A Bit Of Wanderlust

Hi Everyone.

I hope that this new year has been treating everyone well. This year has been a bit of a rough start for us. Besides things going on in the family, the weather has been wreaking havoc with my trigeminal neuralgia. The nausea and the pain have been at it’s worst levels ever, but I am constantly trying to persevere. I am changing a couple of things (NOT resolutions, just adjustments) so we will see if they will help.

I don’t know if any of you know this, but I write another blog called “Struggles Of A Fat Girl”. I recently posted a pretty controversial and touchy-feely piece over there. It’s been ages since I posted there but it was something I didn’t want to say here. We keep it light and fun here. But if you are interested, the link is https://suzeq64.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/well-hi/

Some REALLY cool country music news though is that Canadian country music super star Dean Brody soared to the top of the Nielsen BDS Canadian Country Airplay Charts with “8th Day”, making this his third song that has hit #1. Deservedly so. This is a great song. Congratulations Dean!

Let’s move on to some other really cool stuff!
Country Music Juno Award Nominees

With this year’s Juno Awards set to air from Vancouver, a brand new list of nominees has been issued! Our country music family did amazingly well this year! Going through the ENTIRE list, I took a moment to see where some of our friends showed up.

Johnny Reid is up for Album of the year for his latest album Revival as is Shania Twain for comeback album Now. Shania is also nominated for Artist of the Year.

Representing country music for Breakthrough Group of the Year is James Barker Band. I am so happy to see this! These are talented guys, they are great live and most important – they are nice guys. My fingers are crossed for them.

For Country Album of the Year, the list is as follows:

Beautiful Freakshow – Dean Brody

Dear Life – High Valley

Game On – James Barker Band

Past the Past – Jess Moskaluke

Shake These Walls – Tim Hicks

I am going to predict Beautiful Freakshow to win this category. It is not that I don’t love the other albums, because I do (Game On and Shake These Walls are on high rotation for me). Based on the response I have seen to Dean’s album, the reviews I have read, the buzz I have heard, I think this will be the winner. I guess we will see.

Tune in on March 24, 2018, 6:00 PM PDT to see who takes home the Juno in these categories. Best of luck to everyone!
Ole TV

The last time I checked, CMT stood for Country Music Television. However, there is no longer ANY country music to be found. Sadly, this change in format also included them axing The Chevy Top 20 Countdown with Paul McGuire.

Music publishing giant Ole have recently taken Paul on to produce and host content for OleTV, the company’s Multi-Channel Network (MCN). This includes a…you guessed it, countdown! I am sorry, but, how can you take away a music countdown on what is supposed to be a channel with music? So thank you, Ole, for giving us a countdown.

If you haven’t caught any of Paul’s work on the new channel yet, or if you haven’t seen it at all, here is a link:


Trust me, there is a lot to take a look at, especially if you are missing the Top 20! It is really nice to see Paul back and doing what he does best!



This playlist is based on Paul McGuire’s first Top 20 on OleTV


She’s A Wild-eyed Wanderer

She was 8 years-old, singing and dancing away at a Shania Twain concert. She said to her mom, “That’s me! That’s what I want to do!” Her mother sighed, “Oh dear…” Alessia Cohle knew at that moment that she wanted to be a performer. Coming from a music oriented family, “it was bound to happen sooner or later.”


So what was it about Shania that made the 8 year-old Alessia decide that this would be her career path? “I think it was the energy that I was feeling from her, like the energy she was giving to the audience and she’s just such a force to be reckoned with and she’s so amazing and her vocals are outstanding so it was just everything combined.”

Alessia is starting to build up some cred herself. Last year, she joined Brett Kissel on his Ice, Snow and 30 Below Tour. I asked her what the experience was like for her. “So Incredible. I still don’t believe it actually happened.” Right from the moment she got the news it was a whirlwind, “It was such a a surreal moment getting the phone call,” which she received while out with her management team for a Christmas party. We talked a little bit about the evening of the performance as well. “He [Brett] is so nice! He really is and I’m sure people say that all the time and he gets that all the time. But he really was so sweet.” She opened that evening with Ontario artist Ben Hudson. From hanging out and chatting with them to personalized notes, as expected, Brett was a class act. “It was just so surreal and the response I got from the audience too because, you know, some of them don’t really know who I am. And they were even coming up afterwards saying, ‘We thoroughly enjoyed your performance,” and it just felt so good. It was like ‘Alright, this is where I’m supposed to be.'”

