If it weren’t for a growth spurt in his early teens, folksinger-songwriter Dave Gunning may never have found the guitar.

“Mom and dad ‘forgot’ to enroll me in hockey one year,” Gunning says with a sheepish laugh. “I think it’s because I needed new gear.” Looking for something to do in his hometown of Pictou, Nova Scotia, he picked up a guitar his father had brought home from a local flea market, learning a few chords from a neighbour. That’s when his parents told him that if he could learn and perform two songs, they would spring for lessons. He never thought it would lead to a career.
With eleven albums now under his belt, along with a substantial handful of prizes from the East Coast Music Awards, the Canadian Folk Music Awards and Music Nova Scotia, among others, Gunning says he still feels fortunate to be able to make music for a living.

“I’m not really built to do this,” he says, acknowledging an introverted nature and an early tendency for getting “nerved up.” (He was first encouraged onto the stage by his childhood friend JD Fortune, who went on to front INXS.) But Gunning is more than comfortable onstage these days, having logged hundreds of hours playing covers on the Maritime pub circuit until he was ready to take his own show on the road.

“I don’t think it’s uncommon in the folk world to have thousands of little moments, rather than one big one,”- Dave Gunning

Gunning, who affectionately describes his approach to songwriting as “blue collar,” says he’s drawn to the idea of telling stories and preserving history through his music. His most recent album, No More Pennies, made international headlines when the Canadian Mint wanted him to pay royalties for depicting the recently discontinued coins on his album cover. It relented, but not before Gunning amassed $6,200 through a penny drive, later donating the money to a Halifax children’s hospital.
While some have suggested he’s due for a big break, Gunning likes how things have unfolded so far. “I don’t think it’s uncommon in the folk world to have thousands of little moments, rather than one big one,” he says happily. “That’s definitely how it’s been for me.”

Canada may just be the world’s foremost producer of anthemic indie rock, and Regina’s Rah Rah happen to be one of the best purveyors around.

Last October this seven-piece band dropped their third full-length album, The Poet’s Dead, to widespread critical acclaim from media outlets like Exclaim, Fader, and Nylon Magazine. Their single “Prairie Girl” even graced Starbucks counters nationwide as a “Pick of the Week.”
Rah Rah are no strangers to touring, having taken their powerful live show on the road all across North America and Europe last year.

“Touring with a large band, there was definitely less room in the van and we had to sleep on floors more often than not,” says singer Marshall Burns, “but I don’t think that was ever a real deterrent for us. We were very driven back when we first started out.”

This spring the bustling indie-rock collective will undertake a continent-spanning North American tour with fellow rockers Two Hours Traffic and Minus The Bear, which includes stops at Canadian Music Week and the South by Southwest festival.

It’s been an exciting year for Nova Scotia-based singer-songwriter Mo Kenney. Her self-titled debut album came out last fall and quickly wooed new fans and wowed critics with her unique voice and original brand of quirky folk-pop.

“I started taking guitar lessons at 11 and as soon as I had my own guitar, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music,” says Kenney. “Although at that point I pictured myself playing guitar in somebody’s band.”

It didn’t end up that way, as 2012 saw Kenney hitting the road to open shows for friend and fellow Halifax rocker Joel Plaskett (who also played on and co-produced her album). The pair played your dates and festivals throughout Canada, and she even flew to Iceland to play the renowned Iceland Airwaves Festival.

Not one to be slowed down, in March Kenney she toured again, this time opening for Canadian folk-pop icon Ron Sexsmith. This spring she’ll be recording a new album, and debuting her live show in the U.K.