Rachel Beck, originally from Montague and now living in Stratford, had almost forgotten about the ECMA nomination announcements last week when she was on her way home from an optometrist appointment. Her husband Brad rang her cell to share the big news. Her latest Album, Stronger Than You Know, was nominated for three awards: Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Pop Recording of the Year. “When he said Album of the Year, I was like ‘No, no, that’s not right you need to check again.’ I just straight up didn’t believe him,” she said. “It’s such an honour to be a part of that list, alongside so many artists I admire and respect.” After releasing her self-titled album in 2018, Ms Beck was nominated for two ECMAs: the Rising Star award and Pop Recording of the Year. Working with producer Daniel Ledwell to create Stronger Than You Know, she said she took what felt like major risks. “I really started as more of a folk singer-songwriter and this record is decidedly not folk,” she explained. Ms Beck arrived at Mr Ledwell’s recording studio in Halifax (pre-pandemic) with the frameworks of songs ready to go. From there, they molded the electronic-pop sounds that flow through the album. “I certainly dipped my toes into electronic sounds in my first solo album but in this album I really embraced that and just really went for it,” she said. “It was scary at the time but I’m so glad we did that.” To Ms Beck, being nominated feels comparable to having a jury of peers cheering her on in a marathon of a music career. “They are the high fives or words of encouragement that help you find that burst of energy for the next leg of the race. They’re not the reason you run, but it sure is nice to know you are on course and have people rooting for you. “Music and art is about collaboration, connection and expression.” She added impactful and quality music is very subjective and there are an abundance of artists out there beyond the nomination list worth listening to and deserving of support. “Brielle Ansems, Joce Reyome, Obembe,” Ms Beck listed as examples. Dylan Menzie who grew up in Belle River was nominated for two ECMAs this time around: Folk Song of the Year for his latest album’s title track Lost in Dreams and Solo Recording of the Year. “It’s a bunch of Juno Award winners and then me on that list, it’s really an honour to be nominated,” Mr Menzie said about the Solo Recording of the Year nomination. Of the five nominees for this award three have roots in PEI, Mr Menzie, Catherine MacLellan from Summerside who was nominated for four awards and Rose Cousins who is from PEI but has been based in Halifax for a number of years. Ms Cousins was nominated for six awards. Each has won Juno Awards as have the other two nominees in this category, David Myles of New Brunswick and Classified (Lucas Boyd) of Nova Scotia. Through the album Lost in Dreams, Mr Menzie experimented with more musically challenging content such as unusual time signatures and more complex arrangements than he has previously. He spent a snowy month living in an isolated location in rural Newfoundland working with a variety of musicians, many of whom played for or worked with Hey Rosetta! “I was there with all my favourite musicians from Newfoundland and I think that really came through in the quality of the music,” Mr Menzie said. In the over six minute-long track nominated for Folk Song of the Year, Mr Menzie is accompanied by a full string orchestra. The song leads into a two-minute finale of sweeping strings underlying fantastic, flowing piano riffs performed by Mr Menzie. The East Pointers, from the Souris area, were also nominated for two ECMAs this year: the Fan’s Choice award and the Artist Innovator of the Year (in light of COVID-19) award.
“It’s pretty special for sure to have that Fan’s Choice nomination,” Tim Chaisson said. When it comes to the Innovator of the Year award he expects the group’s online Annedemic series caught the jury’s attention. When plans to tour around Australia for shows and festivals were upended by the pandemic Koady Chaisson, who plays banjo for the group thought it was time dive into a book he’d always meant to read: Anne of Green Gables. “He had never read the book before,” said Mr Chaisson, who sings and plays fiddle and percussion for the group. “Donny our sound guy and his wife were there and she said ‘you guys should read it out loud online every night’. She kind of said it as a joke but then we were like, ‘oh my god, that’s actually a pretty good idea.’” The group went for it and brought other musician friends from Jenn Grant to Collin MacDonald with The Trews to join in offering live readings of the book for over a month. “One thing that hasn’t changed at all and might actually be getting stronger,” said Mr Chaisson introducing the project, “is the amazing community we are part of and the way we all care for one another.” Together the East Pointers and their guests read through all 38 chapters of the book and raised about $15,000. Funds were donated to charities like Unison Benevolent Fund, a non-profit that provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community. The ECMA presentations will be made May 5-9 in Sydney, Nova Scotia although some changes to the format may be necessary due to COVID-19.
Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic