It is easy to be cynical about awards shows, especially after recent revelations and allegations about the Grammys, but it remains an undisputed fact that nominations for the major music awards still have a very positive effect on the careers of artists cited.
That was vividly reaffirmed at the Juno Awards nominees press conference in Toronto yesterday morning. After the announcements were made, FYI took part in the red carpet media scrum, corralling nominees in a wide range of genres and categories for reactions to the news that they were just named as part of Canada’s most prestigious music awards show.
From veterans with multiple noms and victories to their credit to young newcomers who have just earned their first nod, all genuinely sounded appreciative and excited about the recognition. Here are their responses, plus, in many cases, news of what they are up to next.
Alessia Cara ( Juno Fan Choice, Single of the Year, Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Pop Album of the Year): "I just found out five minutes ago about that [getting the most noms this year]. I didn’t know if any of my stuff would be nominated at all, because I didn’t know if my stuff was eligible timing-wise 'cos I put it out late that year . That was a nice surprise. This will be my first solo hosting, though I did another awards show with Joe Jonas. I think I’ll contact Michael Buble for advice. I'm just so excited!."
Nuela Charles (Adult Contemporary Album of the Year - Melt): "This is my third nomination in a row, and it feels amazing. This is a great way to close off a chapter as the new material I'm working on will be different from the last two records. It's definitely a step up from what I've been doing, and I am really leaning on my producer Don Mills, allowing him to push me out of my comfort zone. As an artist, you always think your newest thing is your best, but I really feel that."
Kevin Hearn (nominated for Best Artwork - Art Direction for The Superhero Suite, Kevin Hearn and Friends, and for instrumental Album of the Year, Calm and Cents): "My artwork was nominated once before, but this is my first nomination for a solo record. I knew that the artwork one was a possibility, but I had no idea about the other one. I was kind of blue in that I didn’t think the record got noticed and I'm quite proud of it, so now I'm on Cloud Nine.
"My niece is getting married on March 14th in Florida so I can't make it to the show. What was that club in Saskatoon where the Look People [one of Hearn's pre-Barenaked Ladies bands] always played? Back then we were making no money and were quite hungry and they always gave us food! They had an oreo cookie cake, so that's what I always think about with Saskatoon.
"I'm working on a new record with Barenaked Ladies, then touring with them. I'm thinking about another Supergirls Suite, and I'd love to do another record like Calm and Cents. I love working with Hugh Marsh, Chris Gartner, and Gavin Brown."
Jay Douglas (nominated for Reggae Recording of the Year, Jah Children. He was previously named in this category for Hallelujah): “The nomination is about good and positive vibrations. The music, it heals. Reggae music is an awakening. And the message is Peace and Love every time. “
RALPH (Dance Recording of the Year -Gravity): "This feels good, and is something I’ve strived for, for a long time. You do music because you love it, or you should. You should never think 'well if I don’t get this I'm a failure. Last year I had a few people say 'maybe this will be our year at the Junos.' I got my hopes up a little bit and didn’t get nominated. That feeling wasn’t very good but I didn’t want to let it define me. That being said now that I am nominated it’s a good feeling!
"The other artists in the category are definitely dance artists. I want you to dance to my music, but I have slow songs on there, and I don’t really write to a beat. I leave for six weeks on tour soon and have been in sessions every day this month. I have a new single out in Feb, with a bit of an ‘80s Robyn vibe. I have a session later in the day with a nominee for Producer of the Year, Derek Hoffman. He produced my first EP, and he is chuffed at the news too."
The Blue Stones (Breakthrough Group of the Year): "News of the nomination is nuts, and it hasn’t really sunk in yet. Yes, we'll be out in Saskatoon all weekend. We got a taste of the Junos last year in London [the group is based in Windsor]. We're on tour right now, a run through Ontario and Montreal, then over to the US for a bit then touring out west around the time of the Junos. We just finished tracking our new album, produced by Paul Meany from MuteMath, our dream producer."
Digawolf (Indigenous Artist of the Year): "This is my second nomination, and this is awesome. My first was in 2010 I think. Any time anybody from the North gets recognized I think that’s great – people like Leeza Gilday, Northern Haze, Tanya Tagaq, everybody. It's pretty far and there are lots of challenges to go with that."
"We are always writing and recording. I have a studio in Yellowknife where we explore new sounds and ideas. I am here today after just being at Folk Alliance in New Orleans - from minus 41C to sweaty heat. The showcase we played with my band went well, and we loved the food and music there."
Peter Cardinali (Vocal Jazz Album of the Year: Friday, by Monkey House - he guests on the album and is owner of its label, ALMA Records) and John 'Beetle' Bailey (Recording Engineer of the Year - for work with Alex Cuba and Monkey House): Bailey: "This is my sixth nomination. I won once, for work with Molly Johnson and Serena Ryder, and that was also in Saskatoon. A lucky city for me!"
