Canadian Country Music Week powers up
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 04, 2013 03:16 pm
The 37th annual Canadian Country Music Week starts tomorrow, a four-day party where everyone in the country music industry gets glammed up and does as much networking as possible.
It’s a toast to country’s powerhouse singer-songwriters, musicians and industry movers and shakers. Borrowing from the three Fs, it’s fast, frenetic and fun.
Most of the goings-on are situated in downtown Edmonton at the Citadel Theatre and the Shaw Conference Centre blending a mix of fan and private industry events. However, country music’s biggest televised extravaganza, the CCMA Awards on Sunday night will take place at Rexall Place.
Since the event is hostless, organizers have programmed 19 acts including nominees Gord Bamford, Dean Brody, George Canyon, Emerson Drive and Dallas Smith.
Lacombe’s Bamford is in front of the pack with six nominations including Single of the Year (Leaning on a Lonesome Song), Album of the Year (Is It Friday Yet?) and Male Artist of the Year.
“Gord won big in 2010. It pushed him to the next level. It really turned his career around and you could see the momentum pick up,” says Jackie Rae Greening, chair of the host committee and CFCW manager and program director.
Close on Bamford’s heels is Dean Brody, a proud Nova Scotia resident, with a Fan Choice, Single of the Year (It’s Friday) and two songwriting nominations. He is another singer-songwriter whose star is rapidly ascending, notes Greening.
“Three or four years ago he was living in his wife’s parents’ garage, and after accepting an award, he now owns his own house,” she chuckles.
Greening should know. As part of the CFCW Radio team for 24 years, the St. Albert resident commutes to her West Edmonton Mall offices every day mixing a series of on-air and behind the scenes duties.
It’s not an exaggeration to say Greening is one of the busiest people in the region and a major player largely responsible for bringing Country Music Week to Edmonton for both 2013 and 2014. It is unprecedented for a city to host the event for two consecutive years.
“I love the people I meet through volunteering, but I also want to live in a great city, a vibrant city with things that are happening,” she explains.
But there’s more to a pulsating city than just excitement.
“It tends to have a trickle down effect, not only economically but psychologically. It’s positive for business and for people. I don’t want a dead city. I want it to be vibrant.”
Since her graduation from Paul Kane High in 1979, she’s kept up an energetic pace that leaves others in the dust. In 2003, after a severe drought that caused feed shortages for farmers, she organized the Say Hay concerts in Edmonton and Calgary, two huge benefit concerts that pulled together 28 well-known Canadian acts. About $1.5 million was raised for farmers and CCMA presented Greening with a humanitarian award.
A curling fiend since 1961, Greening really honed her administrative chops as chair of the 2005 Brier and the Ford World Cup Curling Championships (2007).
As CCMA chair from 2008 to 2010, Greening presided over the 2010 Canadian Country Music Week held in Edmonton and was instrumental in lobbying for its return to the city.
“I knew their goal was to stay in a city for two to three years. It gave me time to get organized and get my ducks in a row. I went to Mandel and he said, ‘If you can get the province on board, we’re in.”
She sweet-talked the province, found sponsors and was successful in submitting a proposal and the required $1 million dollar CCMA bid fee for two years.
Fast forward to 2013 and Greening is pumped. With some of the glitziest names in showbiz touching down – Terri Clark and Johnny Reid and numerous sold-out shows, it’s quite possible to reach a record attendance near 20,000.
As delegates continue to debate country music through a songwriter’s café, industry awards, seminars and round table discussions, fans can share in the hoopla at a tribute concert, a country cabaret and a free, five-hour Jiffy Lube FanFest at the Shaw Conference Centre on Saturday.
For Greening, one of most exciting events is the inaugural CCMA Discovery Showcase. Throughout the summer six emerging singers were groomed and taken through the process of morphing into polished professionals.
As one of Thursday night’s opening events, Tim Chiasson (P.E.I.), Jack Connolly (B.C.), Wes Mack (Alberta), MacKenzie Porter (Alberta), Blake Reid (Alberta) and The Reklaws (Ontario) compete for the showcase’s coveted prizes.
“This is a great opportunity for them. You never know who is going to be in the room.”
And for fans unable to attend, the CBC-televised Green Carpet and award ceremony on Sunday night is a way to join the party.
Three of our own local musicians are finalists for the All Star Band Awards Unfortunately, it’s a closed industry event held on Saturday night and will not be aired.
Two are from Morinville. They are Chad Melchert, recipient of last year’s all-star award, and four-time nominee bass player Travis Switzer. Melchert was nominated for his drumming on Bamford’s new as of yet unreleased album and his exemplary session work on multiple albums.
On the other hand, Switzer was given the nod for his support to Jason Blaine and Derrick Ruttan.
Also in the running is former St. Albert drummer Matthew Atkins, a three-time winner of the all-star award. Although Atkins now lives in Mexico teaching scuba diving, he flies north for concerts and recording sessions and worked closely with Blaine and Ruttan this year.
Lastly, former St. Albert resident Ron Harwood representing Universal Music Canada, is also nominated as record company person of the year.
In chatting about the nominations, Melchert states, “It’s nice and hip to be considered. It’s nice to know what your peers think of you.”
Switzer, who chuckles about “always being a bridesmaid and never the bride” also has a realistic approach to the nominations. He realizes that sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw.
“I don’t get too excited about the awards. I appreciate the employment. It’s nice to be nominated, but it doesn’t hinge on what I do next.”
One of the ironies for backup musicians is that while the stars are front and centre at events schmoozing with fans, the players work a non-stop round of gigs.
While songwriters get a residual each time their songs are played, musicians are usually paid a flat fee and are constantly hustling for work. The CCMAs are as much an opportunity to earn a living as receive an accolade.
As Melchert says, “I judge my success by the how often the phone rings. If it stops singing I get worried. It’s like any business. You have to hustle and network. And when you’re hired to do a job, do a great job. Whether it’s a small stage or a big one, they all deserve the best effort. Take care of music and it will take care of you.”
Greening gets the last word.
“Come and experience it. What other genre of music can you come and listen to the music, meet the stars and get autographs. Country artists are very down to earth. They want to meet the fans. They recognize that if it wasn’t for the fans, they wouldn’t be where they are.”
Canadian Country Music Week runs September 5 through 8. Check your TV listings for CBC’s televised broadcast of the award ceremony. A complete list of events is available at www.ccma.org.