "I avoided it for a very long time, but it just kind of built up and it was 'this is something that I have to do.'"

Musicians from 24 geographic regions are competing in Searchlight for a grand prize worth $50,000.

Voting is now underway.

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.