In the past few years, AHI has already won the Singer-Songwriter/Folk Award from the Canadian Songwriting Competition, and the Stingray Rising Star Award at the Folk Music Ontario (FMO) conference, and he’s been signed to the U.S.-based record label Thirty Tigers and booking agency Paradigm Talent. In a brief chat, he reacts to the latest accomplishment, his first JUNO Award nomination (for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year); the making of the record that earned the nomination, In Our Time; and his songwriting process.

On a month off, JUNO-winning, multi-platinum-selling singer-songwriter and SOCAN member Jessie Reyez wanted to give back to her hometown community, so she presented the inaugural Jessie Reyez Workshop in partnership with SOCAN, at Dream House Studios in downtown Toronto, on the weekend of Jan. 25-26, 2019.

Jessie Reyez

Reyez leading the workshop. (Photo: Melissa Cameron-Passley)

Out of 13,000 submissions, five youths from Toronto and surrounding areas were selected to participate: Caylie Ganam, VELOW, Tasha Angela, Travis Knight, and Renée The Voice. In the song camp portion of the gathering, they worked alongside sound engineers/producers Calvin Hartwick (Dream House Studios Head Engineer and Manager), Jacob Spitzer (also a resident studio engineer), Moose, Rich Kidd, Elias Edlund, Michael Steinslien, Stephen Lecky, Bobby Love, Kevin O’Brien, and Jarrel Young.

On both days, Reyez hosted a two-hour workshop in the morning, along with Grammy award-winning songwriter/producer Khris Riddick-Tynes (Ariana Grande, Post Malone), who flew in from L.A. to co-mentor the event. On the second day, they were joined by Reyez’s manager Mauricio Ruiz, and Public Records’ Gavin Sheppard (Public Records, and The Remix Project, which originally mentored Reyez).

Speaking candidly to the writers, Reyez began the first day by passing around notebooks with meaningful handwritten quotes on the covers. She asked all five writers to write down affirmations on the first three pages of their notebooks, to which they can later refer. Among Reyez’ most memorable words of advice were, “Hunger, drive, and ambition beats talent every time,” and “I

Jessie Reyez, Melissa Cameron-Passley, SOCAN

Reyez with SOCAN’s Cameron-Passley (left).

don’t think that defeat has any use when you’re thinking of the future… Fuck it, jump.” Said Riddick-Tynes, “When you walk under giants, you kinda wanna be that tall real fast.”

In the afternoon, the songwriters broke off into writing/recording sessions with their engineers, and Jessie’s touring guitarist Heather Crawford. Moose and Rich Kidd crafted and provided 10 beats, on which the songwriters would build. Reyez and Riddick-Tynes went from room to check in on the sessions.

On the first day, SOCAN’s Melissa Cameron-Passley presented a SOCAN 101 info session over lunch (provided by Nando’s). On the second day’s afternoon and evening, a lot of the artists – now more comfortable and relaxed with each other – started to jump into various other rooms to collaborate, and hear other songs as they were being created. The participants were having a lot of fun, which inspired them to continue working hard, and write extensively throughout the evening.

SOCAN congratulates Jessie Reyez and all involved for hosting this hugely successful event!

Fun fact: Before entering the professional songwriting world, one of Jessie Reyez’s first ever paying jobs as a songwriter was at Dream House Studios, when she was invited to participate in a song camp for a children’s show on Netflix. So her choice of the venue was also a way to give back.

Colin James won the SOCAN-sponsored Songwriter of the Year honours at the 22nd annual Maple Blues Awards, presented by the Toronto Blues Society on Feb. 4, 2019, at Koerner Hall in Toronto.

Ellen McIlwaine

Ellen McIlwaine (Photo: Brian Zahorodniuk)

James was also the big winner of the night, taking home additional trophies for Entertainer, Electric Act, Male Vocalist, and Recording/Producer of the Year. The Blues With A Feeling Award for lifetime achievement went to veteran slide guitarist Ellen McIlwaine, for her longtime career and commitment to blues music in Canada. Emily Burgess won New Artist of the Year, and Angel Forrest was chosen Female Vocalist of the Year.

Many of the individual instrument-player awards went to female musicians this year: Sue Foley won Guitarist of the Year, Lindsay Beaver earned Drummer of the Year, Laura Greenberg took the trophy for Bassist of the Year, and Shirley Jackson garnered Horn Player of the Year.

In addition to the Maple Blues Awards, the fifth annual Cobalt Prize Contemporary Blues Composition Award was handed out to Ann Vriend for her song “It’s Happening,” with runners-up Son Roberts for his song “Down on Vaugh Rd” and Samantha Martin for her composition “Chasing Dreams.” A cash prize of $1000 was presented to Vriend, with the runners-up each receiving $250.

The Maple Blues Awards are funded in part by the SOCAN Foundation.