What got her to this pivotal point in her career? Because It doesn’t stop here. She has opened up for River Town Saints, The Washboard Union, The Road Hammers and many others. She has performed on festival stages such as Lucknow’s Music In The Fields, Havelock Country Jamboree, Manitoulin Country Fest, and Cider Fest alongside Lee Brice, Madeline Merlo and Small Town Pistols. Alessia has also had the opportunity to be a part of the house-band at CCMA Music Week 2016 & 2017 performing with artists such as Meghan Patrick, Jason Blaine, Tim Hicks and the list goes on and on. It seems like this girl is unstoppable!


Songs like “Wanderlust” on Alessia’s latest EP Wild-eyed Wanderer are the reason Alessia is having the success that she is. This song is wonderful and light-hearted and really instills that wanderlust feeling. It makes sense though, as Alessia is quite the traveler herself. The video for “Wanderlust” is beautiful, and the home video footage from Italy and Spain happens to be hers. I asked her if there was any place she hadn’t been yet that she would really like to go and why. “Bali.” She said immediately. “Bali is at the top of the list.” I laughed and said that she answered that pretty quick and I was curious as to why the fascination with Bali. “‘Eat, Pray, Love. I love the Movie. And the Book. I love the book. I felt such a kinship with that story.” Besides the deep connection she already felt, she had some friends who had gone. So long with their pictures and stories, Bali stays as a top location. She then added, “Cost Rica and Nicaragua are also high on the list.” That was a pretty far jump from Bali! “I have a friend who did some backpacking down there. All he did was stay at some hostels and he said it was one of his favourite trips ever.”

The rest of the EP is just as great as this song and I highly recommend you check it out. The one thing you won’t find. A boy song! “It was very much an internal story for myself.”

Absolutely correct. There is no “boy” song on this album. Alessia’s sweet and melodic voice carries us through a bit of a journey through who she is with this album. Please note…it is NOT a whiny, sad millennial album. It is upbeat and positive. I mean, she DOES slow it down once or twice. However, it doesn’t feel like one long sad song like some of these types of albums can be. Mind you, after speaking to Alessia, this doesn’t surprise me at all. She is charming and upbeat and positive. She has a zest for life and it definitely shows that this is who she is in this album. It is great. Go get it.

So, where did this beautiful songtress catch her travel bug? She was completing her Masters at Berkeley in Spain. She was 22 years-old, studying in an environment where there were students representing 24 countries. It was very eye-opening. “It really inspired me to want to travel and see as much of the world as possible and experience all these new cultures and it really allowed me to take a look inside at myself and be like, ‘Well, what do I want out of life? And what do I need out of life?’ This album is very much about me, it really is my story. Each song has my truth in it.”

Travel is her second love to music of course. Luckily she has been able to combine the two, travelling to Nashville and Austin on writing trips. Yes. I said Austin. I was SO excited to hear this. We were both giddy to talk about it! It seems like Austin is this untapped wealth of amazing music. Why more people don’t go there, I have no idea. I asked her what she thought of the city, “The city was so cool!” We both got really excited. She continued, “Even though it’s not as saturated with musicians as Nashville, it’s still such a musical city and its more about their live music than anything which is really cool.” If you have never been to Austin, Texas, you DEFINITELY need to go. It is one of my favourite cities. The music scene is amazing and don’t even get me started on “Dirty Six”. Alessia continued, “I got hooked up with some songwriters over there and I’m like, I’m gonna bite the bullet and just go.” So she went. She stayed on a buddies couch and head on down to the city known for “staying weird”. She said the experience was very different than writing in Nashville, not that writing there doesn’t have its merits, obviously. Alessia said of her Austin writing experience, “It was a little bit more raw. It was a little dirtier than trying to write more commercially. It was more like, ‘Ok, well, what do you want to say?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I have a lotta things that I want to say!’ So it was really interesting. It was a really fun experience.

It was time to wrap things up with Alessia. So I wanted to ask her one last fun question. After all of this talk about travel, what were the Top Three Things She Couldn’t Travel Without:

  1. Phone/Camera: “For me my phone IS my camera. I don’t necessarily need Wifi or service. I just need the camera.”
  2. Dry shampoo/Baby Wipes: We revised our list to include these together for general “cleanliness”. Tip from Alessia; baby wipes are the way to go. “I don’t always need to have the 4 star resort experience.” And apparently THESE are the ticket. Great for wiping down after a long day of hiking.
  3. Notebook and pen/pencil: “You never know when an idea is going to hit you.” That’s right. And your phone may be dead. Or maybe you might feel like going analogue for a change. It’s pretty freeing. I write almost everything first. THAT is my first draft.