Cardinali: "I don't really keep track of the numbers. There have been plenty for the label, and six as producer. This is great for Monkey House and its leader Don Breithaupt. His writing has really come into its own. The group has such a worldwide reach now. We hear from around the globe, all insisting if we come there to pay it’ll be packed!"
Alexandra Streliski (Album of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year and Instrumental Album of the Year): "These are my first Juno nominations. I was nominated in Quebec at the Adisq awards and won three Felix awards there so I have some experience with a gala. I am excited about going more into the rest of Canada, and I have never been to Saskatchewan. I have been very busy with touring and media and this isn't going to help me find time for new material (laughs)! I write when I am sound-checking though. I am happy people are moved by my music, wherever they are from. I have no expectations, but I'm just happy to be recognised."
Roberto Occhipinti: "I'm here repping The Dave Young Trio [nominated for Jazz Album of the Year: Group Trouble in Mind]. He couldn’t come down as he's teaching at the university today. This is the 7th album I have done with Dave, and we've been working together close to 45 years. Dave is a living legend, and one of the most recognized Canadian musicians internationally, through his work with Oscar Peterson. He’s the real deal and is still playing great. We finished off his next record three days ago."
"It's a nice surprise that Romina Di Gasbarro is nominated too, as I produced both those records, and they are both on my label, Modica Music."
Romina Di Gasbarro (World Music Album of the Year - Risorgimento): "This is my first nomination after 30 years, An overnight sensation right here, baby! After working as a musician for so long, you keep doing it and don’t really expect it, then at some point you’re here. Of course, it's a career boost. You continue to do your art because it's your art, but this is a huge recognition, being named next to amazing people. I plan to be there. I am starting to write the next one, and again it’ll be quite different."
The Dirty Nil (Rock Album of the Year - Master Volume) Luke Bentham: "We live with Brett from the Glorious Sons, who are also in our category." Ross Miller: "Either way the award is coming home!"
Luke: "We were nominated once before, and we won, in 2017, as Breakthrough Artist of the Year. When we won I said 'Weed Rules' into the microphone and my mom was very upset." Ross: "But weed became legal after that. We think we were the major instrument of change for marijuana legislation!"
Luke: "We are getting ready to do our next record in Toronto, with our Master Volume producer John Goodmanson from Seattle." Ross: "We are going to Saskatoon. We played there on Halloween two years ago and dressed up as each other, playing different instruments on Smells Like Teen Spirit!"
Reg Schwager: "I've had 16 or 17 different nominations. I'm here representing Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet ( nominated for Jazz Album of the Year: Group for Undertones). Al is a legend. He made the record with guys from all over the country, including myself. We recorded in Calgary, just hanging out and collaboratively coming up with the repertoire. I'd love to work with Al again, he's a beautiful spirit."
Miranda Mulholland (Traditional Roots Album of the Year- By Appointment Or Chance): "I have played on about 40 albums that have been nominated but this is a first for my own records. Feels great!"
Ernesto Cervini (Jazz Album of the Year: Group - Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop- Abundance) "You never know with these things. There is so much good music coming out of Canada. You just make your music and hope. Another of my groups, Myriad 3, was nominated once, and the last Turboprop album was nominated two year ago. Any time that happens it gives you immediate credibility to people who maybe haven’t heard of you before."
Cervini also runs a jazz publicity company, Orange Grove Publicity, and five of his clients earned noms this year.
Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine (Group of the Year): Elijah: "This is always kind of a surprise. Jamie and I are just very fortunate to be doing what we love. Jamie: "Absolutely we are going to the Junos. We're very excited as we've never been to Saskatoon before. We're hoping for a showcase out there. "
Jamie: "We have been writing for a few months and a new single is out on March 6. We’ll be making a big international push too."
Ottawa Bach Choir -( Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral) Lisette Canton: "I‘m the founder, artistic director and conductor of the Choir. We are now in our 18th season and this first nomination is just a dream come true. This is our seventh recording. I’m overwhelmed, I can't stop crying! "
"We have performed all over Canada, the US, Europe, and China. We are invited in June as the only Canadian ensemble to perform at a big Bach festival in Europe."
Sharon and Bram (Best Children's Album - Sharon, Bram & Friends): Sharon: "We don’t keep track of things like the number of Juno nominations and record sales, but these are good things to be part of. This is the first nomination just as Sharon and Bram, not Sharon, Lois and Bram. Friends like Colin Mochrie and Jim Cuddy guested."
"We toured last year pretty intensively and are rather taking a break now. My daughter Randi Hampson and I are doing some festivals together this summer. We have sung together all our lives."