The 2014 Juno Awards: Ian Gregg, Eric Alper and the Importance of Recognizing Artists

2013 JUNO Awards. The 2013 Juno Awards Stage Junos/

The Juno Awards may be happening from the 24th to the 29th of March, but CFUR DJ Ian Gregg got to chat with Juno Expert, Eric Alper recently about some of the bands to watch for. At a time when there are thousands of bands vying for attention, it is important to look at the artists that are representing our country on the world stage. Many of these bands have not been given a lot of commercial success inside our borders, let alone outside of them. It is vital that listeners and music lovers recognize many of the bands that are nominated, as even a nomination is enough to spark interest whether they win or not.

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Ian Gregg interviewing Eric Alper


On the subject of ‘Breakthrough Artist of the Year’, Eric Alper pointed out that Brett Kissell is one to watch out for, “When he first released his country single last year it was the most added track on radio, which means more radio stations added that track in history than any other Canadian artist, and even an international artist”. While country music can be quite divisive among music lovers, it is hard to deny Canadian pride when an artist is exposed that much. Alper also mentioned that Tyler Shaw has sold over 75,000 copies of his album, so he has the commercial edge to help win the award.

Looking at ‘Breakout Group of the Year’, Alper and Gregg made sure to mention electronic group Tribe Called Red being one of the more likely recipients of the award, “Tribe Called Red exploded onto the scene last year…They have a really good story behind them and they’re nice guys too and the industry loves that kind of a story.” To give an idea of what kind of story Alper is talking about, taking a read at their press release on the Junos’ website helps sum it up, “Their self-titled album, released in March 2012, was long listed for Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize and included in the Washington Post’s Top 10 albums of the year. ATCR’s music is the soundtrack to a contemporary evolution of the pow wow: their Electric Pow Wow events in Ottawa showcase native talent and aboriginal culture, alongside an open, wild party. Within a couple of years they’ve become the face of an urban Native youth renaissance, championing their heritage and speaking out on aboriginal issues, while being on top of popular music, fashion and art. Their second full-length, Nation II Nation made the Polaris Prize short list as one of the 10 Best Canadian albums of the year.” Again, while the group is starting to have commercial and critical recognition, they are also being true to their heritage. They are also showing off their roots in a way that anyone can appreciate and get interested in, as bringing the energy from a combination of pow-wows and dance music is helping to entice music fans to the culture.


The Sadies/


Gregg and Alder also had lots of great things to say about The Sadies, with Gregg stating that he really hopes they take the prize home for Adult Alternative Album of the year. Alder was quick to agree, then went on to explain how good he thinks The Sadies are, “They’re a group that gets taken for granted. It may sound weird talking about a popular group, like The Sadies, but one day we’ll look back on this band and really consider them one of the top 20-25 bands that this country has produced. Simply, because they are so influential still when it comes to their music still. They have a lot of great fans, a lot of great musicians who love them across North America.” If you have not heard of The Sadies, their Juno press release states, “…The Sadies' bring their signature blend of country, psychedelic, rock and surf into rifle-scope focus, further underscoring their reputations as musicians' musicians…In one turn as heavy as a sledge, and on the other flitting across melodies with the ease of so many sparrows, The Sadies prove once again that denying them now is simply prolonging your conversion.” The Sadies sound is unmistakable, as their sound both feels familiar and unique, thanks to their blend of genres. They have a large arsenal of albums, making sure newcomers to the band have a lot of catching up to do.

Another artist to watch in the Alternative Album category is AC Newman’s ‘They Shut Down the Streets.’ Newman is popular among music fans already, as he is the vocalist and songwriter for The New Pornographers. Newman already has a lot of credit with the music crowd and his solo album does not disappoint. You can read Over The Edge’s review of it, here: but a brief quote from it sums up who this album is for, “Bottom line: for an enjoyable indie-rock album, listen to Shut Down The Streets. If you miss the New Pornographers, listen to They Shut Down The Streets. Listen to this album the morning after a night of heavy drinking with good friends, with hot coffee in your hands and smeared makeup on your cheeks. It’ll do your body good.”

While indie-favorite Arcade Fire may be nominated for a few awards, they will likely not sweep the awards. As Alper explains, just because an artist wins best album or best group, does not mean that they will win everything related to that, “I think that because voters are human they like to say things like, let’s give...Arcade Fire Album of the Year, but we’ll give Alternative Album of the Year to someone who has got had a lot of support and a lot of success.” Since it is possible that voters want to try and give other bands a chance of winning an award, there is a feeling of fairness to give other bands a shot.

This sentiment is echoed by Alper, who feels the Junos help showcase bands on the national stage, “There are very few people, as Canadians, that we would take a look at say, the Grammy Awards and say…‘I wonder who this Bruce Springsteen is.’ But you would really be surprised that like the Brit Awards…that we have the opportunity to put the spotlight on people who normally wouldn’t get one.” While the stage and nominees do have artists that are well known to the world, there are quite a few artists who are unheard of by the majority of the public. Thanks to these awards, we are able to show off our national talent to the world and help give a chance to musicians sharing their music with fans of that genre (or just music fans in general). Alper also noted that you do not have to win an award to be recognized, as being nominated is enough to get recognition.

Sometimes recognition takes a lot longer than it should, as shown by classic rock group Bachman Turner Overdrive is finally being inducted into the 2014 Canadian Music Hall of Fame. BTO was one of the biggest groups during the 70s, not just locally, but on an international scale as well. ‘Taking Care of Business’ and ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ still populate the airwaves and often appear in pop culture. To say that the band is overdue this recognition is an understatement.

Despite the Grammy Awards becoming a punchline to music fans for their treatment of artists and transparent favoritism in some of their ceremonies, it appears that the Junos are here to help promote the artists and their music. This exposure helps to not only help artists reach new fans, but it also showcases our national talent to an international crowd. Canadians are proud of our heritage and Canadian artists, and the Junos are helping to solidify that pride.