Not buttoned down by the East Coast sound

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Does the label "East Coast music," along with the traditional images it can evoke, hinder our musicians or musical growth?

A representative with St. John's-based talent agency Garrison Hill Entertainment, booking gigs for musicians including Shanneyganock, The Once and The Dardanelles, Shelley Chase is an expert in the region's tunes and the business around them.

Does the label "East Coast music," along with the traditional images it can evoke, hinder our musicians or musical growth?

A representative with St. John's-based talent agency Garrison Hill Entertainment, booking gigs for musicians including Shanneyganock, The Once and The Dardanelles, Shelley Chase is an expert in the region's tunes and the business around them.

While normally passed over as one of the nameless "industry representatives," in the wonders of a music awards week, Chase is able to offer her thoughts on East Coast music.

"I am very adamant that the East Coast label helps," Chase told The Telegram.

She said the scales are tipped in favour of the label at both the national and international level. As an example, she said, "If a Memphis player comes here and says 'I'm a blues player from Memphis,' it gives them way more street cred then saying 'I'm a blues player from Toronto.'"

Likewise, she explained, musicians from this province and this region are recognized for their folk music and songwriting skills.

Most recently, Chase said, that acknowledgment came at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Memphis, Tenn.

"The response at folk alliance was overwhelming. I walked out of the showcase with The Once and ran out of business cards instantly," she said.

The Once have a folk sound that fits the traditional category of East Coast music.

"They have the history, they have the background," Chase added.

Even so, in looking at Newfoundland and Labrador artists in the East Coast Music Awards gala, being held in Sydney, N.S. on Sunday, only one of the three acts (Karla Pilgrim, Chris Kirby and The Once) sits in the East Coast music tradition.

Asked to think of East Coast Music Awards nominees from Newfoundland and Labrador, it is unlikely the name of a rap artist will come to mind.

Yet rapper Shiest is nominated for a regional music award in 2010 for "Nuttin New." The track has a music video, shot on the streets of downtown St. John's and now available for view on YouTube.

Gospel musicians may also not be on top of your list of East Coast artists, yet the pop rock-gospel sounds found on Newfoundland and Labrador artist David John Hensman's nominated release "Find Me" might have you adding one.

With a country sound far from European folk, Newfoundlanders Jolene Keats and Sharlene Keats have a nomination for their debut CD "Good to be Home."

The diversity of music available in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the East Coast in general, runs far beyond the folk traditional. It is a collection of music that may not immediately be associated with the historic image of East Coast music.

So are musicians in non-traditional categories being left out in the cold?

"I think it's much easier for a folk singer, for a traditional singer, to break into the music scene," Chase said, when asked about those outside of the traditional sphere.

"Like Chris Kirby - he really has to prove himself. He's competing against people from places who are traditionally known for the blues."

Still, she said, pointing again to Kirby and his upcoming ECMA gala performance, the recognition can come.

Performances by all East Coast musicians at this year's music awards gala will be available to viewers far beyond the region, as the gala awards show is broadcast live online (www.bellaliant.net/ecma) this Sunday.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

The Telegram will have full coverage of the East Coast Music Awards throughout the weekend, in print and online at www.thetelegram.com.

Organizations: The Once, Garrison Hill Entertainment, The Telegram Alliance International

Geographic location: East Coast, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador Memphis Toronto Memphis, Tenn. Sydney

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  • proudtownie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    I'm surprised that your reporter never asked the artists such as Kirby, or Pilgrim these questions about NL music and their place in it. I was a regular visitor to the down town seen years ago and if I remember correctly she (Chase)was the leader of a band from New Brunswick that frequented the Irish pubs. What makes her the optimal go to person to talk about NL artists and music in general. I was told that she moved here a few years ago and started a company to help promote local artists. God help us if we have to start bringing in mainlanders to promote our music. Is there not a local person who can do this? Just asking. Good luck to all our performers at the ECMA's make us proud!!!

  • proudtownie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    I'm surprised that your reporter never asked the artists such as Kirby, or Pilgrim these questions about NL music and their place in it. I was a regular visitor to the down town seen years ago and if I remember correctly she (Chase)was the leader of a band from New Brunswick that frequented the Irish pubs. What makes her the optimal go to person to talk about NL artists and music in general. I was told that she moved here a few years ago and started a company to help promote local artists. God help us if we have to start bringing in mainlanders to promote our music. Is there not a local person who can do this? Just asking. Good luck to all our performers at the ECMA's make us proud!!!