Junos 2021: all the wonderful, weird, wild, funny, moving and inspiring things we overheard

The Junos may look different this year, but we're still on high alert for all the best quotes.

The Junos may look different this year, but we're still on high alert for all the best quotes

Haviah Mighty gave a powerful speech at the end of the 2021 Juno Awards' Canadian hip-hop tribute. (iPhoto/CARAS)

In a year when the Juno Awards are virtual, it's tough to really immerse yourself in what's normally a week-long celebration of the country's best music. But we've got you covered: not only is CBC Music streaming everything on-demand for your viewing pleasure, but we've also got our ears to the ground for the juiciest things people have said this week.

From Tom Power's intimate interview with members of the Tragically Hip to The Block's first-ever showcase to the opening night of the Junos (where 37 awards are handed out), we'll be posting our favourite things we hear and overhear until the final awards night on Sunday, June 6 closes its curtains. 

The post will be updated daily, so keep checking back for all the best quotes, the things you're not supposed to know, and all the whispers that become a roar. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

"I was so happy to be recording musicians in a beautiful space again! I was so overwhelmed with happiness when rehearsals started that I unexpectedly broke down into tears for a moment. It hit me like a wave." — Nicolas Bonin, CBC Music recording engineer, at the classical session

Topaz Duo (flutist Kaili Maimets and harpist Angela Schwarzkopf) play music by Marjan Mozetich at Glenn Gould Studio. (CBC Music screenshot)

Monday, May 31, 2021

"There was a lot that was lost, you know? We lost our best friend, you lose your job. But I kind of felt like we lost a brotherhood as well. The best part of being in a band is you do everything together. You enjoy the good moments, the bad moments, you know? It's a great review, bad review, you go through it together. And we all went through grieving Gord separately. We all went our separate ways. It was hard, and I just thought, I'm retired, I'm leaving it all behind — and I couldn't [laughs]." — Rob Baker during Q Live with the Tragically  Hip

"Rehearsing we went back to Bath and we were up in the rafters at the back of the house where we had been five years earlier, with Gord. And I was sitting there with Robbie and there was [Gord's] exercise bike, right there. It's a time of year that we would be preparing for a tour, a Canadian tour or going to the States. So just arriving and being the first there, I was just waiting for the other guys to show up — and Gord, too. So that was a very heavy moment." — Johnny Fay during Q Live with the Tragically  Hip 

"I guess that we were kind people, we tried hard. Isn't that enough?" — Rob Baker on how he wants the band to be remembered, during Q Live with the Tragically  Hip

Rob Baker being interviewed at Q Live with the Tragically Hip. (Andrew Alba/CBC Music)

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

"Indigenous lives matter. Black lives matter. Free Palestine." — DijahSB at The Block session

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

"I'm emotional from seeing all my friends!" — William Prince at the Honouring Ceremony

"Canada is a small country, it turns out." — Toronto bassist Andrew Downing, on how he started playing with Newfoundland pianist Florian Hoefner, at CBC Music's jazz session

"I've been in and out of the music business, and — I'm getting a little bit emotional right now because [receiving the nomination] hit me hard. I left the music business to concentrate on my family. And when I came back, and now my music is being recognised by the Junos — it's amazing." — Junior Santos, jazz percussionist

Thursday, June 3, 2021

"It's a cash grab now, Black music is the new gold rush." Dalton Higgins at the Advance x Juno session: The Influence of Black Music

"I'd like to see us at the Junos get some television time and more people that look like us getting featured." — Melanie Durrant at the Advance x Juno session: The influence of Black Music 

"Well I've been fired by the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and I've written for the Star, the Globe and Mail, and the National Post, Billboard Magazine. But I've been fired many times because of being a proud, Black radical. We don't get anything as Black people or as African people or people of colour unless we take a stand. Unfortunately, for us as individuals it doesn't pay off, but we do help a lot of other people."  Norman Otis Richmond at the Advance x Juno session: The influence of Black Music 

"I kickstarted [Celine Dion's] career somehow [with the duet 'Can't Live With You, Can't Live Without You']. I don't just want to pack too much back there, but I kickstarted it. But from that point she was launched, I wasn't." — Billy Newton-Davis, on working with 18-year-old Celine Dion on her second English-language song, at the Advance x Juno session: The Influence of Black Music 

"Music's like a feeling, it's a universal language so there needs to be magic in the room. It can't be forced." — Murda Beatz at the Juno session Stories From the Studio

"I've had to break out of my shell a whole lot, and I think I'm getting better. Every day is just a journey to breaking out of my own shell." — Wondagurl at the Juno session Stories From the Studio

"Being a woman in this industry, you kind of just have to be really strong and just push forward and not care too much about that whole barrier. And honestly, eliminate the whole barrier. I got that advice from Jill Scott." — Wondagurl on sexism in the music industry, at Stories from the Studio 

"I waited for one year to perform! One year!" — Classic Roots onstage for soundcheck before the Reclaimed session

"Today, in light of recent events, it is incumbent upon us to remember the innocent victims of residential schools. I wrote this poem as a eulogy to the Stolen Children and Stolen Souls. 

