Tenille Townes was the big winner at the 2019 Canadian Country Music Association Awards (CCMAs) in Calgary, where she took home four honours: Single, Video, Songwriter (all for “Somebody’s Daughter”), and Female Artist of the Year.

Veteran country singer-songwriter Charlie Major and publicist Anya Wilson were inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the CCMA Gala Dinner & Awards presented by SOCAN, at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary. The same night, Paul Brandt was honoured with the Slaight Music Humanitarian Award, Lindsay Ell took home the CCMA Award for Interactive Artist of the Year, while Donovan Woods and The Washboard Union tied for Roots Album of the Year (for Both Ways and What We’re Made Of, respectively). The Reklaws took home the award for Top Selling Canadian Single of the Year, “Long Live the Night,” while ole (Anthem Entertainment) was the Music Publishing Company of the Year. During the gala dinner, Emma-Lee and Andrew Hyatt sang a medley of songs co-written in early 2019 at the inaugural CCMA Song Camp, co-presented by SOCAN.

At the nationally televised CCMA Awards show, held the next night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, and hosted by Billy Ray Cyrus and Dallas Smith, the latter earned awards for both Male Artist and Entertainer of the Year. Show-stopping performances by Old Dominion and Tim Hicks had fans on their feet, while never-before-seen collaborations from High Valley & Lindsay Ell, and country sweethearts Meghan Patrick & Mitchell Tenpenny, created some memorable moments. The Reklaws’ mashup performance of “Feels Like That” and “Country Roads” had fans excited, while Dallas Smith’s performance of his hit single “Drop” segued into a collaboration performance of “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus and Terri Clark, and then into Morgan Wallen’s debut performance of his chart-topping hit “Whiskey Glasses.”

Throughout Canadian Country Music Week (CCMW) conference and festival leading up to the awards shows, SOCAN presented No. 1 Song Awards to Townes, Tim Hicks, and James Barker.

SOCAN CEO Eric Baptiste, Director, A&R Rodney Murphy, and A&R Representatives Melissa Cameron-Passley and Racquel Villagante presented a SOCAN No. 1 Song Award to Tenille Townes for the unstoppable “Somebody’s Daughter,” which reached No. 1 on the Nielsen BDS Country Chart on Jan. 28, 2019. The song was written by Tenille Townes, Luke  Laird, and Barry Dean, and published by Red Brick Songs.

Tim Hicks, SOCAN, No. 1 Song Awards, CCMAs, 2019

Left to right: SOCAN’s Eric Baptiste and Melissa Cameron-Passley; Tim Hicks; and SOCAN’s Marc Ouellette, Racquel Vilalgante, and Rodney Murphy. Photo: @coreykellyimages

All of the SOCAN representatives listed above, as well as our Board of Directors President and Chairman Marc Ouellette, presented a No. 1 Song Award to Tim Hicks, for “What a Song Should Do,” which topped the Nielsen BDS Country Chart on June 10, 2019. The song was co-written by Emma-Lee and Karen Koswoski.

James Barker, SOCAN, No 1 Song Award, CCMAs, 2019

Left to right: SOCAN’s Racquel Villagante, Anthem Entertainment’s Tim Wipperman, James Barker, Anthem’s Tim Hunze, SOCAN’s Melissa Cameron-Passley. Photo courtesy CCMAs.

Cameron-Passley and Villagante also presented a No. 1 Award to James Barker, of the James Barker Band, for “Keep It Simple,” which scaled the peak of the Nielsen BDS Country Chart on May 27, 2019. “Keep It Simple” was co-written by Barker, Gavin Slate, Travis Wood and Todd Clark and co-published by Anthem Entertainment and Downtown Music Publishing. The three co-writers were unable to attend, but will be honoured later this month.

SOCAN congratulates all of its members who won Canadian Country Music Awards and SOCAN No. 1 Song Awards this year!

Lu Kala knew she was going to be a singer. She never deviated from her dream. But not everyone had faith in Lu’s vision. “No one believed me when I said, ‘I’m a singer, this is what I’m going to do!’” Lu tells us. “I just remember being young, like, singing and annoying every single person near me,” she says with a laugh, “And just believing in this dream that was bigger than myself.”

