Edmonton-based Mohawk pop singer/songwriter Shawnee has won CBC Music’s Searchlight 2020 competition. The news was announced on the CBC show, q with Tom Power. With more than a thousand original songs submitted from applicants across Canada, the winner was decided through a combination of public votes and an industry panel.
Shawnee is a two-spirit, Mohawk artist who advocates for Indigenous youth, mental health and the LGBTQ2+ community, using her music to empower and inspire others. Born and raised in Welland, ON and currently residing in Edmonton, she took this year’s Searchlight title with her submission Building a Wall.
Upon hearing news of her win, Shawnee told CBC Music, “I am completely overjoyed and excited. Making the Top 10 to me was an opportunity I was grateful for, and I never expected to be chosen as the winner. I feel overwhelmed with pride thinking back on my journey and feel gratitude for the support. I can't wait to celebrate, starting at the CBC Music Festival in May and to take these opportunities to continue growing as an artist.”
Shawnee is the first Indigenous artist to win Searchlight. Prior to entering, she was already gaining notice as a rising star having been named one of the “11 non-binary musicians you need to know” by Billboard. She has shared the stage with Lady Gaga and Tegan & Sara and performed at NYC World Pride (2019) and Canada Day in Ottawa (2019). In 2017, Shawnee donated the proceeds from her single Warrior Heart to We Matter, a charity in support of at-risk Indigenous youth.
As part of the Searchlight grand prize, Shawnee will take part in Canada’s premiere artist development program: the Allan Slaight Juno Master Class. This includes a performance spot at the 2020 Juno Master Class music industry showcase in Toronto, a five-day industry mentorship week, and a trip to the 50th anniversary of the Juno Awards in Toronto where she will perform at Junofest.
“We are honoured to have Shawnee join the Allan Slaight Juno Master Class as this year’s Searchlight winner,” said Allan Reid, President and CEO, CARAS, The Juno Awards and MusiCounts. “Shawnee is a refreshing and undeniable talent and we’re elated to welcome her into the program.”
Shawnee has also earned a five-day residency at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, with access to recording studios, professionals, and a historic instrument collection that spans more than 450 years of technology and innovation, in addition to a performance slot at this year’s CBC Music Festival at Echo Beach in Toronto.