Alessia is so very talented and a delight to talk to. We joked about running in to one another at a monastery in Bali sometime. You know, that wouldn’t be bad at all. Maybe we can start with somewhere a little closer first? Hamilton perhaps?

Please make sure to follow her on ALL of her socials:

WEBSITE: https://www.alessiacohle.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/alessiacohlemusic/

TWITTER: @alessiacmusic

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/alessiacohlemusic/?hl=en

This video is stunning. Please take a moment to check it out. Here is “Wanderlust” by Alessia Cohle:



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It Was A Very Good Year

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas! Not gonna lie, I’m a bit of a humbug. I don’t HATE Christmas or anything. It just makes me nostalgic and leaves me feeling a bit sad usually. So I try to focus on the fun stuff like parties and things like that. With my niece Presley here, that changed a lot. She really brought back my Christmas spirit. I know she is too young to get the whole thing yet, but watching her with the lights and different textures was fun.


This time of year usually brings The Voice. And, as always, I was right in there like a dirty shirt (as you saw in my previous post)! I made another big move on social media and apparently a few people saw it:


The thought that this many people have seen this blows my mind! It goes to show you how strong social media can really be. I enjoy being involved! It makes me feel like a part of the action. When I tweeted #Voicesavered, my phone went crazy with retweets trying to save our beloved Red Marlow. Incidentally….my top 3 predictions were Chloe Kohanski, Brooke Simpson and Red. Chloe triumphed as winner of season 13 of The Voice and with good reason. She is AMAZINGLY talented. I was glad to see a woman bring back some kick-ass female rockers.

Let’s move on to some country!

2017 in Review

This year brought with it some great music and some great Canadian country music highlights:

  • Dean Brody’s Time was Canadian Country Song of the Year. His album “Beautiful Freakshow” earned gold status and he earned 3 CCMA Awards: Fan’s Choice Award, Songwriter of the Year and the award for Top-Selling Single of the Year for Bush Party.


  • The Road Hammers  released “The Squeeze” and had 2 singles come off the album so far; one reaching top thirty and the other reaching top ten.  They also won Group of the Year at this year’s CCMA Awards.
  • Jason Blaine made a move over to Wax Records and released “Boy With a Guitar”. His first single, Born To Love,  is currently in the Top 50 country music charts.
  • Dallas Smith had an incredible year with the release of his “Side Effects” album and his successful Side Effects Tour. He was also the recipient of 3 CCMA Awards this year: Album of the Year for “Side Effects”, Single of the Year for Autograph and Top Selling Canadian Album of the Year” for “Side Effects”.


  • Newcomer Andrew Hyatt joined Wax Records and released his debut full-length album, “Iron & Ashes”. His single On Me has hit the country music top ten charts. He also joined Dallas Smith on his Side Effects Tour this fall.
  • My buddy Jason Kirkness released his album “A Beautiful Disaster” this year. His first single Whiskey Kiss was well received and it was enough to take him to the Boots & Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase.
  • Meghan Patrick had a great year with 5 CCMA Nominations and taking home 2: CCMA Rising Star of the Year and Female Artist of the Year. In preparation for the release of her new album of the same name, her single Country Music Made Me Do It released this fall and is burning up the charts.


This is just a few. I could go on for days! There are a few people who are also on the rise and you should keep an eye out for in 2018:

  • Madeline Merlo: Her summer hit Motel Flamingo took her to country radio top 10. She also performed it at the CCMA Awards where she was nominated for Female Artist of the Year. Madeline recently made the move to Nashville and has been hard at work so I’m sure we can expect plenty of exciting work in the future.
  • Hunter Brothers: I cannot say enough wonderful things about these guys. Their single Born and Raised has made top 20 on the country radio charts and is now being played cross-country. They were nominated for CCMA Interactive Artist of the Year and performed with Paul Brandt at the Legends Concert during CCMA Week. If you haven’t heard much about them, you soon will.
  • Jessica Mitchell: After releasing Working on Whisky, she released 2 back to back singles this year. She has been on tour most of the summer, performed Heart of Glass at the CCMA Awards Gala and performed for Neil Young at his induction to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. I follow this girl’s socials and, and let me tell ya, she’s been busy! I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for us from her!