It’s this persistent confidence in herself that led Lu to self-release her first single as a solo pop artist, the anthemic “DCMO (Don’t Count Me Out).” The track – apropos, as it traces the feelings of being overlooked – begins with a sparse rhythmic base before soaring into a catchy chorus. She wasn’t expecting much, other than the personal satisfaction that comes with creating music. But then the song popped the hell off.

So far, the track, released last year, has almost half a million streams on Spotify, with the French version at almost 40,000 streams. “I never expected it to go so far,” says Lu. “Not that I didn’t have any confidence in it – I believed in the song – but I didn’t know if people would actually listen to it.”

Lu has almost 40,000 followers on Instagram. She’s flown to L.A. and New York, writing with prominent producers and songwriters, hoping to shape her career the way she’d always envisioned it after this enormous propulsion. She also just released the video for “DCMO.” She’s continuing to build a steady following, again, off the strength of one song. A not unheard-of feat (hello, “Old Town Road”) but the high quality of a track – which is true of  “DCMO” – can propel an artist much further than its status as a trendy hit. “As much as I talked about ‘this is what I’m going to do’ and ‘this is what is going to happen,’ to see it happening in front of your eyes is something very different,” says Lu.

Before the release of “DCMO,” Lu had already garnered early praise for her performances. Reviewing her performance at the Manifesto Festival in Toronto, NOW Magazine wrote that Lu “stole the show with her powerhouse voice and stage presence that seems ready for international success.” The Congo-born Ajax resident has been chipping away at her goal of pop success for awhile now, despite the seeming curveball appearance of her immediate, single-song success. She’s been professionally working in the industry as a songwriter since 2013, working with the likes of DVSN, and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson on her JHUD album in 2014. She knows her way around crafting a pop song for others (lovingly calling herself Dr. Lu), helping to coax the most out of the performers with whom she’s writing. But writing for herself, promoting herself as this formidable artist, too, is a whole other task.

Lu Kala is a compelling artist, not simply because of her enormous skill as a singer, but because her dedication to honesty in her work complements her performance. As a singer, her vocals are interesting, both jagged and lofty. She’s so perfectly studied pop music that her delivery is just as impeccable as pop stars who’ve been at it for years. But her songwriting, the material she’s bringing us in these verses, is so authentically Lu, you pay closer attention to the message she’s delivering.

“I’m actually living my dream.”

“I remember when we were writing ‘DCMO,’ I [closed] my eyes, singing ‘I know I’m a big girl/ you are afraid to claim me,” and I remember opening my eyes feeling embarrassed a bit,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I said that in front of someone!’ But at the same time, there was this feeling of relief that felt good. It was almost me realizing that I felt that about those situations.” From that moment on, Lu says she made a promise to herself to put forth honest music; to have a body of work representative of her innermost thoughts and feelings.

We come back to the point of confidence. Lu’s belief in herself feels like a form of survival. Her belief, as with that of many others who don’t fit a specific mold in pop music (hello, Lizzo), is the singular truth that the only person you can trust is yourself. It begins and ends with Lu, first and foremost. “I’ve always had to be confident growing up and being this plus-size girl,” she says. “Automatically, I think that was something I needed to have when I was really young. I knew I had to believe in myself more than others would. [That] I’d have to turn down the naysayers.”

With this much impact on her one song so far, it’ll be thrilling to see where she’ll go when she releases her as titled first EP in 2020. (Same Para) “I’m actually living my dream and making money off of my dream,” she says, “And that’s really cool.”

Hip-hop combo Dubmatique is known for popularizing the genre in Québec in the latter part of the ’90s, thanks to its wildly popular album, La force de comprendre. They’re about to write a new page in the history books at the 30th annual SOCAN Awards Gala, to be held at Montréal’s La Tohu on Sept. 22, 2019. Their hit “Soul pleureur” will become the very first hip-hop song to become a SOCAN Classic in Québec. We met with Jérôme Belinga (DiSoul) and Ousmane Traore (OTMC). and they told us about the inspiration behind their hit. They also told us about what the Francophone rap scene was like back then, and their take on the current “rap queb” scene, which they help to propel forward.