ECMAs mean a lot to The Once

Tara Bradbury
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Moncton, N.B. - When you've already been nominated for a Juno, how important is it to come to a music awards celebration back home in Atlantic Canada? Just as important as ever, say the members of St. John's-based folk trio The Once.

Fresh from a Juno nomination for Roots and Traditional Group Album of the Year, The Once - Geraldine Hollett, Andrew Dale and Phil Churchill - are in Moncton, N. B. this weekend, along with hundreds of other musicians and music industry representatives for the East Coast Music Awards.

The annual week-long Atlantic Canadian music summit includes showcases, seminars, workshops and one-on-one meetings with music agents, and will end with an awards gala at the Casino New Brunswick Sunday night.

The Once are kicking off a tour in support of their latest album, "Row Upon Row of the People They Know," at the ECMAs and heading on to Halifax Monday.

The trio was one of the big winners at last year's ECMAs, earning the award for Group Recording of the Year.

On Friday afternoon, they performed during a live taping of CBC Radio's Shift at a downtown grill, a packed house singing along with every word.

"ECMAs are always going to remain that enormous goal that you could actually reach, because you've been looking at the underside of it for so many years," Churchill explained. "The Junos happen and we're still wrapping our heads around it, but with ECMAs, it's this almost weird, ethereal thing - it's something you've been looking forward to for such a long time that it will never be diminished."

Recognition of any kind will always be important, Dale explained.

And there's something particularly comfortable about the ECMAs.

It's a great chance for music fans to take in some local talent. And it's an opportunity for the artists to do the same, catching gigs by newcomers and having a few pints with old friends.

"I like to think of it as a come home year," Hollett said.

"We all get to come back and see what everyone's doing, and we get to see all the new and upcoming people."

The event is more than just music, however, and The Once are more than happy to get down to business.

They've got a couple of private meetings scheduled for the next couple of days. It might not be the most fun aspect of the week, but definitely integral if a career is to be made.

"It's the part that we're finding out should have been important a few years ago," Churchill said, laughing.

"You can find enjoyment out of it and you can also turn it into something where you take a bit of the power back into your own hands. It's important if you want to do this for a long time. It's not so important if you just want to do it on the weekends, play your gigs, take your cash and hide it in your boot."

Downtown Moncton has turned into wall-to-wall concert venues this weekend - every bulletin board and street pole plastered with posters advertising gigs.

Some of Newfoundland and Labrador's top talent will be on display, including Matthew Hornell, Andrew James O'Brien and the Searchers, Sherman Downey and the Silver Lining, Shanneyganock, The Navigators, Terry Penney, and the Long Distance Runners, among others.

While some of the biggest awards will be presented Sunday night, ECMA organizers have spread awards presentations through the week, during various showcases.

On Thursday, Kim Stockwood was named the winner of this year's Roots/Traditional Solo Recording for "Back to the Water," while Rawlins Cross won the Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year award for "Heart, Head, Hands."

Friday night saw Halifax's Ghettochild win the African-Canadian Recording of the Year for "In the Making." Shelter With Thieves, also from Halifax, won the Loud Recording of the Year award for "Someday is Never Soon Enough" and Cape Breton's Keith Mullins won the World Recording of the Year award for "Localmotive Farm," beating out Newfoundland and Labrador group The Flummies.

ECMA week will continue today with the industry awards brunch, Export Buyers' Showcase and country showcase, among other events. Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Roots, CBC Radio, Silver Lining Traditional Group Recording African-Canadian Recording The Flummies

Geographic location: Moncton, Halifax, Atlantic Canada St. John's Newfoundland and Labrador Cape Breton

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