Considering Toronto was still digging out from its heaviest snowfall in a decade, the turnout for yesterday's Juno Awards media conference at CBC's Studio 42 was an impressive one.
The event ran promptly and smoothly, and the announcement of Sarah McLachlan as the Awards show host for the first time was a definite highlight. After lamenting the fact that the bad weather meant it took her 12 hours to reach T.O. from Vancouver, the star and 12-time Juno winner explained that she was both proud and nervous about the honour.
Another notable announcement came when Allan Reid, President & CEO of CARAS/The Juno Awards & MusiCounts, revealed that CARAS/The Junos is partnering with the National Music Centre in Calgary to allow for multiple inductees into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame each year. This is in response to sustained pressure on behalf of many deserving artists yet to be recognised. Details about the initiative are TBA.
Other news included a new partnership with Apple Music for the Juno Fan Choice Award, and the addition of Corey Hart and fast-rising pop star bulow to the Juno's performer lineup.
The CBC's Executive Director, Radio and Audio, Susan Marjetti, stated that the broadcaster "is so very proud to present the Juno Awards again." CBC took over that role last year, after a 16-year absence, and Marjetti noted that the broadcast was the most-watched show on Canadian TV on that night.
CARAS chair Mark Cohon announced the return of Via Rail's Juno Express, taking nominees and industry types from Toronto to the host city of London, as well as the introduction of a Juno comedy showcase.
The Juno Awards show at Budweiser Gardens in London is close to sold out. The host city has also been giving a boost to CARAS' affiliated charity, MusiCounts, by arranging for $1 of every ticket sold at some area concerts that are to be donated to the music education charity.
At the conclusion of the official media event, FYI took its spot on the red carpet in the media room to interview some of the nominees in attendance about their thoughts on receiving a Juno nod.
That group ranged from well-established artists with multiple previous nominations (and wins) to newcomers earning their very first nomination. Their unanimously positive response to the recognition confirms that the Junos remain a big deal to Canadian artists.
Here are some of their comments:
Wesli (a Montreal-based Haitian-Canadian nominated for World Music Album of the Year for Rapadou Kreyol). "This is my first nomination as a solo artist, though in 2007 an album I produced for Senaya was nominated. This will have a good impact on my career. When I create my music, it is for me. I want to feel good about it and send out good vibes to people, but you never know what the reaction will be. When it is one like this, that is very welcome."
Dizzy (an Oshawa band nominated for Alternative Album of the Year for Baby Teeth): "This is our first nomination with our first album. It is especially good for the parents," says singer Katie Munshaw. " It keeps them off our backs for a while!," adds bandmate Charlie Spencer. The group has been gigging in the US and Europe, and Spencer explains that "we have some new things recorded and some things ready to record. We are still working!"
Slocan Ramblers (a Toronto-based bluegrass outfit nominated for Traditional Roots Album of the Year, for Queen City Jubilee): "This is our first nomination," says guitarist Darryl Poulsen. "You should ask us in a year's time if it has been a career boost, but I certainly hope it will be."
The group has been playing a large number of shows in the US and the UK. Describing their style of bluegrass, bassist Alastair Whitehead states "We're in the middle. The traditional bands think we're modern, and the modern bands think we're traditional." The band mixes original and cover material, including tunes from Canadian peers Kevin Breit and Corin Raymond.
AHI (the Toronto-based singer/songwriter is nominated for the first time, for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year, for In Our Time). "The irony is I've been doing a lot of work in the States, and a lot of people in Canada are yet to hear about my music. This nomination can help open that door. It is a thing with many Canadian artists where you need to migrate then come back."
AHI is signed to US label Thirty Tigers, home to such roots stars as Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson. "They have been very supportive of me. They want to see me become a big artist, and this album is a pivotal moment in my career." He will soon resume touring as support for popular American artist Lauren Daigle, a Grammy-nominated contemporary Christian artist.
Doing interviews together were two Toronto artists nominated in the Jazz Album of the Year: Solo category. Alison Young is cited for So Here We Are and Alexis Baro for Sandstorm, a first for both. "This is a real confidence boost," says Young, while Baro notes that "I have released six albums, but it is never too late for this."
Tokyo Police Club (Toronto band nominated for Alternative Album of the Year for TPC): "This is our fourth Juno nomination, and we've yet to win" says keyboardist Graham Wright. "In high school, I bet my girlfriend's mom $50 that I'd get a Juno by the time I was 20! That is incredibly arrogant, and that's why we didn't win. Now I am grateful, genuinely surprised and appreciative. I still don't think we're going to win, but that's fine. It's going to be a good race."
Together 13 years. TPC did take a more than a four-year break between 2014 album Forcefield and TPC, and guitarist Josh Hook explains "we got caught up in the machine somewhat and that delayed the record a couple of years."
Wright adds that "we have a couple of months more touring and we will try to write more songs. We'll look at a new album sooner than later for once."
The Sheepdogs are nominated for two 2019 Juno Awards, as Group of the Year and Rock Album of the Year, for Changing Colours. Lead singer/guitarist Ewen Currie confessed to FYI that "I don't know how many times we've been nominated. I don't keep track of that kind of stuff."
His band has now been nominated nine times and has won four Junos. To Currie, the new noms come "after a very busy year, with life events and band things. As we turn the page in 2019, we are feeling strong, positive and confident about what's happening." When asked about his recent side project Bros, Currie jokes "don't bring that up. It has really splintered the band!"
Sheepdogs bassist Ryan Gullen was also on hand. He explained that the group was jetting over to London that night, to open European dates for Rival Sons. "The goal is to put on your best show so you can make some new fans and make a name for yourself."
Mike Milosh (aka Rhye) is nominated for Adult Alternative Album of the Year, for Blood. Milosh is also up for Album Artwork of the Year for his work on that record. It was a touch surprising to see Milosh at the Junos event, given his reputation for being publicity shy.
"Initially, I didn't want to be in photographs," he explains. "I've played a lot of shows over the last five years, and it gets to the point where there's so much content of me."
Given the following internationally that Rhye now commands, it is rather shocking that this is Milosh's first Juno nomination. "I think no-one really knows I'm Canadian. Everything I do is on the world stage," he says. "This is really sweet though, to have the country where I'm from recognising that I'm making music. That feels good."