Local band rides awards momentum coast to coast

Justin Brake
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Matthew Hornell and The Diamond Minds wrap up first national tour with Newfoundland shows mid-December

Matthew Hornell and The Diamond Minds perform at The London Music Club in London, Ont., Oct. 7.

Matthew Hornell and The Diamond Minds were on their first national tour, somewhere between Thunder Bay and Fort Frances, Ont., when they received a text message congratulating them on their first Music Newfoundland and Labrador (MusicNL) award.

Back in Rocky Harbour, where the Oct. 24 awards show was happening some 3,700 km away, Hornell and bandmates Jonny Bungay, Paddy Byrne and Josh Bourden tallied three more by evening’s end, matching celebrated Newfoundland songstress Amelia Curran’s four awards.

“We didn’t expect to get anything,” Hornell said over the phone from Calgary, where the band spent a few days before continuing westward to the B.C. coast. “We were surprised. We thought it was cool just to be nominated.”

The band released its self-titled debut album in February to enthusiastic reviews and has continuously gained popularity both on and off the Island.

In a songwriting-driven folk and roots-rock tradition, the effort earned the band MusicNL awards in the “Rising Star New Artist/Group,” “Group of the Year,” “Molson Pop/Rock Artist/Group” and “Entertainer of the Year” categories.

Hornell said the recognition reinforced the group’s decision to make music together and take it on the road.

“It gave us a little bit of fuel, not that we were questioning what we were doing, ’cause we all believe in the band,” he said. “But it kind of solidified it a bit more and justifies it to a certain degree.”

When they left St. John’s to embark on the tour the band had 30 confirmed gigs, Hornell said, and booked another 30 after hitting the road.

Last month they performed at the legendary el Mocambo club in Toronto, Wakefield, Quebec’s Black Sheep Inn and All Citizens in Bruno, Sask.

“When we played at el Mocambo … that was an experience,”  Hornell said. “It’s where Stevie Ray Vaughan, Elvis Costello and the Rolling Stones have all recorded. We had a good crowd there. A lot of Newfoundlanders and some family and friends as well.

“One thing that’s blown my mind is we haven’t had a hotel, except one in Grand Prairie because the bar provided it, the whole time,” he continues.

“Every other night we’ve stayed with people. The kindness and people’s willingness to go out of their way to help out is just unreal.”

Hornell said the band’s first experience travelling across the country has inspired new ideas, some of which he’s writing down when there’s time. The rest, he says, he’s committing to memory for later inspiration.

As much as he wanted to be back in Rocky Harbour for last month’s awards show, Hornell says, the tour has been integral in substantiating the band’s ambitions.

“We’re all better friends, not that we weren’t great friends to start, but something like this builds a different relationship that you can’t do anyway else.”

Hornell and The Diamond Minds return to the island mid-December to conclude the tour with a final string of shows at home.

They play The Bar Room in Corner Brook Dec. 14, Kelly’s Pub in Grand Falls-Windsor Dec. 15, and The Rock House in St. John’s with Sherman Downey and The Ambiguous Case and the Pre-Raphaelites Dec. 17.

Organizations: Black Sheep Inn, Rolling Stones, The Rock House

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Rocky Harbour, Thunder Bay Fort Frances Calgary B.C. Toronto Quebec Bruno, Sask. Grand Prairie Corner Brook

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