Top 10 Country Songs of 2017 

List Compiled By Nielsen Music Canada

  1. James Barker Band – “Chills”
  2. Dean Brody- “Time”
  3. Dallas Smith – “Side Effects”
  4. High Valley – “I Be U Be”
  5. Dallas Smith – “Sky Stays This Blue”
  6. Tim Hicks – “Slide Over”
  7. Tim Hicks – “Slow Burn”
  8. James Barker Band – “Just Sayin'”
  9. Aaron Goodvin – “Lonely Drum”
  10. The Road Hammers – “Crazy About You”



I am not even going to lie to you. I had to apologize for fan-girling a bit with this call. Jessica Mitchell is by far one of the most talented and heart-felt songwriters in Canada at the moment. She is honest. She isn’t afraid to take a song to a place where it may hurt to hear it. Hearing her work is moving.


The release of her single Workin’ on Whiskey and the 2016 CMAO Awards were really pivotal for her, “They really kicked off this spiral of really amazing moments.” This year, she received 4 nominations at the CMAO Awards and momentum keeps building.

We spoke a little about Workin on Whiskey. There are few songs that affect me emotionally enough that I feel like I need to stop driving if I’m behind the wheel; Make You Feel My Love by Garth Brooks, Don’t Take the Girl by Tim McGraw, Either Way by Chris Stapleton and this song. Every part of it touches me. “I appreciate the response I got to that song and people connected with it which is great because I connect with it equally as much.” Jessica added, “It takes me to a different place and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

In May of this year, Jessica released 2 back-to-back singles. Jessica had great success with both of them. Don’t Love Me is this sad but beautiful break-up song. It carries a tone of ‘don’t ask me to come back because it would be hard to say no’. I asked her to tell me a little bit about that song. “We decided to let the song speak for itself and I love the different interpretations I’ve been getting from people as to what it means to them.”

The other single is this dreamy, ethereal piece called Tear it down. An extremely relateable song, “it’s mostly about taking the power back in your life when you’ve been stuck in a situation that’s just not good for you.” The song is meant to be empowering and Jessica admits, “Every time I sing it, I feel very empowered.” The title itself is a great explanation of the song, “Sometimes you need to tear down all the walls and start from scratch.”

This brought up an interesting question. I asked her if she ever thought of starting from scratch, meaning, giving this up. She burst out laughing. “Oh My God Yes! Many Times! Recently! There’s a point where it all comes to a head and you think ‘Ok. This is it for me.’ And its very relative to what’s going on in my life.”   jessicamitchell-01192552326.jpg

I for one am so glad she decides to keep striving through those tough times. All of that hard work has proven to be successful for her. I asked her how she is taking all of this in. She laughed again, “I don’t know! I’m just taking it in stride.” Everything has snowballed I’m the last year and a half for her so she points out, “I relax when I can and work when I’m supposed to work.” Jessica is quick to share her accolades, “Regardless of what happens, I’m really proud of myself and my team and the people who have worked equally hard to make this happen.”

This year, Jessica went on the road, opening for Ron Sexsmith. She drove out west and back by herself. “That was an extremely eye-opening and soul-searching experience for me and I don’t even know how else to describe it.” I asked if we could expect some songs from her adventure. She replied, “I got tons of things to write about, that’s for sure!” We certainly can’t wait to hear them.

When people have hectic schedules like this, I always find it interesting to find out what they do in their down time. Jessica jokes, “You know, my life is very boring. I love going to live shows. I go to a lot of live shows here in Toronto.” Jessica is currently splitting her time between Nashville and Toronto. When she is actually home, she spends quite a bit of time there, just hanging out on her patio (in the summer of course) and spends a lot of time reflecting. “I feel like in this business its really important to take time for yourself because you’re almost never alone but you still feel kind of lonely.”

Although she tries to use some of that time to reflect, Jessica admits fully, “I am a Netflix bingeing nightmare.” I had to laugh at this knowing Frank and I are suckers for this too. Much to my surprise, we binge on similar treats, “I’m such a nerd. I love fantasy and superhero movies and stuff so I go to see as many of those as I can.” Something else you may not know is, “I have a crazy eclectic taste in music, like ambient and strange.”

I knew in had to wrap things up but there was a question I really wanted to ask Jessica. All of this deep and thoughtful writing had to come from some place. Some….where. so I asked her if she could speak to her 12 year-old self, what would she say. She was kind of taken aback by the question yet knew exactly how to answer, “Slow down. Be a kid. Make good decisions and be there for your family, probably. I had a very troublesome teenage experience and it wasn’t fun for me. But my 12 year-old self would be exactly the person that I would want to say those things to because it was the beginning of a very long and treacherous teenagehood.”

