By the end of Sunday night’s MusicNL awards gala, Andrew James O’Brien was looking for a new place to live.
Preferably a pad with a mantelpiece.
“I need somewhere to put them,” O’Brien said, smiling, looking down at the three awards cradled in his arms.
It’s the perfect ending to an incredible first year for the singer/songwriter, who released his debut record, “Songs for Searchers,” last April.
The buzz around him wasn’t long spreading. He performed on the MusicNL stage and at other venues during the 2011 East Coast Music Awards in Charlottetown, P.E.I., opened for Matt Costa at The Ship, and is not long home from a solo tour of Eastern Canada.
O’Brien had been nominated for six awards, and took home some of the night’s biggest: Male Artist of the Year, Rising Star of the Year and Pop/Rock Artist of the Year. Despite his success over the past six months, he said he wasn’t thinking about winning any of them.
“The only inkling I had was that I was going to have a great time this weekend,” O’Brien said.
“This is the best time of the year, I think, regardless of whether or not I have a record. I was feeling really good just to be in the company of the other nominees. They’re all amazing and everyone in every category deserved the award and that’s something that’s really great to be able to say, I think.”
Hey Rosetta! takes Group of the year
O’Brien wasn’t the only extra-humble award winner, with many of them giving credit to others. Sandy Morris, accepting the Side Musician of the Year award, thanked “all the cool cats” he’s played with over the years. Colleen Power brought Neil Rosenberg of Crooked Stovepipe to the podium to ensure the band got credit for her win for Female Artist of the Year. Chris Kirby, accepting the award for Jazz/Blues Artist of the Year, said he was just thankful O’Brien didn’t put out a blues record.
Ron Hynes, in accepting the award for Folk/Roots Artist of the Year, said he was sure fellow nominee Kim Stockwood was going to win it.
“Kim made a really great record this year and I’m very proud of her. But, you know ... too bad!” Hynes said, laughing.
Hey Rosetta! — who announced late last week they’ve signed a deal with ATO Records — were the night’s biggest winners, winning the awards for Group of the Year, Album of the Year (for “Seeds”), Alternative Artist/Group of the Year and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year (for the song “Yer Spring”), but weren’t able to accept them in person, since the band’s on tour in Australia. Instead, frontman Tim Baker sent a note.
“It’s too bad we can’t be there to celebrate in person, but as I tell myself when I’m road-weary, we are where we should be. We are truly honoured to receive this.”
Shanneyganock, about to release their 10th album this week, took home two awards: one for Celtic/Traditonal Group of the Year, the other for Entertainer of the Year, voted by music fans online. The latter award brings a special honour, band member Mark Hiscock said.
Hisock and band frontman Chris Andrews say they’ve always stayed true to their word and their musical style, and offered that as a reason why Shanneyganock is still alive and kicking.
“I think we gave our fans a pure product for a long time and we never really tried to fool them or tried to change,” Andrews said. “We just are who we are.”
“Trad music is still alive and it’s doing well,” Hiscock added. “We’re feeling overwhelmed. Honoured. It’s great.”
Other award winners Sunday night were Newman Sound Men’s Choir (Classical Artist/Group of the Year), Craig Young (Country Artist of the Year), and Dan Bursey (Gospel Artist of the Year). A. Frank Willis, who died last February, was honoured with a lifetime achievement award. A famous and colourful member of the local folk scene for close to 40 years, Willis, originally from Dover was known as the “One-Man Band From Newfoundland,” and could play up to six instruments in the one song. He was also a songwriter, known for tunes like “Take Me As I Am” and the Christmas song “Hello Mom and Dad.” Premier Kathy Dunderdale presented the award to Willis’ brothers.
The awards gala was the closing event for MusicNL Week in St. John’s, which saw hundreds of musicians and other members of the province’s music industry participate in showcases, seminars, networking events and one-on-one meetings with national and international industry executives. A new focus was placed on public events this year, with shows, songwriters’ circles and open mike events held all week long.