Canadian Country Music Week launched with SiriusXM’s nail-biting Top of the Country competition where St. Albert’s Hailey Benedict claimed the coveted title and $25,000 prize.
“It was so overwhelming. I was going through a bunch of emotions, but I was very grateful for the opportunity. The entire program was wonderful, and I met so many people that were so supportive,” said Benedict who is currently in Nashville writing new songs.
The Canadian Country Music Association hosted the epic ending of the Top of Country Competition finale on Thursday, Sept.14 at The Music Hall in Hamilton, Ontario. This fan event was the official kick-off to Country Music Week.
Although Benedict looked confident and poised during her performance, she suffered an attack of the jitters.
“I always get nervous no matter where I perform, but so many of my fans showed up. I just gave it 100 per cent. The band and I did it and I was trying to soak in the moment. It’s taken a lot of work to get to this place and I wanted to soak it in,” she said.
Benedict’s band, which was singled out on her Facebook page, included Brad Durand (drums), Brennan Wall (guitar), Lisa Jacobs (bass) and Mitch Jay (fiddle-banjo).
“We’re incredibly proud of the impressive talent showcased in this year’s competition and want to congratulate Hailey for this achievement, which is sure to accelerate Hailey’s rise to stardom,” said Michelle Mearns, SiriusXM Canada’s vice-president of programming and operations, in a media release.
The competition finale was the culmination of months of hard work starting with singer-songwriters applying to the competition for a chance to be heard. Through a public vote, numbers were whittled down to three finalists — Benedict, Noah Derksen and Teigen Gayse.
The top three were given exclusive mentorship opportunities that included recording a single, several workshops, showcases in Nashville and performance slots at major Canadian events such as Montreal’s Lasso Festival.
The award-winning Benedict, who is already the 2022 CCMA Interactive Artist of the Year, sang her original material: Wanted You, Damm You July and Never Giving It Back, a new single. She acknowledges winning the competition was a life-changing moment.
“It’s been monumental in moving my career forward. It’s a launching pad that presents a lot of opportunities,” she said.
Despite the competitive nature within the music industry, Benedict was inundated with well-wishes.
“The social media response was so overwhelming, and I appreciate every person who reached out and offered support. I’m grateful for the ongoing support. Keep a lookout for next year’s finals and check out Teigan and Noah.”
As for the $25,000, Benedict is excited to put the money into recording her first EP.