Despite these hardships, Jessica is coming out on top. She is growing and evolving as an artist and more. ” I feel like just as a person in the last 18 months I’ve grown so much and I’m the better for it. I really am. That wouldn’t be possible without the people in my life. I’m very lucky, man. Very lucky.”

What else can I say about her besides if you aren’t listening to her, you are crazy! You should be following her on all of her socials because she loves to post music every now and then:

Just so you can become more familiar with this incredible woman, here is Workin’ On Whiskey by Jessica Mitchell:


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Checking In

Hi Everybody.

I know that we are nearing the end of November. I also know I haven’t posted in a while. The last few weeks have been challenging due to trigeminal flare-ups, our truck dying (yes, we share one vehicle) and Frank’s father having major surgery. It seems as though everything happened all at once. 

When my life gets overwhelming, my disorder pretty much takes the wheel; It renders me almost useless. My brain triggers fast in a constant effort to reset itself. Concentration becomes challenging. The nausea wakes me from a dead sleep at 4:30 in the morning, forcing me out in to the cold for some medical cannabis because I live in a non-smoking building, even on the balconies, and I adhere to their little rules. I sleep in because I come back to bed for a few hours. Some days I spend the day in bed or on the couch. Most days I go to my friend Mia’s place because I can use indoors there. 

This is my life. All winter. I try to stay positive. I try to keep my blog and Facebook posts up beat and I try to be expedient. But it is really hard for me to get stuff done when all of this is happening. I try to show the good stuff. Because trust me, you DO NOT want to see me at 4:30. Not. Hot. I will try to bring you the amazing stuff I have as quickly as I can. Thanks for hanging in. I have some really great stuff I’m working on.

Social media is easy to maintain. Why? It’s a few hundred characters. It’s a share or a retweet. Sometimes a sarcastic comment. Putting 2000 words together takes more effort than I have some days. My social media efforts paid off this week though. One of my tweets showed up on The Voice:

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of the show.  Chloe Kohanski and Red Marlow are both on Team Blake and I am a huge fan of them both. But last night, Chloe stole the show with her performance of “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”. I mean…WOW. I’m going to watch the lives, but I think after tonight I’ll be able to make a top 3 prediction. 

Thanks again for hanging in guys. I’ll have something new up soon!

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CCMA Awards Show And Green Carpet 

I would love to say I have a bunch of great photos of the show for you. But  the fact of the matter is, I don’t. My phone, well, it was dead. I used an entire charged battery plus a charger on the Green Carpet. That was an experience in it’s own right. The roar of the crowd when people arrive is crazy! You know someone is there before even seeing them. They are brought over along a line where they can meet fans and talk to press. It’s VERY VERY busy. I was at the photograph scrim. The photos I do have in this article are all from there. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them.



James Barker Band


Aaron Goodvin




Dean Brody and Shevy Price


Madeline Merlo


Alan Doyle


JJ Shiplett


Eric Paslay


The Lovelocks


Cold Creek County


Aaron Pritchett


The Road Hammers


Lindsay Ell


Tim Hicks


Brett Kissel


Chad Brownlee


Dan Davidson


Brett Young


Hunter Brothers


Gord Bamford


Gord Bamford and Jim Cuddy


Jim Cuddy


Shae Dupuy


Chris Buck Band




Dallas Smith


High Valley


Meghan Patrick


Wes Mack

To be be honest, I am glad my phone was dead because for the first time in a very long time, I got to be in the moment and not live the experience through my lense.

The Award show was a production like no other. It was grand on every scale. The stage looked slick. The sound was perfection. The air was electric as artists and fans alike came together to celebrate the biggest night in Canadian Country Music.  My seat was phenomenal (10 rows up from the side stage). And there he was. I could see Blake sitting on the floor from where I was. It was a little surreal. That was the only time I really felt star-struck the whole weekend! Ok. There was maybe one other time, but I will never say when and with whom!

All of the performances were executed with precision and were phenomenal but there were three that really stood out to me. The first one was “Shine” by The Washboard Union. It was absolutely magical. I felt like I was sitting in a snow globe and seeing them all dressed in white just added to the fairytale-like feeling. Second, “Sky Stays This Blue” by Dallas Smith. Yeah. I know. I have a Dallas Smith thing happening right now. But if you saw this performance, you would understand why! He is absolutely riveting to watch because he is so completely passionate about his work. I met him after the show that night and he is also a fantastic guy. Third, “We Were That Song” by Brett Kissel. Alright, if this performance did not blow your socks off, you can’t be a country music fan. There is a reason that Brett Kissel is currently one of the men to beat in this genre and that…that said it all! His command of the stage and his love for his fans and the audience (which is obviously reciprocated) make him electric! It. Was. Wow.