We are, the voices say, 
The silent victims of a stifled crime 
Our bodies, lie in unmarked graves 
We are the victims of a madness 
The casualties of rage."

— Elder Duke Redbird at the Reclaimed session

"We're so lucky and so grateful for the musicians who heal us and lift us up." — Duncan McCue at the Reclaimed session

Friday, June 4, 2021

"The thing that made it incredibly special was that Erin [Wall] was the lead. And that she was our Thaïs, it's such a poignant character that she sang so beautifully all over the world. And to have her pass away so suddenly and so young, it really left a hole in our industry and particularly for those of us that knew and loved her here in Toronto. So it's just a very special recognition of not only her art, but who she was as a person — that we can put this Juno up on the wall for her." — Matthew Loden, CEO of Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the opening night awards

"You're fearless, you're an inspiration, and you deserve everything coming your way." — Emma Higgins to Jessie Reyez after they won the award for music video of the year during opening night

Jessie Reyez's 'No One's in the Room' wins video of the year | Juno Awards 2021

1 year ago
Duration 1:39
Jessie Reyez and Emma Higgins win music video of the year for No One's in the Room.

"Jazz is alive as proven by all of these nominees." — Jocelyn Gould, winner of the solo jazz vocal album of the year at the opening night awards

"Jazz is not dead, I'll testify to that!" — Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe, host of the opening night awards, responding to Gould's speech

"Can I just say, I'm really nervous and my heart is pounding — I'm quite starstruck because I didn't expect Master T to be here. Can someone take a screenshot of us together? Get one with a peace sign." — Leah Fay of July Talk, in the media room

"Most people are trying to find some structure in their lives outside of being a person in sweatpants." —  Max Kerman of Arkells in the Junos media room on the joy of still having events like the Junos take place, even if virtually.

"Dad, we did it!" — Töme in her acceptance speech for reggae recording of the year

Tome wins for reggae recording of the year | Juno Awards 2021

1 year ago
Duration 0:48
Tome accepts her award for reggae recording of the year at the 2021 Juno Opening Night Awards.

"The music is an extension of our love and an extension of our work and where we come from." — Okan in their acceptance speech for world album of the year.

"Thank you to the trees, thank you to the water, and thank you to the internet even though you're mean sometimes." — Leah Fay of July Talk in their acceptance speech for alternative album of the year

"Yay, Mommy, go Mommy!" — Crystal Shawanda's daughter, Zhaa Zhaa, crashing her acceptance speech 

"If Rush had played here in the early '70s, they would have gotten beaten up!" — Pegi Cecconi in her acceptance speech for the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award

Pegi Cecconi awarded the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award | Juno Awards 2021

1 year ago
Duration 5:24
Pegi Cecconi awarded the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award at the 2021 Juno Opening Night Awards. This prestigious award ­named after Walt Grealis in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments recognizes individuals who have contributed to the growth and development of the Canadian music industry.

"We're at a really critical time in human history, and I feel like music is the most powerful medium that we have to celebrate, to communicate, to uplift, empower, to educate." — Leela Gilday in the CBC Music media room

"As a Canadian, winning the Juno means a lot to me. For other people, they can be like, 'Whatever.' For me, it's something that was really around growing up … and I'm happy to be one of the new generation artists that is like, one of the tops, I guess. Or just even one of the more important ones in Canadian music." — Kaytranada in the CBC Music media room

"I'm super grateful to have people believe in this record and wrap their arms around it." — Tenille Townes in the CBC Music media room

"We're poppin' champagne, we're not gonna stop." — Tobi in his acceptance speech for rap recording of the year

'Canada, we keep moving': TOBi wins rap recording of the year | Juno Awards 2021

1 year ago
Duration 1:39
TOBi wins rap recording of the year on the 30th anniversary of the award. "We're popping champagne we're not gonna stop."

