Artists Backstage Opening Night: In Their Own Words

The media “room” for the Juno Opening Night Awards June 4 was obviously different from past years in-person, but no different from what we have all learned to do the past 15 months of the pandemic

 Artists Backstage Opening Night: In Their Own Words

By Karen Bliss

The media “room” for the Juno Opening Night Awards June 4 was obviously different from past years in-person, but no different from what we have all learned to do the past 15 months of the pandemic — Zoom.  Publicist Debra Goldblatt of Rock-it Promotions might’ve had a tougher time spotting the little yellow “raised hand” in the small on-screen boxes than if it was a real in-the-flesh hand raised Horshack-style in a backstage press room, since there were several “pages” of reporters, but that’s the way it goes in 2021. The winners logged into Zoom one category at a time, announced by Goldblatt, and proceeded to take a few questions from the unmuted media.  FYI Music News has compiled a sample of the answers (note: some quotes are attributed to the collective, not individuals).



ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR [first female to win in this category since Alanis Morissette in 1996]

Ruthless JJ Wilde Black Box*Fontana North

On women in rock music and decreasing sales of the guitar:

“I think that it’s making a comeback more than ever right now and especially with women in rock music. The amount of amazing women that I am seeing right beside me, on the up, I am so proud and excited because we’re taking over rock, and I’m so excited. And the fact that rock, even in a commercial standpoint, of radio and everything, is even making a comeback as well, especially with the pandemic where you can’t go to live shows and people have been stuck in their houses, everybody is going to want to go to a sweaty, beer-filled show. It doesn’t matter what the genre it — and that is rock [laughs]. So I just think it’s only up from here.”




Espiral OKAN Lulaworld*Symphonic

On if the Juno Awards should change the name of the “world music” category to more inclusive “global music,” the way the Grammys did?

“We’ve always had a thought about that. Every time we are presenting ourselves, we say well what’s world music? Every music is from this world. We went to Europe in 2018 and we participated in this festival and they call it “roots” music, which is more interesting because it could be the roots from any place. We have been thinking about that term for a while now, so I think ‘global’ is pretty good. There is still something, at least in Canada, very wide – the different type of genres that compete in this category, I think it’s unfair.”



Crown Lands Universal

On the 215 murdered Indigenous children buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops residential school:

“It’s a devastating week. It’s really eye-opening for a lot of people who haven’t been directly connected to it, but are part of this country but have had some sense of the injustices but not the full picture. It was a necessary thing to be put right in front of our faces to show the mistreatment of that community. The best thing that we can do as a country is to show support to all those people that have been let down and that have been taken advantage of and have been raped and murdered and displaced. The thing which I find uplifting is when you see people form coalitions from every corner of the community and advocate for what’s right and when you see that pressure applied, things actually chance. The first step is understanding how deep these problems are; and then the second thing is showing support. Pressuring your local politicians to invest more of their time, showing up at rallies, and most important is listening. Listening to the communities that have been deeply wounded and asking, ‘What can I do to lend a hand?’ That’s hopefully what we are doing more of every single day.”




Pray For It July Talk Majesticsilk*Universal

Leah Fay on why she WAS nervous in the media room:

 “Wait, can I just say something because we start? I’m very nervous right now and my heart is pounding so fast. I didn’t know I would be but I’m so starstruck to see Master T. Master T, I got to meet you at a friend’s birthday party, I think at a Marché, and you were there minding your business and I made you sign a napkin for me, and I still have it, and I can’t believe that I’m seeing your face in a Zoom room. I just had to say it because my voice is going to be all shakey.”  Master T: “Thank you so much. My night has been made. Good night everybody.”

Fay: “Someone could take a screenshot of us together. Can we do it?”



Massenet: Thaïs Erin Wall, Joshua Hopkins, Andrew Staples, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir with Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis Chandos*Naxos

On getting the younger generations interested in classical music:

“The joke is that classical music and orchestras have been dying very successfully for the last 150 years. The reality is that the music that we’re so privileged to be able to present to the world in many ways is timeless and incredibly powerful and moving. But we know that there’s also a contemporary culture out there that we want to connect with. And we’ve had a lot of success at the TSO doing things like putting the full orchestra onstage for a film screening of Harry Potter or Star Wars or Home Alone for the holidays. In fact, we had as many people come in December for Home Alone films as we do the Messiah performances.  And that’s creating a whole other generation of interest, just the power of a live symphony orchestra onstage. So I’m really optimistic about our ability to connect with the younger generation. And I know that Jessie Reyez is up for a bunch of awards, and it was just two years ago that we backed up Jessie Reyez at the Winter Garden, when she performed here and the more we can have moments like that with people like Jessie, that’s just cool and we love it.