After the show, I attended the Saloon Jam being hosted by Ole. It is a pretty difficult ticket to get, but thanks to some family, Linda and I were able to go. The only photos allowed were by their photographer. It is a very private event, so they ask for people to take no photos or video. Sorry gang. I will say this, it was one hell of a party!


It’s a month later now and I am looking back at the whole week. It was exhausting. My comfiest shoes weren’t comfortable enough. I felt like I was constantly running. I CANNOT WAIT until CCMA Week in Hamilton next year! Sounds crazy right! Lol! I admit it does. Give me a second to explain.

Despite the sore tootsies and late nights (that’s what frozen spoons are for), it was the most incredible experience! I learned so much and I met so many people, both friends and business contacts. This experience taught me that even though I am the “new kid on the block” that maybe I can hold my own a little bit in this crazy world of digital media. I learned that I am not afraid to approach someone and introduce myself. So, there was a lot going on, I guess you could say. I know over the next year my skills will improve and next year will be a really different experience. Considering this was my first, I am more than pleased.

Last but not least, I would like to give a huge thank you to Jess Seguire and the penelopePR Team who did a phenomenal job of wrangling us up, keeping things under control and also for taking a chance on this small town kid. I honestly cannot thank you enough.

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CCMA Gala Dinner and Awards

This isn’t really the way I want to start any blog post. But a couple of things have happened in the music world that I’d like to address.

Sadly, on October 2, shortly after 8:30 pm (this is the final report, there were reports he died earlier due to poor LAPD reporting) due to heart attack. Responsible for hits a such as “Free Fallin'” and my personal favourite, “American Girl”, Tom Petty, age 66, will be considered a huge loss to the music community. Prayers and healing thoughts to his friends and family at this difficult time. 

There is no way to get away around talking about what happened on Sunday, October 1st. The shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas has left me with few words, which isn’t the best for a writer. I mean, what words can you really use to describe how you feel about it? Saddened, disgusted, and angry don’t seem to be enough. For many of us, these festivals are a way to unwind. A way to celebrate that “country side” of us that maybe we don’t often get to do. For some of us, it’s a “happy place”. So to think something this horrific could happen at something we take so much joy in, is absolutely heart-breaking. The country music community has come together and supported one another during this time and it makes me proud to be a part of it. Healing thoughts to the families of the victims and those victims still in recovery. You are all in our prayers.
This blog was never meant for me to be political. I won’t start now. The one thing I would like to say is that events like these are an EVERYBODY problem. We should all be concerned. 

Now, on to happier news.

CCMA Gala Dinner and Awards  

If you’ve ever been to a big union or work party, you have an idea of what the CCMA Gala Dinner and Awards is like. Ok. Not quite. There is a lot more security and a few more celebrities than you’d see at your pipefitters local Christmas party. 

Being in the media room, you don’t really get to take in any of what is happening in the main area. The winners of the awards are brought back so we can photograph them or ask them questions. It also means you don’t get to see the performances that they have lined up. This year it included: Dan Davidson, J.J. Shiplett, Jessica Mitchell, Dean Brody, High Valley, Jess Moskaluke and JoJo Mason. From what I was able to hear, it was fantastic.

The evening also included some pretty big awards. Here are some photos of the winners:

Country Music Hall of Fame Artist Inductee: Paul Brandt 

Photo Credit: Grant Martin Photography

Country Music Hall of Fame Stan Klees Builder Award: L. Harvey Gold

Photo Credit: Grant Martin Photography

Slaight Music Humanitarian Award: Country 105 Caring for Kids Radiothon

Leonard T. Rambeau International Award: Franck Boucheraud

CCMA Discovery Award presented by Country 107.3: Kalsey Kulyk

Roots Artist or Group of the Year: The Washboard Union

Songwriter of the Year presented by Ole: Song: “Time” (performed by Dean Brody)

Interactive Artist of the Year: Brett Kissel

Guitar Player of the Year presented by Cithara Guitars: Matt McKay

Keyboard Player of the Year: Bart McKay

Specialty Instrument Player of the Year: Denis Dufresne – banjo

Radio Station of the Year (Large Market): CKRY FM, Calgary, AB 

Radio Station of the Year (Medium or Small Market): CHCQ FM, Belleville, ON 

Music Publishing Comapny of the Year: Ole (This is Ole’s 11th win in this category)

Record Company of the Year: Warner Music Canada

Record Company Person of the Year: Mike Denney – MDM Recordings Ltd.

