For Atlantic Canadians, spring typically signifies two things: The first is that we’ve finally made it through another long winter; the second being that it’s time to celebrate the best of the region’s music industry.
The 30th annual East Coast Music Awards take place in Halifax this week. From May 2 through May 6, acts from throughout the region will gather in the Nova Scotian capital to see old friends, perhaps land some new business deals and, arguably most importantly, make a whole lot of music.
Rose Cousins goes into the awards show on Thursday with a total of eight nominations. Jenn Grant isn’t far behind, having secured six nods, while Ria Mae, Joel Plaskett and P.E.I.’s Kinley each have four. Other nominees include Owen Meany’s Batting Stance, Partner, Mo Kenney, The East Pointers and Cassie & Maggie.
The last few years have proven to be a game changer for Nova Scotia’s Ria Mae. She slugged it out on the road as an independent artist for many years before aligning with Sony Music Canada in 2015. The move paid off, giving the singer one platinum single (“Clothes Off”) and two gold singles (“Ooh Love” and “Bend”) in the last few years.
“Having an East Coast Music Award is the highest honour when you grow up in Atlantic Canada,” Mae says. “One of the happiest memories I have is winning my first ECMA in 2012. I’m still so proud of it. Being nominated again this year means a lot.”
Daniel Walker, who performs under the banner of Owen Meany’s Batting Stance, sees his East Coast Music Award nomination as an indicator of career progress.
“On a personal level, the nomination is meaningful, while on a professional level, it also validates Owen Meany’s Batting Stance to industry professionals,” Walker says. “When you have an ECMA nomination in your back pocket, it helps foster a sense of validity when reaching out to other bands, festivals or delegates both domestically and internationally.”
Walker believes the tightly-knit East Coast music scene has as much to do with the general friendly demeanour of the region’s residents as it helps foster the all for one and one for all attitude among the area’s artists.
“I feel as though the primary variable that makes the East Coast music community unique is our relative distance from other 'industry hubs' in Canada,” Walker states. “There is an honesty about the East Coast which permeates through the people and the art that is created which is not as prevalent in the industry hotbeds of Toronto and Vancouver. For the most part, we are very supportive of each other and genuinely are excited when our friends or other artists we look up to get opportunities outside of the East Coast.”
For P.E.I.’s Kinley Dowling, a former member of Newfoundland’s Hey Rosetta! who performs under her given name, an impressive four East Coast Music Award nominations have helped her step out from the shadow of her former group.
“They’ve helped me solidify my professional life as a songwriter and independent artist outside of Hey Rosetta!,” Dowling says. “I’ve played violin and viola on over 350 songs for other artists, so this is super cool to have my own music up for four East Coast Music Awards.”
Mike Campbell, the Program Director of Halifax’s three-time ECMA award-winning venue The Carleton, sees the establishment’s latest nomination as confirmation they are still doing something right when it comes to bringing world-class entertainment to the region.
“Being nominated never gets old,” Campbell says. “At the very least, it reminds people that you’re still around and it also lets you - and everyone else - know that you’re still doing things well, that it’s a great place not only to see a show but to play one. There are a lot of really good venues in our region and being recognized as one of the best is always gratifying.”
The East Coast Music Awards, hosted by Jonathan Torrens, will be handed out at Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre on Thursday, May 3.