— Photo by Hendrik Pape/Sound Check Entertainment
Emma Peckford is “the One.”
The 15-year-old Corner Brook native was named the winner of the renowned Ottawa Bluesfest’s “She’s the One” emerging female artist competition on Saturday, beating out nine other finalists from across Canada.
“I haven’t really been able to have a reaction,” Peckford said via telephone from Ottawa on Sunday. “It’s just like, ‘This isn’t real.’
“It’s pretty crazy; it’s like I’m kind of floating.”
Peckford won a prize valued at more than $50,000 that was described by RBC Bluesfest in a press release as including “a whirlwind, career-building trip to Los Angeles to work with Barrett Yeretsian (Jar of Hearts, Christina Perri), a top LA-based music producer, to record a song at the legendary Sunset Sound Recording Studio.”
The prize package also includes “a star makeover, photo shoot and music tutorial” before making a “Hollywood Style music video courtesy of Popmania.”
The daughter of Dean and Janet, Peckford originally heard of the competition back in April through an email her father saw advertising it, but it wasn’t until the final night, in the last few hours before the deadline to submit a video entry, that she decided to actually go for it.
“It was just, like, whatever,” she said.
“I don’t expect much to come of this, but why not?”
She submitted a video of her singing Iron and Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” — a song she also performed when she won the 2013 MusicNL Statoil Newfound Talent Search in St. John’s last November. After the song, she then had to explain why she thought she was “the One.”
“I just talked about, as cheesy and cliché as it is, how music is my passion and I just want to be able to continue something like that,” she said.
The contest originally featured anywhere from 250-500 contestants, Peckford had heard, so when she was announced as being one of 10 finalists that would perform at Ottawa Bluesfest, what she had managed to accomplish really began to sink in.
“It was so beyond surreal,” she said. “I’m only 15 years old and I’m getting to play at Ottawa Bluesfest.
“I don’t think I really even thought much about the competition, it was just this incredible opportunity,” she continued. “I never went into this wanting or expecting to win, it was just like, ‘This is the coolest thing ever and I can’t believe I get to do this.’”
Saturday’s competition saw each of the 10 finalists perform two songs — a ballad and an up-tempo tune — over the course of two sets. Peckford was actually the very first performer of the first set — “That was fairly nerve-wracking,” she said — and played the ballad “Dance Me To the End of Love” by Leonard Cohen. She was one of the last performers of the second set, so she had quite a wait to go back out on stage to perform her up-tempo song, which was “Lost in My Mind” by The Head and The Heart.
She had played to larger crowds than the 250 she estimated were in attendance for the competition, so seeing that many people didn’t faze her at all. It was actually only a problem when she couldn’t see them.
“Because of the professional lighting of the stage, it was so dark I could only see the front row of the audience,” she said. “That really makes me nervous because I like to be able to see my audience.”
Peckford spoke briefly with Yeretsian on Sunday — which she described as “absolutely incredible” — to discuss their plans going forward of when she will head to L.A. to meet with him. She said that will likely happen sometime in the fall.
As someone who doesn’t want to have to compromise who she is for the music industry, she was excited to hear his appraisal of her.
“He told me what really struck him is how genuine I am and that he wants to keep that and just build on ‘Emma’ and not change it,” she said. “I really appreciate that.
“I always wanted to just be me and not anything else.”