Kevin Anthony Fowler could make history at the JUNOs.
This year marks the first time he’s received a JUNO nomination, in the Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year category. It’s also the first time that a Jamaican native has been nominated in that category, and that two Black JUNO nominees hail from Saskatchewan. Dione Taylor, who’s up for Blues Album of the Year, is the other artist.
Taylor says she hopes the nominations challenges the “thinking that Black people and Black musicians coming from Saskatchewan is such a strange idea.” Fowler, whose stage name is K-Anthony, grew up in Falmouth, Jamaica, now calls Regina home, and agrees with Taylor.
“Although there are a lot of Black people and Black musicians in Saskatchewan, we are still a minority,” he says. “I hope these nominations give other Black musicians hope, and puts Saskatchewan in the spotlight.”
And perhaps they’ll bring attention to the challenges that Black artists in smaller Canadian cities face making music and getting heard.
The singer previously lived in Yorkton, Saskatchewan (population 19,643, as of 2017), where he says country and rock reigned, and finding a producer who understood Gospel and other Black music styles was hard. “I had to expand my search to Regina and Saskatoon which are more culturally diverse,” he says. “This meant driving between three to five hours, sometimes in harsh winter weather, to record at a studio.”
Fowler says his music slowly began “getting support in Yorkton and the surrounding communities because it was different, and I guess people found it to be intriguing. My songs began getting airplay, which lead to several TV interviews.”
“The words paint a picture, and bring your listeners on a journey with you”
Interestingly, Fowler had a hard time getting love in his native Jamaica, too. His biggest challenge, he says, was not getting airplay. “Reggae and dancehall are the two most popular genres there, and even our Christian and Gospel music is influenced by those sounds,” he says. “My style of music had a more Christian contemporary and R&B vibe, so maybe [the tastemakers felt] it wasn’t ‘Jamaican sounding enough.’” Fowler says a producer once suggested that he leave the country to find success because there wasn’t an audience for his sound in Jamaica.
His sound began to take shape while he attended the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Falmouth. He was a member of the youth choir and would often re-arrange old hymns that were sung in church. “The younger people wanted something they could identify with,” says Fowler, so he gave the hymns an R&B twist.
He says his songs are inspired by personal experiences, the Bible, and current events, and that the best songs come out of being “honest with yourself and trying to frame your pain and experiences into words. Sometimes the words are hard to find, but when you do find them, it captures what you want to say, paints a picture, and brings your listeners on a journey with you.”
We ask Fowler if the pandemic has strengthened his faith. “I see how God has been faithful to me and my family,” he says. “All of our needs are provided. It reminds me of an old hymn that says, ‘Now every morning is Thy Love.’
“I know these are sad times for everyone, and even more so for people who have lost loved ones,” Fowler adds. “I truly want to provide some hope through my music.”