Julien Hébert (Art Director),David Beauchemin (Designer), Florence Obrecht (Illustrator), Marc-Étienne Mongrain (Photographer)

NOTRE-DAME-DES-SEPT-DOULEURS – Klô Pelgag Secret City*Fontana North

On album artwork in the digital age:

“We think that the music fans are buying the vinyl right now so we considered the full objects when we design a cover, but for sure we also have in mind the idea that it has to be readable and it has to have impact on a small mobile device at the same time as a big 12 x 12 album. So we have both those considerations in mind, but what excites us is the object in the end.”




Arkells Arkells*Universal

On winning:

“This is like the proper press room! I miss you guys! This is cool. Alright! So many familiar faces here, this is awesome [Goldblatt: we’re trying to recreate it; we’re doing our best]. Hi everybody. Let the interviews begin…I can’t tell you why we keep getting nominated and winning, that’s not up to us, but I can tell you that we truly love the job. It’s a truly amazing job that we have, that we get to wake up every day and think about songs and touring and how we can interact with the world through our music. So we take that really seriously and we don’t take that for granted at all. Yeah, this year was obviously a really challenging year for everybody in our industry but we put our thinking caps on, ‘Okay, it doesn’t really feel right to try to deliver a bunch of big rock ‘n’ roll sweaty bangers that people would be like dancing around to in a club or an Amphitheatre so we put those songs aside and we worked on this Campfire Chords record, which was supposed to be like an acoustic-based music that you could listen to in your backyard or around campfire or on a dock. When I’m stressed out, I kind of just want to listen to Jackson Browne or In My Life by The Beatles, something that feels warm and nurturing. And that’s what we set out to do, starting last spring and now we’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll again so can’t we please just get sweaty and play some shows.”



NO ONE'S IN THE ROOM Emma Higgins Jessie Reyez FMLY/Island/Universal

Canadian Contributors

Director of Photography: Jack Yan Chen

Producers: Alison Honey Woods, Cherie Sinclair, Katy Maravala

Editor: Kat Webber

Art Department: Stephen Trivieri

Special Effects: The Butcher Shop, Urban Prairie Post

On the vision of both their stories:

Jessie Reyez: “I’ve always said that I’m really fortunate to have an open dialogue with my family when it comes to spirituality and religion and I don’t know if I would have been able to write this song or come to the conclusions that I have come to for myself — not even conclusions but be on the journey I’m on to more understanding if it wasn't for having that open space, but that open space was in stark contrast to when it was everywhere else. When we would go to church or the people at church or sometimes other family members, it was just always up for debate but it was really nice to have the opportunity to have those debates, to have those conversations, as opposed to just getting shut down and have someone else’s preconceived idea of our genesis imposed on me as a child. I was able to explore it for myself.”

Emma Higgins: “I think it’s a pretty big subject matter. When you’re talking about consciousness and vision versus spirituality too. Everything that Jessie wrote about was something that I felt very close to in my own experience so it’s one of those rare occasions where I understand what she was saying on a  very personal level for myself.”



I Pray TÖME x Sean Kingston Kiza Music*M.A.D. Solution

On if the chaos of the last 15 months influenced TÖME’s songwriting?

“A hundred percent. The whole year of 2020 is what inspired ‘I Pray.’ That song was literally to give thanks and give faith in God through hard times. That was 100 percent inspired by covid and the period we had, and that continues into my writing now, especially with the new project coming out and the new songs that I’m making. You write by experience so of course it influences my writing.”



North Star Calling Leela Gilday Diva Sound*Outside

On how it feels to be a leader in this category:

“It feels profound and it feels like a great honour, especially considering the year that we’ve all had, and the amazing other nominees that I was standing shoulder to shoulder with. They just are such powerful storytellers and I’m deeply honoured to be amongst them.”




“Aim For The Moon (feat. Quavo)” (co-producers 5ive Beatz, 808Melo, Dani, Dez Wright, Tyy Beats)

SHOOT FOR THE STARS AIM FOR THE MOON – Pop Smoke Victor Victor/Republic*Universal

“GANG GANG” (co-producer Vou)

JACKBOYS – JACKBOYS & Sheck Wes Epic/Cactus Jack*Sony

On the very slow-to-come changes for female producer and beat-makers:

“It’s good to see how things change so much. I feel blessed to be a part of this change and a reason why it’s changing so much too. It’s incredible and it’s only going to get better for producers and female producers. I’m mentoring two right now.”