"I think it's about understanding that [rap is] a genre that's constantly evolving. So you know artists that are traditionally not looked at in the space, they should also have a voice. And they should also have a seat at the table, right, because their music is popular. Rap is one of the biggest genres in the world … acknowledging that and acknowledging the diversity within that genre is important going forward." — Tobi in the CBC Music media room, on what the Junos can do to push forward rap in Canada

"I was not expecting this! Thank you." — Wondagurl's acceptance speech

"I didn't mean for it to be that short, I just didn't know what else to say [laughs]." — Wondagurl in the CBC Music media room, after her acceptance speech

Toronto's WondaGurl wins producer of the year | Juno Awards 2021

1 year ago
Duration 0:39
Toronto's WondaGurl wins the Jack Richardson producer of the year award for her work with Quavo, Pop Smoke and more.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

"God forbid we spray each other with any deadly spittle." — Jim Cuddy explaining the stage setup at the Songwriters' Circle

"I knew the moment I wrote it that people were going to love that line and hate that line." — Dan Hill on "You Make Me Want to Be," at the Songwriters' Circle 

"I wanted to find a way to express myself, but there was just no system really set up for soul/R&B music. That was the truth of the matter." — Deborah Cox on the Canadian music industry when she was starting off, at the Songwriters' Circle

"It's liberating and it's maddening all at the same time because I am so afraid of letting people in on my true feelings and I know it only comes out in songs, so I have a love-hate relationship with songwriting." — Deborah Cox at the Songwriters' Circle 

"It's bitter because bitter is my middle name." — Carole Pope on "All Touch/No Contact" at the Songwriters' Circle 

"I don't know why we didn't sue them, but we didn't sue people then. But now I would sue them." — Carole Pope on Rough Trade sharing the same name as Rough Trade Records, at the Songwriters' Circle 

"He doesn't look that old now and he's not that old, but when I met him it was like, 10 years ago and he looked like a baby, and so it was very shocking." — July Talk's Leah Fay on hearing bandmate Peter Dreimanis's voice for the first time, at the Songwriters' Circle

"When I grew up, there was a sign on my wall — my mom cut it out of a newspaper — and it said that love is like bread: it doesn't just sit there, you have to re-make it every day." — July Talk's Peter Dreimanis at the Songwriters' Circle 

"As we know right now, according to the mental health experts, it's healthy to be vulnerable. It's important to express vulnerability and feelings, but in the '70s, trust me, to be vulnerable, the big word that they would call you — that I got called — was 'wimp.' That was the worst word that someone could call a man. And it was the penultimate vulnerable song, and that was very scary for people." — Dan Hill on "Sometimes When we Touch," at the Songwriters' Circle 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

"The genocide basic to this country's birth is ongoing, and we need to face it together. And I ask for your compassion." — Buffy Sainte-Marie's land acknowledgement at the 2021 Juno Awards

‘The genocide basic to this country’s birth is ongoing’: Buffy Sainte-Marie | Juno Awards 2021

1 year ago
Duration 1:23

"Spirit before ego. I love it." — Liberty Silver presenting the traditional R&B/soul recording of the year

"I feel seen. I feel appreciated. As much as I'm honoured, I've worked really, really hard." — Savannah Ré in the Junos media room, on being the first nominee in both new R&B categories

"I am honoured to take up space in this new era; as a musician, as a creative, and a Black woman. Today, the movers and shakers, the leaders of our future, are hugely driven by the past. I can only hope to make as influential a mark on hip hop culture as those who came before me." — Haviah Mighty during the Canadian hip-hop tribute

Canadian Hip Hop Tribute ft. Kardinal Offishall, Michie Mee, Jully Black, and more | Juno Awards 2021

1 year ago
Duration 7:49
Michie Mee introduces a tribute to Canadian hip hop featuring Kardinal Offishall, DJ Starting from Scratch, Jully Black, Maestro Fresh Wes, NAV, and Haviah Mighty at the 2021 Juno Awards. It is the 30th anniversary of the rap category at the Junos.

"I'm really honoured — honoured with a 'u.'" — JP Saxe during his acceptance speech for breakthrough artist of the year

"I invited Jann to come to my golf club to play golf with me once. She showed up at the golf club in jeans, a lumberjack shirt and boots. And of course they would not let her play golf looking like that, so I had to buy her a whole new outfit. And added to that, she frequently tells lies about me onstage." — Anne Murray, jokingly, while inducting Jann Arden into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame

"I think I'm too young, don't you? I'm far too young." — Jann Arden during her acceptance speech

"When my mother was near the end of her life, in the grips of Alzheimer's, and she didn't know who she was, or where she was, or why she was, when we played a song for my mom, she could sing along. She could tap her foot. And it was those moments when I knew, and we all knew, that she was still in there. Music is magic." — Jann Arden during her acceptance speech

Jann Arden performs "Good Mother" | Juno Awards 2021

1 year ago
Duration 4:17
Jann Arden performs "Good Mother" during her induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 2021 Juno Awards.

