Honey Jam, the all-female multi-genre Canadian artist showcase at which Nelly Furtado was discovered in 1997, just announced the 20 choices from the June auditions who will showcase Aug. 22 at Toronto’s Mod Club and enjoy the other perks of being selected, from attending the OVO Summit to visiting the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS).
The 2019 performers announced last Thursday (July 25) at The Honey Jam Launch event, held in Toronto at sponsor TD bank’s 54th floor office, are: Grace Marr, T.NA Smith, Hayley Verrall, Angela Nethersole, Aria Ohlsson, Divine Lightbody, Erez Zobary, Leigh Phillips, Denille Reeves, Sagèlee Archer, Riley Wheater, Aida, Jäjé, Kris Goslin, Rachel Cousins, Jess Leung, Nya, Melissa Kadas, Getchnah and The Launch's Saveria.
Honey Jam founder Ebonnie Rowe told the room that next year will mark Honey Jam’s 25th anniversary. “I want to do amazing things — big amazing. I’d love to give an artist a Grammy experience. I want to do some really big stuff and I believe all things are possible.”
The launch event, while open to media, was mainly for the benefit of the aspiring artists, and featured a Q&A with American singer-songwriter Elle Varner, who just released her new album, Ellevation, on eOne, who sponsored her appearance.
“First of all, I want to thank you beautiful ladies for that,” she said after 14 of the chosen Honey Jam singers performed together (the rest are from out of town). “You sound like literal angels. You had presence. You had attitude, individuality, the harmonies, the blend, the arrangement that you created, really really beautiful.”
Warner/Chappell Music Canada GM Vivian Barclay conducted the interview and led Varner on a range of topics, starting with the beginning of her career as a graduate of NYU where she studied the music business and production/engineering, and remained in New York working coat check at a club until she landed a record deal. The conversation also ventured into some difficult times the past seven years, after her 2012 debut album, Perfectly Imperfect, losing her record deal, seeking counselling, then taking charge of her career by starting her own label.
“I have transitioned so much just an artist to a businesswoman,” Varner said. “So the deal I’m in now, I own my masters. In a nutshell, I had to let a lot go. In a bigger picture, when I look back, so many artists that I’ve studied and I’ve looked up to, they went through terrible things in the industry, different deals and being dropped and being stuck.”
This isn’t Varner’s first time being involved with Honey Jam. A few years ago, she went to Honey Jam Barbados to mentor girls there, a separate event Rowe created there.
In Toronto, Honey Jam isn’t just the one-night showcase. This past Saturday (July 27), an industry workshop was held at Harris Institute, with various discussions focusing on digital streaming, songwriting, marketing/branding, music rights, and touring/festivals.
Tonight (July 29), many of the Honey Jam performers will attend a Q&A with America’s Nova Wav, one of the only female production duos in the industry. Their C.V. includes tracks with Beyonce, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, DJ Khalid, and Nicki Minaj. A mentor café with local producers will follow the free event at Artscape Sandbox.
Rowe tells FYI, “We are visiting the CARAS office on Wednesday [31st], then going to OVO Summit [Aug. 2], then the concert Aug 22, then an artist talk with Amaal and mentor cafe August 27. The artists have had opportunities to perform at Union Summer, the airport, and more to come.”
Newcomer Divine Lightbody also spoke at the Honey Jam launch, telling the girls that she was one of the only performers in 2017 to sing a cover, but seeing the other people sing originals gave her the kick she needed to start writing. She also won $6500 from Yamaha that year.
“It was almost like the universe was telling me, ‘You have the tools and the resources. Get your creative writing process done, and start being inspired by all these beautiful women around you.'" And she was. She is slated to debut her single I Do at the Honey Jam concert Aug. 22.
From the press release, this year in particular Honey Jam alums are making waves:
Haviah Mighty made the Polaris Prize short list and was featured on a Spotify billboard at Yonge & Dundas Square and her latest track Wishy Washy was selected as one of the top songs of the summer.
Lu released her single Don’t Count Me Out, became iHeartRadio’s Future Star and broke through to the Top 40 of two Canadian Billboard Charts.
Jordan Alexander was selected to star alongside Juliette Lewis and Ryan Kwanten in Sacred Lies: The Singing Bones TV series on Facebook Watch and collaborated with Carly Rae Jepson on the Feels Right pride remix.
TiKA was chosen as a face of Sephora Canada’s #withSephora campaign and also received a Slaight Music residency at the prestigious film centre.
The Sorority opened for Snoop Dog and Wutang Clan at Ottawa Bluesfest and were chosen to create a song for Canada's women's soccer team in partnership with NIKE.
Amber J, Will, Julia Gartha, Divine Lightbody and Saveria were all chosen for CTV’s The Launch
Chelsea Stewart was nominated for the 2019 Reggae Recording of the Year at the Juno Awards
Saveria's song Down to the Roots has charted #3 on iTunes Canada, reached 200K streams on Spotify and plays around the country on Hot AC radio. She also performed at the iHeartRadio Fanfest