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5 things you missed at the 2017 Junos Songwriters' Circle

Holly Gordon

Editor's note: strong language warning in Part 1.

Junos 2017 Songwriters' Circle: part 1

Bruce Cockburn hosts a session at the National Arts Centre with Colin Linden, Lisa LeBlanc and Wintersleep's Paul Muphy.

Junos 2017 Songwriters' Circle: part 2

Bruce Cockburn hosts a session at the National Arts Centre with Chantal Kreviazuk, Daniel Caesar and Donovan Woods.


The Junos Songwriters’ Circle is always a lot of fun, with big-name and newer artists sharing the stage to tell the stories behind their songs before playing them.

At this year’s Junos, Bruce Cockburn hosted the Sunday afternoon event at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre in two sessions: first up was Colin Linden, Lisa LeBlanc and Wintersleep’s Paul Murphy; then Chantal Kreviazuk, Daniel Caesar and Donovan Woods took over.

The show was a delight, and if you couldn’t attend, fear not: you can listen to both parts above, or tune in to CBC Radio over the next two weeks: the full show will play on Canada Live this week and next (Fridays at 2 p.m. on Radio One), as well as on Radio 2 over the next two weeks (Mondays at 7 p.m.).

Below, read on for five things you missed at the songwriters’ circle — aside from the music.

1. Everyone’s love for Bruce Cockburn

“Many of the greatest times of my life have been standing two or three feet away, to Bruce Cockburn’s right,” joked Colin Linden after Cockburn kicked off the set with “Lovers in a Dangerous Time."

By the end of the afternoon, Cockburn had made both Linden and Kreviazuk cry with his performances — “Is there a tissue?” Kreviazuk asked — and invited LeBlanc to teach his five-year-old daughter to play “You Look Like Trouble (But I Guess I do Too)”.

“I’ve had nightmare dreams about Bruce Cockburn singing that [‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’], Chantal Kreviazuk singing that [‘Surrounded’], and then having to go after that, it’s like literally terrifying,” confessed Woods before his first song. The whole thing was just a big love fest.

2. Lisa LeBlanc’s Cajun ‘love’ song

“[In] a lot of Cajun music, basically they say, ‘P’tite fille, t’es partie avec mon coeur.’ And it’s just like, ‘Oh, little girl, you’ve tore my heart apart, you left with my heart.’ And that’s about 95 per cent of the songs, right? So I kind of wanted to do sort of a Cajun song.” But the Acadian singer didn’t want to do the traditional love song — “I felt like, at the end of the day, that sucks, that’s been said like 2,000 times before me so I was like, what could work? How could I change this?” — and so she replaced her heart with her car.

“And so now the song is not about somebody stealing my heart, it’s about somebody stealing my car. So this is a French song called ‘P’tit gars, dude, you stole my car,'” she explained, laughing.

3. Paul Murphy’s terrible storytelling (but great songs)

“Yeah, so I don’t know, I’m a really bad storyteller,” said Murphy before playing Wintersleep’s hit song “Amerika” solo. And he was right! But his playing more than made up for it, especially his second song, “Window,” which will be on his upcoming solo album.

4. Chantal Kreviazuk’s heartfelt tribute to her late friend Samuel

“I wrote this song about my friend, who took his life when we were kids. And for me that was the first sort of real explosion in my life and I was really just — I don’t know if you ever really get over something like that. And for me the song has just become such a gift, because I get to sing it and sort of memorialize him and pay tribute to him all the time.”

After choking up a little, Kreviazuk then started to play “Surrounded” — the song that launched her career.

5. Daniel Caesar’s dad shouting out ‘I love you’

At the beginning of his set, Daniel Caesar joked about flipping his parents the bird — a joke that Kreviazuk brought up a couple more times and he wanted to set the record straight.

“My dad’s here. Dad, I want you to know I love you,” he started, as everyone in the theatre started laughing. “I’m being so serious right now. I love you so much and I’m only here right now because you made me a man. And I’m ever thankful.”

And that’s when you can here his dad yell “I love you” from somewhere in the audience.

“I love you too, dad. Forever.”

More to explore:

Junos 2017: all the best moments

Junos 2017: the complete list of winners

Watch Feist’s tear-jerking tribute to Leonard Cohen from the Junos