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Hillsburn, Motel Raphael, Ivory Hours and more: how Searchlight changed our lives
By
Andrea Warner

Published

March 10, 2016

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We love celebrating our Searchlight alum and it's truly rewarding to see how many artists credit the competition with some of the opportunities and successes that followed after the polls closed.

We caught up with several acts who told us about how Searchlight changed their lives and their advice for the next generation of artists.

Hillsburn

What kind of difference did Searchlight make in your life and on your career during the competition?
We decided to take Searchlight pretty seriously, so the competition took up a lot of our time and energy for a couple of months. The impact on our career was pretty immediate and definitely surprised us. Especially toward the end, we were getting lots of new Facebook likes, views on YouTube and messages from people we'd never met. It was pretty encouraging and exciting.

How has Searchlight influenced your career after the competition?
Searchlight helped us establish ourselves. It was our introduction to a lot of people, particularly outside of Halifax. After the competition, we were able to say we'd finished in the national top 10 in CBC's Searchlight competition, which gave us a lot more credibility than we'd had going in. Our success in Searchlight caught the attention of the company that is releasing our new record, In The Battle Years, on March 11th. That was the biggest direct result of the competition for us.

What's your advice for bands and artists thinking about entering Searchlight?
If you're going to enter the competition, put the work in and make the most of it. Go over the top. Do something different and interesting. Searchlight is an amazing opportunity to reach new people and to rally the supporters you've already won.

Scary Bear Soundtrack

What kind of difference did Searchlight make in your life and on your career during the competition?
It made my life pretty busy! But it also boosted my confidence about my music. Having Dan Boeckner analyze my music on live radio with Shad on q was a pretty incredible and surreal experience. I mean, I'll keep writing music even if no one listens to it and even if no one tells me they like it, but it was pretty encouraging to feel validated.

How has Searchlight influenced your career after the competition?
With our success, we felt encouraged about not only going ahead with releasing our new EP Ovayok Road, but also running an Indiegogo campaign to raise enough money to release it on CD instead of just as a digital download as we originally intended. And the response was great! We raised lots of money, not just from our friends, but from people who had heard of us through Searchlight.

We were pretty successful during the 2014 Searchlight as well, making it to the top 10, and as a result of that, we got a deal with Blundstone boots which involved them including our song on their playlist of Canadian music which came with every purchase of Blundstone boots. Pretty great for exposure!

With our success last year, we made a bunch of great new musical friends and have been playing shows with them. As a result of the publicity that we got through Searchlight, we were also invited to perform at the NWT Pride festival in Yellowknife last year, sharing the stage with Austra, Rae Spoon, LAL, the Jerry Cans and other great folks. That was one of our favourite performances from last year — such a great experience.

What's your advice for bands and artists thinking about entering Searchlight?
Work hard, but set other goals besides just winning the contest. Like making new friends and musical connections. Only one person wins the contest but everyone can make new connections with bands they can tour with and collaborate with and support in the future. Searchlight has such excellent networking potential!

Ivory Hours

What kind of difference did Searchlight make in your life?
I met some people I may not have otherwise, including some bands we still play with, and it brought us to the attention of some supportive CBC programmes. We were new to radio play at the time, so it definitely helped create an audience out of CBC's listeners.

What's your advice for bands and artists thinking about entering Searchlight?
Comb through the entrants and use it as a database of bands to link up with on tour.

isKwé

What kind of difference did Searchlight make in your life and on your career during the competition?
Being a part of Searchlight opened my world to a whole slew of Canadian artists I simply hadn’t been privy to before entering the competition. It was super helpful in building an artist network and community, especially within our group who built a "mixtape" in order to cross-promote, that has maintained over the years. We’re still constantly supporting each other, plus, we've been able to work together on projects, performances, etc!

How has Searchlight influenced your career after the competition?
Searchlight was a massive reason I’ve made the gains I have over the past few years. Through radio play, and promotion during the competition, my music was able to reach a much bigger audience - both listeners and industry related, that happened at a much faster pace than had I not entered. I’ve had songs charting, thanks to the exposure Searchlight provided me. I've been featured on The Strombo Show and DNTO, in addition to being booked for multiple festivals thanks to Searchlight.

What's your advice for bands and artists thinking about entering Searchlight?
Remember that this competition can really open doors, so make sure you have all your back end lined up. Website, promo materials, etc should all be considered when prepping to submit to the competition, because I just don’t know who’ll be watching or listening.

Nuela Charles

What kind of difference did Searchlight make in your life and on your career during the competition?
Searchlight brought me up to a national level. More ears heard my song. Searchlight brought CBC on board which was the turning point. I did a tour right after that and made a point to visit as many CBC stations along the way as I could and it was the most successful tour I've had. Shows were packed!

What's your advice for bands and artists thinking about entering Searchlight?
I think the biggest thing is being prepared ahead of time for all the work that you’re actually going to have to do. And manage your expectations. I'm not a huge fan of voting competitions because it forces you to continually be asking of something from your fans, but if you can do it in a creative way, go hard.

Motel Raphael

What kind of difference did Searchlight make in your life and on your career during the competition?
Searchlight was an incredible platform for our music to be heard by people all over Canada. It helped us develop relationships with all the lovely people at CBC and we are so thankful for that!

How has Searchlight influenced your career after the competition?
We are putting out our second album on April 15th, we've toured Canada and performed at Osheaga, WeDay and Ottawa Cityfolk…and now we’re off to SXSW. Searchlight was a great starting point. We connected with a lot of Canadian artists that we would never have met otherwise, whether it was musicians, journalists or just new friends. That was the best part of the competition.

The Royal Foundry

What kind of difference did Searchlight make in your life and on your career during the competition?
Searchlight was such an amazing experience. We made tons of connections with Artists and Fans across the country. CBC has such a loyal fanbase and it was great to connect with them. Since Searchlight we have been able to play shows and tour with numerous artists that we never would have been able to otherwise. It's definitely made us treat our careers more professionally.

Did you receive any opportunities directly because of Searchlight?
Through Searchlight we were asked to play at the Canada Day Celebration in Edmonton at the Legislature Building and also be featured on Grant Lawrence's Songs You Need To Hear (featured on NPR and BBC)

What's your advice for bands and artists thinking about entering Searchlight?
Just go for it. Stop wondering if you'll make it and just put yourself out there and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner

Searchlight submissions close March 23. Enter here!