The 41st annual Canadian Country Music Association Awards promise to be bigger and better than ever — Shania Twain! Jess Moskaluke! Keith Urban! Tim Hicks! Brett Kissel! Terri Clark! Serena Ryder! — but it’s also the perfect place to showcase and celebrate the next generation of Canadian country music artists.
Here’s a guide to the 2018 SiriusXM Rising Star nominees before the big ceremony on Sept. 9 at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton which will be broadcast live on CBC TV, as well as streamed via CBCMusic.ca/ccmas.
Nominee: The Reklaws
From: Cambridge, Ont.
Key song: “Hometown Kids”
Sibling country duo Jenna and Stuart Walker both grew up playing music and singing, so when it came time to form a band, they took their last name, spelled it backwards, and bam — that’s how the Reklaws came to be. Jenna and Stuart are two of seven children who grew up on their family’s “adventure farm,” and when there was talk of a reality show centred around their sprawling family, the pair found themselves in Nashville where they began writing music and performing. Since winning the 2012 CCMA Discover Program, they’ve gone on to open for almost every major country superstar in the business. They’re also nominated in two other CCMA categories: group of the year and video of the year.
Nominee: Leaving Thomas
From: Calgary, Alta.
Key song: “Blame it on the Neon”
Annika Odegard and Bryton Udy first met as kids in the children’s chorus of a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and then found themselves competing a decade later in the 2012 Calgary Stampede Talent Search. Odegard, a classically trained pianist, violinist and vocalist, and Udy, a hockey player who taught himself guitar, might seem like an unlikely duo to front a country band, but their debut EP is packed with songs that approach the genre with an ear for experimentation, leaning heavily into rock, pop, R&B and blues. The band is nominated in one other CCMA category: interactive artist/group of the year.
Nominee: Hunter Brothers
From: Shaunavon, Sask.
Key song: “Born and Raised”
The hockey-playing Hunter Brothers — Luke, J.J., Ty, Brock and Dusty — grew up singing gospel but they’ve found their calling in country music. Their grandfather was a self-taught musician, and the siblings remember sitting with him at his piano as he’d play. In 2016, the brothers released their debut single, “El Dorado,” and it made a splash on the Billboard Canada Country chart. In 2017, they released their debut album, Getaway, which led to five singles finding a home on Canadian country radio. They’re also nominated in two other CCMA categories: group of the year and interactive artist/group of the year.
Nominee: Dan Davidson
From: Edmonton, Alta.
Key song: “Let’s go There”
The rock ’n’ roll musician (he’s the guitarist-turned-lead-singer for Tupelo Honey) moved into country music in a big way, making a splash in 2016 with the viral music video he made for “Found,” the second independent single off his debut. The song is a thrilling foot-stomper that’s all about the redemptive powers of love, and features some killer fiddle work and indie-folk clap-alongs, for a decidedly contemporary fusion of past and present. The video, which Davidson says he made for just $500, is unlike anything country music had ever seen before, and his most recent music video, “Say we Did,” is equally outlandish. It’s Davidson’s fresh, scrappy, creative approach that won him four of the five categories in which he was nominated at the 2016 Alberta Country Music Awards.
Nominee: Aaron Goodvin
From: Spirit River, Alta.
Key song: “Lonely Drum”
The singer-songwriter spent years honing his craft and made a few trips to Nashville before finally signing a publishing deal and scoring a major hit co-writing the song, “Out Like That,” which was on Luke Bryan’s multi-platinum 2013 album, Crash my Party. But rather than go the route of permanent collaborator, Goodvin put himself squarely behind the mic and the first few singles from his self-titled debut have blown up. “Knock on Wood” was a top 40 hit on Canadian country radio and he’s followed that up with massive hits, “Woman in Love,” “Lonely Drum,” and “Miss me Yet.” He’s also nominated for two other 2018 CCMA Awards: single of the year and songwriter of the year, both for his song, “Lonely Drum.”
The 2018 CCMA Awards will take place in Hamilton, Ont., on Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. (5 p.m. PT). It’ll be broadcast on CBC TV and can also be streamed on cbcmusic.ca/ccmas.