Ron Sakamoto Talent Buyer or Promoter of the Year: Jim Cressman – Invictus Entertainment Group

Photo Credit: Grant Martin Photography 

Top Selling Album of the Year: Ripcord – Keith Urban

Top Selling Canadian Album of the Year presented by Music Canada: Side Effects – Dallas Smith

Top Selling Canadian Single of the Year presented by ACTRA RACS: Bush Party – Dean Brody

Photo Credit: Grant Martin Photography

This is an evening that really is something to see. If you are a country music fan and are coming to country music week, I highly recommend getting a ticket for this event.

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Checking out Diamonds In The Rough

I went and took in the first session of Diamonds in the Rough. It was being sponsored part in by Canadian Beats and my friend Linda Heldman was hosting it. If you are not sure what this is, it is an opportunity for independent singer/songwriters to showcase their talent. I really enjoyed myself! There was some fantastic talent showcased and it’s hard to even know where to start.

The session began with singer/songwriter Barbara Lynn Doran from Whitby, Ontario backed by well-known Canadian musician Rob Laidlaw.  It is easy to see why Doran was a finalist in The Great Canadian Songwriting Contest. Her songs are deep and personal and her voice is extremely soulful.

Up next was Stephanie Rose. She hails from Debden, Saskatchewan. She grew up on her family farm and had her first horse at 5. Watch out for my interview with this talented gal. She may only be 23, but she has a traditional country voice and an old soul. Her storytelling skills are visible in her song “How to Fish”, which was my favourite of her songs.

As a special guest, Drew Gregory got up and did a couple of songs! I have never seen him live before and he was fantastic! You should really follow him on Spotify. He is great! He sounds amazing and he is very charismatic. 

Connor Wilson is a talented singer/songwriter to watch. He has this light and friendly voice that I could listen to all afternoon. When he added playing the harmonica, I was sold. He played two songs I really loved, “Trans-canada Road” and “I See Smoke”. Both of them are fantastically written. I had a a photo. Buuuuut. I deleted it by accident. I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s move on. 

If traditional country is what you seek, then Steve Pointmeier is the man you need. Right down to the hat and boots, Steve has a traditional voice and a shy demeanor. Be sure to pick up his EP to hear heart-felt songs, like “Pillow Lies”. My photo of him was with Connor’s. I still don’t want to talk about it. 

Newcomer Jeremy Dallas is originally from Prince Edward Island and now lives in Calgary. His first release “Under The Radar” has this great contemporary country sound which fits his look. I was familiar with Jeremy and his work, as I was first drawn in by his Kip Moore sounding voice. He sang a really great song that he worked on with Aaron Goodvin called “One Hand In The Wind” that I really liked. Jeremy is looking to release a debut album toward the end of the year, so keep a lookout for it. 

I had seen Amanda Jordan last year at the CMAO conference. It is easy to see she has matured some on stage since I last saw her last. She still maintains that Taylor Swift vibe that I like about her. One song that really stood out to me was “Driving In The Dark”. This is definitely a young lady to watch for. 

It was a real treat to see Erin Hill. She was backed by partner Alex Runions, who honestly, I was more familiar with. Her voice is soothing and sweet. The fact that she brought out a ukele completely won me over. Listening to her is like a warm summer breeze. I’m glad I had a chance to become more familiar with her work. She is great! You should check her out whenever you have a chance!

I was so glad I finally got the chance to see my friend Rich Cloke in action. I have interviewed him and we have met and now I got to see him perform. He sounds amazing live (as good as he does recorded) and it is obvious that he is passionate about what he does. If you didn’t listen to him after my interview about him, get on it! He is fantastic!!

A while back, I did a great interview with an extremely talented young man by the name of Beamer Wigley. Now 16, he is paired up with another talented teen, Abby Stewart. Putting Abby and Beamer together is an incredible combination! These two are definitely on a fast track to success. Their songs “Falling In Love At 16” and “Put Up A Fight” are spectacular. Beamer’s guitar playing is bar-none some of the best I’ve seen. I can not wait to see what the future has in store for these two!

