Danny Fournier is all a-twitter as he counts down the minutes for the 2013 Edmonton Music Awards held tomorrow at the Royal Alberta Museum.
Now in its third incarnation, the newbie festival is the brainchild of Fournier, CEO and founder of Oddball Productions, a strategic music-consulting firm that helps artists reach the next level.
“We’re pretty excited. We’ve learned a lot from the past two years. People have shown their passion and given us feedback – both good and bad – and this year we’ve worked towards something exceptional,” said Fournier.
A bass player, the Saskatchewan native studied marketing and sociology at the University of Saskatchewan before moving to Edmonton.
“It always struck me there was a big musical community in Edmonton. But there were many small niche circles, the jazz niche, the country niche and so on. What needs to happen is niches need to work together.”
Musicians and songwriters from the west have traditionally had a tough time breaking through the industry’s glass ceiling. Determined to give local artists of every ilk more exposure, Fournier created the festival.
Each year the festival has grown bigger, adding more stellar names. This year is no exception.
The most nationally prominent nominee is country singer-songwriter Corb Lund competing in three categories. Cabin Fever is cited as Album of the Year, Country Recording of the Year and Roots/Folk Recording of the Year.
Some of the other equally talented nominees include rap and hip hop artist Mitchmatic, roots/folk artists Owl By Nature and pop artist Jay Sparrow.
Unless there’s a last minute switch, the effervescent Bridget Ryan, CityTV’s Breakfast Television’s roving reporter, will host the musical extravaganza.
Organizers have programmed a mixed bag of entertainment from R & B singer Nuela Charles and country singer Lund to the comedic opera duo El Duo as well as the roots voices of the Command Sisters.
St. Albert drummer Greg Williamson, of nationally acclaimed Tupelo Honey, is also performing with metal band KingDoom, and vocalist Travis Nesbitt, formerly of Social Code, introduces his new rock/electronica project SIIINES.
The festival also announced its inaugural Edmonton Music Legacy Award as a way to acknowledge and celebrate diversity within the music community. The Irish-born Terry Wickham, director of the Edmonton Folk Festival, is the first recipient.
“Terry has such a strong community focus. The fact that he’s built the festival and it’s recognized as a world event. The fact he gives free tickets to kids and seniors, and the fact that he gives so much to the city is wonderful.”
St. Albert has a reputation for nurturing artists and many nominees have a local connection. Holden Daniels, a former resident now based in Sherwood Park, created the duo My Sister Ocean back in 2005. Daniels met his partner in crime, Eugenio Pacileo, as music students at Grant MacEwan College back in 1995.
“We’ve played the rhythm section for more than a few bands in the past 17 years,” says Daniels, a corporate videographer by trade.
My Sister Ocean has been singled out for four awards: Group of the Year, Rap/Hip Hop Recording of the Year, Music Video of the Year and Rock Recording of the Year.
The duo has solidified its rock reputation with albums such as Function Control Option Command, and a clever marketing tactic that helped several singles crack the Top 100 on the Canadian Alternative Rock Charts.
“In 2012 we released one single each month,” explains Daniels. “Two weeks after we sent Am I Wasting My Life to radio stations, it cracked No. 50 on the charts.”
And last year, they brought in hip-hop artists DannyMac and Chips, and taped three hip-hop tracks. On Top of the World is nominated for Rap/Hip Hop Recording in addition to receiving a nod for Music Video of the Year.
“Holden continually challenges himself as a musician. My Sister Ocean is very creative. They are always looking for a way to keep their name in the public’s eye and in the industry’s eye,” Fournier added.
Another band that is upping the ante is SIIINES, a phoenix resurrected from the ashes of Social Code. Less than two years in the making, SIIINES is nominated for its single Diskosno and is also tapped for People’s Choice.
After SoCo played its last gig at Indonesia’s Java Rockin’ Land in October 2010, vocalist Travis Nesbitt and guitarist Morgan Geis jumped into a hatchback and drove to Los Angeles with no plan in mind.
“We were just going to stay there until the money ran out,” Nesbitt said.
They stayed two months writing songs, forming the genesis of their next project and inviting model/DJ Gina Georgia to complete their trio. The result is a mashup of rock and DJ electronica.
“The days with Social Code were great, but we wanted to do something different.”
And different it is. They’ve built their own stage amps using a clear Plexi-glass box. And the light show is a state of the art visual explosion as computers on stage synchronize lights with music.
“It’s a full assault on your senses. We wanted to be as creative as possible.”
But because this party band is such a new and different hybrid, it’s caused confusion among fans.
“We haven’t found our audience yet. People don’t know what to make of it. But at the moment we’re mainly concerned with making music we like.”
2003 St. Albert High School graduate Lindsey Nagy, who went off to Grant MacEwan College to study vocal performance and songwriting, is celebrated in the R&B/Soul Recording category for Proud, a 13-track album she released in 2012.
A jazz mainstay at the Red Piano, Nagy spent two years with the very versatile Jesse Peters writing songs and recording.
“I wanted it to be very empowering and uplifting. A lot of songs are girl anthems. I wanted to make music that people feel good about.”
As a woman battling for her place in the music industry, she’s discovered that men and women often receive different treatment.
“Women have come quite far, but it’s still not a level playing field,” Nagy stated.
But music is definitely a major focus, and she follows the philosophy of Dasha Goody, founder of Edmonton Musical Theatre.
“She said ‘chase your passion, not your pension.’ And that always stuck with me.”
Two other indie contenders following their dreams that will duke it out in the Metal Recording of the Year category are KingDoom and Keep 6.
Keep 6 is nominated for Just a Matter of Time, an 11-track that former St. Albert resident Matt Wispinski says traces the fivesome’s footsteps.
“We’re trying to streamline towards radio friendly music, catchy lyrics and good grooves – something that sticks in your head,” said Wispinski describing the band’s third album.
Two other nominees with St. Albert connections are Danielle Lowe, 17, listed in three categories – Female Artist of the Year, Underage Recording of the Year and Country Recording of the Year for her romantic single Patient.
Dueling with Lowe in the Underage category is Rebecca Lappa, 15, who is acknowledged for Unicorn.
Although an Edmonton resident, Lowe has competed in Futures Fest and sung for the Tim Hortons Brier, the Rainmaker Rodeo and St. Albert Rotary Club. And Lappa, also based in Edmonton, attends Visionary College and won St. Albert Idol and Futures Fest.
Doors for the awards ceremony open at 6 p.m. and show starts at 7:30 p.m. Royal Alberta Museum is located at 12845 – 102 Ave.