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Searchlight 2018: get to know the top 10 finalists

By
Ian Steaman

As we impatiently await the decision of our panel of celebrity judges as to which of our top 10 finalists will be the crowned the ultimate winner of Searchlight 2018, let's take a closer look at the artists who made it into the final round.

We asked each of our finalists to answer a few questions about their experiences as part of this year's Searchlight and the songs that got them into the top 10. Here are their stories.

Top 5 finalists as decided by vote

ArtistAmanda Jackson Band
Location: Charlottetown
Song: "Dance Into the Light"

What is "Dance Into the Light" about?

The song is about a group of people coming together to support each other and to rise up against their oppressors. It's about celebrating who they are and taking back what is rightfully theirs — an anthem.

What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

We were absolutely blown away by the support of our fans, and while many of our votes came from our mighty Island, we were also astounded by the support we received from across the country and beyond! We were overwhelmed, cried tears of joy and felt so honoured to be part of the top 10 among so many other talented artists.

What was your strategy to get out the vote to make the top 10?

Our strategy was to keep things fresh and fun, let our fans know that they were an important part of this, too, and to garner as much positive attention around the contest without it getting lost in people's news feeds. We recorded personal videos to thank and connect with our audience; we did a pop-up unplugged lunchtime show at a favourite local coffee shop; handed out flyers with QR codes for people to easily watch our new video and vote if they enjoyed it; and we strategically launched our debut video during the first round of voting. We also created an online daily event for people to get their daily reminders!

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

All of the prizes are amazing and each one presents a unique opportunity to get in front of an audience that has never heard us before, which excites us as we love creating and sharing our music and hearing how a song connects with each person in a different way. We've been writing new material lately and are ready to make album number two so we would be thrilled to win the studio residency!


ArtistCC Trubiak
Location: Flin Flon, Man.
Song: "Raven"

What is "Raven" about?

"Raven" is about that universal experience of both the dark and the light times; aloneness, feeling misunderstood yet also learning how to love, understand and grow. Embracing the darkness and light in all of us.

What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

Exhilarated. Shocked. Honoured.

What was your strategy to get out the vote to make the top 10?

Social media has been a great tool for promoting all of my projects and this opportunity as well. Plus, I am fortunate that between my hometown and beyond, there were devoted voters asking for daily reminders and making it a fun routine. I just had no idea of the magnitude; a testament to the generosity of my community and fans.

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

The Allan Slaight Juno Master Class experience. My heart pounds as I type this but the experience would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for myself and whoever would join me in the development of our respective artistry (I've daydreamed about being there with my co-writer and guitarists).


ArtistChloe Hataley
Location: Ottawa
Song: "Palace"

What is your song "Palace" about? 

My song "Palace" is based off of a Greek myth where the goddess Athena accidentally kills her best friend Pallas. However, like all stories, my song is allegorical, and has a deeper message: everybody makes mistakes.

You are the youngest of the top 10 at age 15. What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

When I found out I made it to top 10, I had just gotten back from school. At first, I didn't really believe it, so I sat, shocked, on the couch. And then, I started freaking out, and I walked around the living room, practically shrieking, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" over and over again. And then texted my friends the amazing news.

What was your strategy to get out the vote to make the top 10?

I entered this contest last year, so people who voted for me last year (my family and friends and their network of friends) were already aware of what to do, and began voting and spreading the word on day one.

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

I think I'm most excited about the Allan Slaight Juno Master Class, because I have a lot to learn in terms of songwriting and performing, and I believe the masterclass would be able to teach me a lot about the whole music business and give me more confidence.


ArtistThe Kwerks
Location: Vancouver
Song: "Firelight"

What is your song "Firelight" about?

You know when you look at a young kid and just see that beautiful childlike spark in them? There's something raw and beautiful about kids, and I feel that as we grow older we cover that spark (or firelight) up with all sorts of things — shame, guilt, anger. This song is a call to uncover it, dig deep, and really find that firelight and humanity inside; getting down to the good stuff we all have, and not being afraid to share it with the world. We made this video for the judges where we talk a little bit more about the song and why we make music as the Kwerks.

What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

Well we took a live Facebook video of it. We were so happy and excited and thankful! We hadn't wanted to pin too many hopes on getting through because it's such an emotional journey through Searchlight, as we learned last year when we got through to the top 25. So we were trying to keep calm and stay aloof, but it just wasn't possible. When we saw our name we were so excited!

What was your strategy to get out the vote to make the top 10?

We have a great fanbase affectionately referred to as KwerkNation, and they were so engaged last year — so much so that we wondered whether we should take another stab at the contest again. We worried they wouldn't want to go through it all with us again, but as soon as we put the question out there, we were flooded with excited responses. People really loved supporting and voting for us last year, and they were ready to do it again. We were so amazed and thankful, and so we created the structure on social media — a voting group, a reminder email list, among other things — and did everything we could to connect with local radio stations, newspapers and other media to get the word out.

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

That's a hard question! The Junos are really exciting; playing at JunoFest, because it all comes down to the live show for us, that's where the magic is. The Allan Slaight Juno Master Class is a real draw, too. I think it would really boost our know-how in the industry, since we're pretty grassroots and learning everything from scratch. All of the prizes are amazing, so it's hard to choose!