On the monumental year for the Junos and high recognition of Black music:

This year a very monumental year. To recognize Black music, to recognize hip hop, and so much for what it’s done for Canadian music in general, I think it’s powerful. It’s really powerful. And seeing it from the inception of artists like Maestro Fresh-Wes and Michie Mee and Kardinal Offishall, Drake Saukrates, that lineage is so powerful, and to keep that legacy alive is all I think about. I think about that anytime I’m in the booth, whenever I’m in the States, or somewhere in the world. I’m thinking am I raising the bar or keeping the bar up high. I’m grateful to be part of that lineage right now.



Church House Blues Crystal Shawanda True North*Fontana North/IDLA

On switching from country to blues:

“That’s what people kept telling me, ‘You have a really bluesy voice.’ People at country radio kept telling me that and for me I kept showing up at country music festivals singing BB King and Muddy Waters and Etta James. So I just decided to give it a try. We recorded a blues album and because I was releasing music from my own record label at the time, New Sun Records, I said to my husband, ‘Isn’t this why we started our own label so that we could do what we want creatively?’ And then we released the album and it was like letting the bird out of a cage and now I could never stick her back in there [laughs]. So here we are. We’re on our fourth blues album and I’m signed with True North Records now and I feel like I’m right where I’m meant to be.”



Abyss Unleash The Archers Napalm*Sony        

On how a metal band reliant on touring maintained their connection to their fans during the pandemic:

“We all, it’s not even a lie, the day that Canada went into lockdown, we all started streaming on Twitch. It was almost immediate. We started a band channel, which we used throughout the album release process and then the three of us started our own personal channels, and just it has been the most amazing way to keep in touch with our fans. We have such an amazing community in the metal world. We all know each other a little bit, so being able to hang out with people as if you’re there at a show together still, despite being miles away from each other, has been incredible. And it’s been fun to be viewers on Twitch as well. We’ve met a lot of great musicians on there and discovered a lot of great people, so it’s been the platform for us, this whole time.”



The Lemonade Stand Tenille Townes Sony

On how the pandemic affected how she’s writing songs, if at all:

“Writing songs has been my safe place and my escape this past year, absolutely. To be able to disappear into that creative space and write with friends on Zoom or even with strangers that I’ve still never met in person, but I feel I’ve become such close friends with this past year, I feel the song will prevail; it will find a way to find us no matter what, and I’m super grateful for that this year. I think creativity comes in waves.  There are some points in the last 15 months where it’s been wow, I feel like I’ve been reflecting and I’ve had so much to say, and so much that I’m thinking about, and then there are moments where I’m like ‘I have nothing right now and that is okay.’ [laughs]. It’s been a ride.



With You Sammy Jackson Independent

On if she will cross over into other genres even more in her music:

“Although I am a jazz artist, I am heavily influenced by R&B and pop and that’s how it started. Jazz came a lot later. R&B and pop is at the heart of who I am as an artist, but I do love the whole improvising aspect of jazz and having live instruments, and the interaction. That’s an aspect that I think I will continue to carry on, throughout my future recordings and anything that I do.”



Heart Parade Splash'N Boots Independent*The Orchard

On landing Alice Cooper on their album:

Working with Bob Ezrin and he was in the studio with Alice Cooper in Arizona. And he gave me a call and said, ‘Hey, I'm with Alice right now. Why don't you write a song for him and we'll see if he will be on your album?’ I said, ‘No problem, Bob Ezrin. When do you need it by?’ He said, ‘Well today.’ Luckily I had my good buddy Paul David coming in too at the same time. He’s a huge Alice Cooper fan. So him and I sat down real fast, wrote a quick verse, a quick chorus, sent it to Alice, sent it to Bob. Bob within hours said, ‘Alice is in, but I need the whole song.’ Luckily, I was in contact with Chris Graham that night, our producer, and he said, ‘I'm on it.’ The next morning we put down all the tracks. The vocal were sent to Alice and within 24 hours Alice Cooper was on our song, which ended being the title-track for the album. That is the 30 second version of how Alice Cooper ended up on our damn album.”

Five Finger Death Punch
Travis Shinn

Five Finger Death Punch

Chart Beat

Five Finger Death Punch’s ‘This Is the Way’ Scores DMX His First Mainstream Rock Airplay No. 1

The band extends its record for the longest streak of No. 1s in the chart's history, while the rapper earns a posthumous ruler.

Five Finger Death Punch extends its record streak of No. 1s on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Airplay chart, while featured artist DMX achieves a posthumous leader, as “This Is the Way” tops the June 15-dated survey.

The song is Five Finger Death Punch’s 11th straight Mainstream Rock Airplay No. 1, lengthening the longest streak of leaders in the chart’s 43-year history. The Ivan Moody-fronted band’s run began in 2018 with “Sham Pain.”

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