Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's musician earns ECMA nod for album recorded during cancer battle

Paul Brace thought he was going to die while he was recording his debut solo album. He survived, and now he's nominated for an East Coast Music Award.

Paul Brace was battling Hodgkin's lymphoma, wore a surgical mask during sessions

Paul Brace is nominated for an ECMA for his debut album Liars and Actors. (CBC)

Paul Brace wanted his debut album to inspire young people with cancer to carry on with their lives long after he had died.

He didn't think he'd survive to hear the finished product, let alone live long enough to relish the rewards.

But now, more than a year after the recording process began, Brace is nominated for an East Coast Music Award for his Liars and Actors. He's also cancer free.

"This record was made by a guy who was convinced — not thought — I was convinced I was going to die," he told CBC's Here and Now.

Brace was diagnosed with cancer last year at the age of 32, after noticing a lump on his neck. By the time he realized he had Hodgkin's lymphoma, he was already Stage 4.

The album cover art for Liars and Actors features Brace wearing a surgical mask, which he wore throughout much of the recording process due to his cancer treatment. (Paul Brace)

For the next few weeks, Brace said he found it difficult to speak — not because of the lump in his neck, but because he couldn't find any words to describe what he was feeling.

"Once I got diagnosed with cancer, one of the most important things to me was time," he said. "And I felt like I was running out of time."

It was the only time I didn't think about cancer. We didn't talk about sickness.- Paul Brace

After spending years on the local music scene with his band Waterfront Fire, and in a supporting role with a wide range of other acts, Brace had a few songs in his back pocket for a solo album he always intended to make.

"I decided enough is enough, I'm going to make this solo album I've been procrastinating for years and years," he said.

Brace went to work with his bandmates, who were dedicated to helping him get the record finished. Each day, everybody was on standby to see if he was well enough to record.

Throughout most of the process, he wore a surgical mask due to the weakness of his immune system, and had tubes going into his arms to fight off infections.

Despite the shape he was in, Brace said there was an upside.

"It was the only time I didn't think about cancer," he said. "We didn't talk about sickness."

Record hits the mark

His goal was to be inspirational, and that's exactly what he was recognized for this week when the ECMA nominations came out.

Brace is nominated for Inspirational Record of the Year, which used to be the gospel category but was rejigged this year to widen the parameters.

Paul Brace speaks to the St. John's Morning Show on July 16, 2018

He hopes the association recognized he was writing it not just for himself, but to maybe provide some therapy for other young adults dealing with cancer.

Win or lose, Brace is happy with the record and will cherish it as long as he lives.

"We were a group of friends making something special, and we made a really cool and special record that I'll listen to and be proud of for the rest of my life," said Brace.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Debbie Cooper


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