ArtistScarlet Sway
Location: Dawson Creek, B.C.
Song: "Room of Mirrors"

What is your song "Room of Mirrors" about?

"Room of Mirrors" is about a relationship and the realization that both people are moving in different directions. It goes through the struggle of deciding between settling down or pushing past a comfort zone and moving on.

What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

Excitement and absolute joy!

We couldn't help but notice your video with your mayor. What was your strategy to get out the vote to make the top 10?

Engaging in person and on social media with our followers, family and friends. Also reaching out to local newspapers (Dawson and Trail, B.C., our other hometown) and other social media sites to help spread the word. We held a like/share merch contest, as well as [made] posters and a QR to the direct voting link.

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

Definitely the Juno Master Class. To have that much knowledge and experience together is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This will be full of lessons that could push our career forward!


Top 5 finalists as judged by CBC Music

Artist: aquakultre
Location: Halifax
Song: "Sure"

What is your song "Sure" about?

My song was basically a representation of my feelings at the time. When I wrote "Sure" I was incarcerated in prison, getting pretty close to the release date of my sentence. Jail was lonely, and I tend to write my best when I'm isolated. "Sure" was inspired by that loneliness, and was the second song I wrote once I started getting the hang of the chords on the guitar.

What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

My reaction went a little something like this:

My wife: "Are you excited you made it?"

Me: "Meh, I don't know, not really"

My wife: "Well, I'm excited for you."

Me: "Nah, I'm just joking, this is crazy! Now I'm that much closer to meeting Daniel Caesar and giving him a hug!"

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

I'm not really too concerned about the prizes honestly, that's just me. I'm a full-time plumber by day, and me and my wife have a baby on the way. I'm excited for that. Just want the world to hear the music is all. They need to.


Artist: Fallbrigade
Location: Victoria, B.C.
Song: "Sweet Hope"

What is your song "Sweet Hope" about?

It's about finding joy while in the process of the journey, even before having found all the answers. Seeing hope in what lies ahead.

What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

We were ecstatic! We feel so incredibly honoured and couldn't be more thankful for this experience.

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

It's difficult to only choose one as they're all fantastic opportunities, but we agreed we are most excited about the Allan Slaight Juno Master Class and Juno Awards experience. Being given the opportunity to learn from some of the industry's top professionals would be extremely beneficial for our musical growth and instrumental in further shaping us as a band.


Artist: Jordana Talsky
Location: Toronto
Song: "Run"

What is your song "Run" about?

"Run" is about the struggle to escape the constraints and distractions of daily life and of our own minds, into a more grounded state of serenity and reflection. When I sing, "I would like to run away," I'm talking about running towards that part of yourself that experiences clarity and spiritual fulfillment, be it from the beauty of nature, connection to other people, music, or anything that's "infinitely hipper."

What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

Surprised! It's the only jazz entry to make the cut, and it's a song that fuses genres, so I was super excited that the panel and listeners are embracing a crossover song and new style of music.

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

Oh man, all of them sound incredible and each would have a different benefit: the mentorship opportunity would be an invaluable learning experience; the recording residency would be a great place to create; and the CBC Music Festival would give me the chance to perform my music for the biggest audience of my career to date. I'm floored just thinking about it!


Artist: Sara Diamond
Location: Montreal
Song: "Stay a Little"

What is your song "Stay a Little" about?

"Stay a Little" was born out of my first heartbreak, but touches on aspects of love, loss, growth, comfort and fear. Knowing that something isn't right for you, but not knowing how to get through without it.

What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

Gratitude and excitement. Music keeps me going, so I feel blessed to be making music in a country that supports the arts in such a meaningful way.

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

Tough choice! They are all other-worldly amazing. But I'd have to say the Allan Slaight Juno Master Class. I absolutely love learning, especially through people's personal stories. So the mentorship aspect of the program inspires me immensely.


Artist: Sinzere
Location: Calgary
Song: "On time"

What is your song "On time" about?

"On time" is about the person who finally comes into their own, arrives to their true self.

What was your reaction when you made the top 10?

When I found out that I made the top 10, I screamed out my window to the world: “I made it!” I feel so blessed to have this opportunity as I have dedicated the last 12 years of my life towards my musical career.

Which Searchlight prize are you most excited about and why?

The Searchlight prize I am most excited about is the Allan Slaight Juno Master Class and Juno Awards experience. As a Canadian artist, this has been one of my lifelong dreams and I think it would excel my artistry in so many ways.


One of these artists will be named the ultimate winner of Searchlight 2018. Find out which one by tuning into q on CBC Radio One on Monday, March 19, at 11 a.m. local time (11:30 a.m. in Newfoundland) when host Tom Power will make the announcement live on air to kick off Juno Week in Vancouver.

More to explore:

Listen to the Searchlight 2018 top ten finalists here

Searchlight 2018: meet the judges

Searchlight 2018: the prizes

Check out twelve standout artists from the Searchlight 2018 top 100