Country Music Week is a fantastic opportunity to see most of your favourite artists in one weekend. But make sure to check out things like the different showcases and Diamonds In The Rough. There is some amazing new talent in this country that is really worth looking in to.

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CCMA Legends Concert

I was running late for the CCMA Legends Concert due to prior engagements. I got there as quick as I could. Unfortunately, I missed the Hunter Brothers performance. That bummed me out but I did catch this sweet photo:

When I walked in, songstress Lisa Brokop was in the middle of Patsy Cline classic “She’s Got You”, and doing an incredible job of it I might add.

She then brought out new female artist Madeline Merlo to do a duet of Brokop’s hit “I’d like to see you try”. Not only do the two sound phenomenal together, they looked like they were having a great time.

Brokop left Merlo on stage to play her hit single “Whatcha Wanna Do About It” on her own. I love seeing Madeline live. It’s so obvious that she loves what she does and adores being on stage.

Can we just discuss Deric Ruttan for a moment? This guy is as funny as hell. I would watch him host any show almost as much as I would watch him play anywhere. He and friend Jimmy Rankin played an amazing version of “Sister Golden Hair”. I wish I would have recorded it so I could rewatch it. That is how good it was.

Jimmy went on to a duet with Patricia Conroy. It was beautiful. The two of them together sound flawless.

Up next was CCMA Spotlight Artist winner Mallory Johnson. She honestly looked and sounded as though you could have plucked her from the CCMA stage and put her in The Opry. She was worried about doing Hank Snow’s “Fool Such As I” justice. She shouldn’t have worried at all. I am sure Hank was smiling.

If you are a fan of Washboard Union and haven’t seen them live yet, get to it! They are outstanding. When they performed “Shot of Glory” that night, it turned in to one big sing-a-long. And really. Who doesn’t love a big sing-a-long?

After a brief intermission Wendell Ferguson cranked out a kick-ass version of “Running Back to Saskatoon”.

Award winner Patrica Conroy moved the whole audience with an outstanding version of her song “What Else Can I Do”.

She then invited Washboard Union to join her in performing a really fantastic version of Jess Moskaluke’s “Cheap Wine and Cigarettes” only the way that they can do.

The evening continued with Deric Ruttan performing a number one hit that he wrote but isn’t necessarily known for singing. While “Any Ol’ Barstool” is a Jason Aldean hit song, it was written by Ruttan. And he sang it with perfection.

One of the highlights of the evening was being able to see legend Ian Tyson. I have never seen him before. And even though this may be nearing the end stages of his career, he received a standing ovation as he came out. Singing “Four Strong Winds” and the recently released “You Should Have Known”, the crowd was captivated.

As if that wasn’t enough, he invited 16 time CCMA Award winner Carolyn Dawn Johnson on stage to sing “Some Day Soon”. What an amazing moment in country music history.

After a verklempt Carolyn took a moment to compose herself, friend Deric Ruttan joined her on stage. The two did the most beautiful duet of her hit “Don’t Let Me Die Of A Broken Heart”. Their voices filled the room the room around us, almost taking your breath away.

Ruttan left the stage and replaced him was Brokop, Merlo, Conroy, and Johnson. A stage full of Canadian girl power! This incredible group of women paid homage to Sasktchewan female singer/songwriter Joanie Mitchell and sang a fantastic version of “Big Yellow Taxi”.

The evening had already been so full of exceptional entertainment. It was hard to believe that there was more. The evening ended with 15 time CCMA Award winner and CCMA Hall of Honour inductee, Paul Brandt.

Despite his accomplishments and the fact that this was kind of “his” weekend, he took a moment to remember Troy Gentry and Don Williams, both huge losses for the country music community that day. An emotional Paul told us of some fond memories and continued with the evening. He did a fantastic medley, which turned in to a sing-a-long (two in one night? Yes!) of “My Heart Has A History”, “Small Towns And Big Dreams”, “I Do” and “Convoy”.

He then invited Carolyn Dawn Johnson to perform “Open Road”, a song he normally sings with Saskatchewan native Jess Moskaluke – which, I am sorry Jess, was remarkable.

To end the evening, Paul brought out his wife to sing “Alberta Bound” and they finished the song with a kiss.

The crowd rose to their feet for a much deserved standing ovation. The whole evening was absolutely fantastic. If you are ever taking in CCMA Week and they have an event like this, you should make sure to get tickets for it. It really was a memorable evening. And CCMA, you should have Deric Ruttan host, oh, everything. He is awesome.

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