The East Coast Music Award (ECMA) nominations were announced Jan. 29 and there is no shortage of local talent from northeastern Nova Scotia, or with ties to the area, receiving nods.
Amongst the nominees is Antigonish’s Mary Beth Carty who is nominated for her album Les biens-nommés, for the Francophone Recording of the Year.
“I heard yesterday at lunch time,” Carty said, talking to the Casket Feb. 30.
“My friend Greg (Melchin), who plays bass on the album, sent me a little message and I was very excited. I forgot yesterday was the day they were announcing the award (nominees) … it’s a huge honour.”
With Les biens-nommés, Carty said she was shooting for something that was a little “different.”
“There wasn’t too much music like that being made and released,” she said.
“For me, it really connects to Antigonish because we (musicians playing on album) were all living there at the time and other musicians had graduated from the jazz program at St. F.X. So, for me, although it kind of sounds European, it really has that connection to town and the St. F.X. jazz program and I was very thankful to have those musicians … they’ve all since moved away from Antigonish.
“Really though, I didn’t have any expectations; I just wanted to put it out there and see what would happen.”
Still with St. F.X. and jazz music, Paul Tynan, an instructor in the university’s musical department, is up for ECMAs again, for the album he and collaborator Aaron Lington released, which is titled Bicoastal Collective: Chapter 5.
The album is in the running in two categories; Instrumental Recording of the Year and Jazz Recording of the Year.
“The recording was finished the previous May; it was a full, big band album, a bunch of horns, 16 musicians,” Tynan said.
“Aaron is a saxophonist who is based in the San Francisco Bay area. He won a Grammy a few years ago, for his work with the Pacific Mambo Orchestra, and is a really great friend of mine. We’ve been co-leading this band together, since its inception back in 2007. This is our fifth record with the band,” Tynan added, noting ‘bi-coastal’ in the title refers to his and Lington’s long-distance partnership.
Asked about recording in general, Tynan provided an interesting perspective.
“We do it because we have to … and I mean that, kind of, metaphorically,” he said. “I’m a musician not by choice; I’m a musician because I can view no other life, basically.
“These particular records are made because we have this music that is in us and we need to get out. So we write the music and perform the music, play, record and release the music and, hopefully, somebody likes the music.”
A former ECMA winner, Tynan talked about the experience of attending.
“The ECMAs are always a fantastic event,” he said.
“It’s one of the crowning jewels in the East Coast music scene for sure. It’s really a place where musicians, of cross-genres, can get together and have the opportunity to check out each other’s art, all in one place.
“I’m, unfortunately, not going to be able to attend this year’s event; Jake Hanlon (fellow instructor at St. F.X.) and I will be playing in Berlin, which is exciting and bittersweet, really. It’s nice to have a bunch of gigs in Europe but I would’ve liked to be able to go to the ECMAs, as well. There are some really nice showcases I would have loved to have checked out.”
Two ECMA nominations add to an incredible year for the sister duo Cassie and Maggie (MacDonald), who are based in Halifax but have strong family ties to Antigonish.
Their album The Willow Collection is nominated in the Group Recording of the Year category as well as Roots/Traditional Recording of the Year.
“It’s a real sense of validation, especially when you take a bit of a risk like we did with The Willow Collection,” Cassie wrote in an email response to the Casket from Scotland, where she and Maggie have been for almost a month.
“The dedicated focus on vocals, and the whole idea of a concept album, was definitely out of our comfort zone. But when you’re recognized by your peers and folks you respect in the industry, it gives you the permission, in a sense, to continue thinking outside the box.”
She was asked whether they would be around for the ECMA activities in Halifax, in May.
“Yes, we’ll be returning home from overseas in mid-April, and then doing a tour with an incredible artist from Scotland, Paul McKenna,” Cassie wrote.
“The tour is just about to be officially announced so stay tuned, but it will allow us to be home for most of April into May. The ECMAs, especially, are like a big family reunion with all your favourite cousins,” Cassie added, noting too, she is “pushing” for an Antigonish stop as part of their tour.
In the roots/traditional category, Cassie and Maggie will be competing against Cape Breton band Còig and their highly-regarding release Rove.
“Very happy to hear that,” Darren McMullen, who plays multiple instruments as well as provides vocals for Còig, said of the nomination.
“It gives us a nice little jolt of energy. It’s quite a while between the release and award season, as it is. So you do some CD release shows and you’re really excited, and then you play some more concerts and everything is going good. And when you get an award nomination it, kind of, fills the gas tank up again; it gives you a little jolt.
“When you are in the studio recording, you’re not sure how people might like it and you don’t want to do the same record over and over; you want to change things up a bit and grow as a band. So, if there are any worries, wondering if people might not like it or if it’s interesting enough, getting an award nomination is like ‘OK, they liked it … it worked.’”
The band Port Cities, comprised of Carleton Stone, Breagh MacKinnon and Dylan Guthro, have both Cape Breton and St. F.X. connections. The group is up for multiple ECMAs including Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year.
Other Cape Breton acts in the running include; the Town Heroes’ video for Thought Police (Fan Choice Video of the Year), Maxim Cormier (Indigenous Artist of the Year) and Heather Rankin for Video of the Year for her single Titanically.
The ECMA activities take place in Halifax from May 2 to 6.