"I see myself as limitless. What I sing and what I write falls into rhythm and blues, but I don't see it as contemporary, or this, or that. I just make music that's honest to me." — Savannah Ré on being categorized as both contemporary and traditional R&B, in the CBC Music media room

"I join you from my hometown of Vancouver, from the legendary Commodore Ballroom. And let me tell you folks, I have spent so many great nights that I can almost remember [laughs] watching amazing bands, probably having a few too many 'pops,' but man, it is electric when this place gets going, it's crazy. And right now, I know that across this nation, all of us can feel the energy and anticipation of live music coming back into rooms like this across the nation. I can't wait." — Michael Bublé, presenting the award for album of the year

"It was never one thing at the expense of the other, it was always, 'Yes, and.' [The Tragically Hip] understood that for society to function, it required that we paid attention to a lot of different issues.... Without the contributions of the band, War Child wouldn't exist." — Samantha Nutt, War Child Canada founder, during the tribute video to the Tragically Hip, who won the Humanitarian Award

"Gord and the band seized an historic moment to tell 50 million Canadians, including the prime minister, 'Hey, we're standing with Indigenous peoples.'" — Perry Bellegarde, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations, during the tribute video to the Tragically Hip, who won the Humanitarian Award

"I think maybe each guy in the band was independently sent that article, and personally, for me, when I read that, I had to pinch myself because I was like, 'I'm in that band.' It was very emotional." - The Tragically Hip's Johnny Fay on reading Lindsay Pereira's CBC Music article about listening to the band's music as a new immigrant to Canada, in the Junos media room

"We've actually been under pressure from the people in the music business, in Canada at least — and it's no offence to them — but we've been under pressure, probably [since] three, four months after Gord died, to get together and play. Like, 'You should do a tribute concert for Gord, you should do this, and you should do that, you guys gotta play.' We didn't really talk about it amongst the four of us, we really didn't. But I think we all knew that we didn't want to do that, it didn't feel right. It wasn't like we were together for six years — we had a 32-year run. So it didn't feel right to play. Then the Junos came at us ... you know, 'You're getting this Humanitarian Award, you should play,' and we were like, 'No.' ... There were a few people suggested, I'm not going to mention names but a lot of them were male. So it was a 'no,' we shut it down. And then about a month later, we're on a Zoom call with [our manager] Jake and he's like, 'I got a little idea, just wait, I got a good one: How about Leslie Feist?' and I could tell around the Zoom call that everyone was kind of, like, 'Well, geez, that would be cool.' You know, because we love Leslie and Gord loved Leslie ... We really felt like Leslie would make it her own and that's what she did tonight." — The Tragically Hip's Paul Langlois on how the band decided to perform with Feist, while in the Junos media room

"I can genuinely say I've gotten a lot of pretty crazy phone calls in the last 20 years but this just hit home, and I was in my kitchen, I live in the States most of the time these days, so, pretty far from home — in many ways — the pandemic, I was sort of isolated away from a lot of what my Canadian life is and to get that call, I was like, "Yes!" It was one of the first and fastest yeses I've ever said in my life." — Feist on getting the phone call to perform with the Tragically Hip at the 50th Juno Awards, while in the Junos media room

"Yeah, no pressure, right?" Feist on the build-up to performing vocals with the Tragically Hip at the Junos, while in the Junos media room

"Things we learned over our careers? You see the same people on the way down that you see on the way up, so be nice. Be nice to people — that's all." — Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, while in the Junos media room

The Tragically Hip and Feist perform "It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken" | Juno Awards 2021

1 year ago
Duration 4:59
The Tragically Hip's Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair and Johnny Fay are joined by Feist at Toronto's historic Massey Hall for a performance of their song "It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken" at the 2021 Juno Awards.

"Too honest is kind of my brand, so here we are." — JP Saxe on sharing after a glass and a half of champagne, while in the Junos media room

"We need music education, not only in high school, in one community. We need music education to be happening in primary schools, elementary schools and high schools all across the territory where these partnerships between music educators, tradition bearers, singer-songwriters, Inuktitut specialists can happen on a daily basis so that all of our kids can participate. Everyone knows how valuable music education is in building self-esteem, promoting language, for participating in culture, and building relationships. I mean, no one can argue any of that. So it really is due time for a formalized music education curriculum." — Music teacher of the year Mary Piercey-Lewis on the importance of music education in Nunavut while in the CBC Music media room (Piercey-Lewis is the only hired music teacher in all of Nunavut)

"There's electronic or alternative hip hop, there's R&B/hip hop. It's not all one genre. To put it all in one box, there might be an expectation for those sounds to be really similar in order to be compared, but there's a wide variety of styles in hip hop. So I guess one more category is a great start. I'm interested to see what happens as we move forward with new categories." — Haviah Mighty on the introduction of two new rap categories at next year's Junos, in the CBC Media room

"I think it's time now. I think we've checked every box. We know what to do here, so it's just a matter of just growth. We've got the people, we've got the listeners, because when American artists and any artist worldwide goes platinum and gets numbers, they get them here, too. We're ready. We're so ready. And I'm still here because there's more work — and I'm not tired." — Michie Mee, on growing hip hop in Canada, in the CBC Music media room


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?