When it comes to this year’s East Coast Music Week, the members of RocketRocketShip are a little nervous, appropriately grateful, and really, really excited — and even though they’re newcomers and not vying for an award this year, they’re planning to leave their mark on the entire east coast.
“We don’t look to leave just a footprint on the ECMAs; we look to leave a crater,” explains drummer Jeremy Kelly.
The St. John’s-based six-piece — Kelly, Paul Brake, David Shears, Kenney Purchase, Jon Pike and Matt Dines — have been together only since 2009, and this weekend will mark their very first performance off the island. As part of ECMA week, being held this year in Halifax, the band is showcasing on the MusicNL stage tonight, along with Terry Penney, Sean Panting, The Secrets, The Dardanelles, Baytown and Long Distance Runners.
In the past three years or so, RocketRocketShip, it seems, has been busy amassing fans. They’ve got one full-length record, 2012’s “Your Best Kept Secret,” to their name, and their fans, who’ve dubbed themselves “Rocketeers,” wear silicone wristbands with the band’s name on them.
RocketRocketShip’s plan for this weekend, Kelly says, is to expand that fan base.
“As a band, we work our tails off to write the best songs, promote ourselves, make the most entertaining live show and gain exposure not only for ourselves, but for Newfoundland music, so it’s even more special when we have people backing us up,” he explains. “It’s such a great feeling to have so many people supporting our dreams.
“Our goal for this weekend is to gain a new fan base, make some connections with industry professionals who we can hopefully work with down the road to help further our career, and lastly, show the people of the ECMAs what RocketRocketShip is and why they need to know about us. From here, we only look ahead. We couldn’t be happier to be from this province. We will represent it well in Halifax.”
It’s the 25th anniversary for ECMA week, which began as the Maritime Music Awards at Halifax’s Flamingo Café and Lounge. It grew and moved to the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium as the East Coast Music Awards in 1991, and eventually, the celebration was taken on the road, alternating each year between the Atlantic provinces and evolving into a week-long event full of musical showcases and an industry conference. This weekend, like every year, will culminate in the East Coast Music Awards gala, to be held at the Cunard Centre Sunday evening.
A whole plethora of local acts are nominated for awards this year: Larry Foley, The Once, The Dardanelles, Repartee, Long Distance Runners and Duane Andrews. Out of the five nominees for Country Recording of the Year, three are Newfoundlanders: twin sisters The Keats, who are natives of Gambo, living in Halifax; The Heavy Horses, the artistic pseudonym for Steady Brook native Justin Mahoney, and Tonya Kennedy, a St. John’s native who lives in Ontario.
“I’m thrilled to be back on the east coast,” Kennedy said Thursday from Halifax, where she arrived Wednesday evening. “ECMA week is a riot — fun, fun, fun — however, there is a lot of value on many levels in being here. As an artist, there are a lot of performing opportunities, meet-and-greet opportunities, and if you’re able to attend seminars, there are a lot of people here that have been around forever and are a wealth of knowledge. For me, one of the highlights every year is meeting my fellow artists that I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting in the past and the beginning of new friendships.”
Of course, a nomination only adds to the excitement, Kennedy said, especially since, in her case, the nomination is for an EP that she has since turned into a full-length recording.
“In my eyes, being nominated is a victory all on its own. Winning sure would be great, but every nominee has already won a selection process by just being nominated,” she said. “I am honoured and thrilled and tickled pink to be selected, and yes, of course I have my fingers, toes and eyes crossed for a win.”
Chris Kirby is nominated for two ECMAs: one for Solo Recording of the Year, the other for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year for his latest record, “Wonderizer.” For him, the value of taking part in ECMA week is to stay relevant in the industry.
“People want to see your face. They want to be reminded that you’re serious and active,” he said. “There are so many people in the industry, even in our little regional part of it, so if you don't find ways to stay top-of-mind, then you might miss out on some opportunities. Some of my best friends started out as business contacts at ECMA, so there's another reason: if this is your life, you want to get close to people who are driving the same road you are.”
In addition to making music, Kirby produces it, and is hosting a showcase of the artists he works with at Halifax’s Delta Barrington hotel tonight. Performers will include Charlie A’Court, Kim Wempe, Keith Mullins, DIESEL and Brianna Gosse.
The weekend will also likely include a special tribute to New Brunswick-born, P.E.I.-raised Stompin’ Tom Connors — for whom the East Coast Music Association has named its lifetime achievement award, presented each year — who passed away in Ontario Wednesday afternoon, aged 77.
The Telegram will be on location in Halifax all weekend for the ECMAs, and will be publishing stories as well as posting videos, photos and updates on award winners online at www.thetelegram.com. And for a full wrap, pick up a copy of The Telegram Monday.
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