New Brunswick

Big year for N.B. artists at East Coast Music Awards

New Brunswick had a banner year for nominations at the East Coast Music Awards, nearly doubling their total in one year, 38 for 2017 compared to 20 in 2016.

Provincial musicians grab 38 nominations for awards this week in Saint John

Acadian singer Caroline Savoie leads New Brunswick artists with four East Coast Music Award nominations. (Jean-Marc Lubrano)

Heading in the East Coast Music Awards in Saint John this week, it's already looking good for New Brunswick musicians.

Not only are there dozens of official and unofficial showcase opportunities for the artists, the province has scored one of its highest nomination totals ever, with 38, second only to Nova Scotia's 68.

That's a big jump over 2016, when N.B. only had 20 nominations, well behind Nova Scotia's 62, and Newfoundland and Labrador's 33.

The last time New Brunswick passed 30 nominations was in 2012, but that was only by including 10 that went to Matt Andersen and David Myles.

Both of them had lived in Nova Scotia for several years, and the ECMA had them officially listed as from that province.

This year, nominations are going to a wide range of artists, from newcomers to veterans, across almost every genre of music.

Acadian singer Caroline Savoie has four nominations, for Song of the Year, Francophone Recording of the Year, Pop Recording of the Year, and Fans' Choice Video.

Previous ECMA winners City Natives are nominated for two more this year. (CBC)
City Natives continues to be one of the top hip hop acts in the region, nominated in that category plus Indigenous Artist of the Year.

Moncton's The Motorleague is up for Rock Recording of the Year, and so is Les Hôtesses d'Hilaire, one of that group's four nods.

Banner year

"It's definitely a banner year," said Jean Surette, executive director of Music NB. "I think our artists are starting to play ball at the same level, or close to the same level of other provinces. We're seeing a lot more touring, export activity happening, artists being a bit more business-savvy and really great on social media platforms."

The francophone sector continues to lead the way for the province, with such artists as Lisa LeBlanc, Les Hay Babies and Les Hôtesses d'Hilaire getting lots of attention in Quebec and outside of Canada.

On the anglophone side, Surette has seen excitement the past year in the indie-rock world, with bands such as Little You, Little Me, Motherhood and Zaum doing significant touring.

John McLaggan, part of the Saint John duo Tomato/Tomato along with his wife Lisa McLaggan, is nominated for Songwriter of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards. (Facebook)
Tomato/Tomato, the folk group from Saint John, is also set for a strong 2017, he said.

"They're emerging, I figure, as one of our main export artists," said Surette.

Tomato/Tomato is the husband-and-wife duo of John and Lisa McLaggan.

Major nomination

John is nominated for Songwriter of the Year this time, one of the most prized ECMA trophies in an area where the songwriting tradition has always been key.

He couldn't reveal all the gigs they are doing as some of the summer festivals haven't made the lineups public yet.

"We're doing the Regina folk fest, and Indian River, and there's still a bunch more to come out," said McLaggan. "We're heading over to Australia for a couple of weeks to play a festival and then tour around. Then in the fall, we're heading over to the U.K. for three weeks, and then all kinds of stuff in between, but those are the highlights."

The key for band has been working really hard on their live show, as well as pushing themselves on social media and video, he said.

Jean Surette, the executive director of Music NB, says more acts are touring outside of the province. (
​Jean Surette points to a 2015 report his group commissioned which showed New Brunswick musicians had to concentrate on getting themselves outside the region.

"If you want to do music, sustain activity, and do it as your main gig, it's very difficult to do that if you're not exporting," he said. "Because of the demographic of our province, and the rural aspect of our province, and the Maritimes for that matter, unless you're playing gigs on the weekend, and doing covers, and teaching all week, if you're wanting to perform original music, you almost don't have a choice but to export."

With more nominations coming to New Brunswick artists, it's a strong indication those performers are getting known outside of the provincial borders.

The East Coast Music Awards begin Wednesday in Saint John, with the awards gala Thursday night at Harbour Station.