Why the Juno Awards matter to artists: Just ask William Prince, Caity Gyorgy or Loud Luxury

EFFLO 2022

Being nominated, winning or just being on the televised awards show can have tangible benefits,

but even off-camera moments can have an impact.

By Nick Krewen

Special to the Star

Have you ever wondered about the impact of being nominated for – or winning – a Juno Award has on an artist’s career?

Well, wonder no more: it turns out it can be quite substantial.

For example, when Caity Gyorgy won the Vocal Jazz Album of the Year at the 50th anniversary of the awards show that celebrates Canadian recording artists in Toronto last year, the benefits of her victory didn’t take long to manifest.

“It changed my life,” said Gyorgy (pronounced “George”), who won following her first-time nomination for her album Now Pronouncing: Caity Gyorgy.

“I’ve been able to book a lot more performances across Canada and in the U.S., and I just came back from Mexico. What I’ve noticed is that every time I’ve been announced through these gigs by the promoters and venues, they always start with, ‘We are promoting Juno Award-winning Caity Gyorgy.’

“It’s definitely added a huge sense of validity to my music and me as an artist.”

Aside from the added bookings, there has also been another bottom-line benefit to Gyorgy’s stature as a Juno Award winner.

“Almost every single show that I’ve played since winning the Juno has been sold out,” added Gyorgy, who will also be competing in the same category this year for her sophomore album Featuring when the Juno Awards are presented in Edmonton at Rogers Place on Monday, March 13.

As one might expect with the attention garnered from an awards show – where, in most Juno categories, you contend against four other finalists (Gyorgy’s album challengers this year include Diana Panton‘s Red; Laura Anglade and Sam Kirkmayer‘s Venez donc chez moi; Nikki Yanofsky‘s Nikki By Starlight and the self-titled album by The Ostara Project) – the glare of the sudden spotlight can also create other positive outcomes.

For Gyorgy, who vocally tutors a number of private students, she was surprised to be told how much she’s artistically motivated them.

“So many people have told me, ‘oh, this is so great that you’ve won with original music. Now I want to write original music,'” she said. “For me, that’s the most inspiring part – especially to inspire young women to write and record albums.”

First-time Juno nominee Francois Klark says he has yet to experience any of the benefits associated with an awards nomination, but the Adult Contemporary Album of the Year contender for his Adventure Book effort says the fact that he’s in pretty heavy company for his category is offers great validation.

 “All those years of hard work where it feels like you don’t know where you going or if you’re going in the right direction, the Juno nomination is a nod from your peers and the industry that  serves as a little reminder that you’re doing okay,” says Klark, who was born in South Africa and started his musical journey back in 2017.

“It’s a little bit of a relief and inspiration to keep going.”

Klark, who is vying against Jann Arden (Descendant,) Michael Bublé (Higher), the Toronto husband-wife tandem of Marc Jordan and Amy Sky (He Sang, She Sang) and Tyler Shaw (A Tyler Shaw Christmas), says that he feels “like a really small player against some really big legends” and calls the experience to this point “surreal.”

And while he’s not bullish about his chances at winning due to Bublé’s Grammy-winning Higher being present in the category, (“I just feel like I’m going for a nice dinner at this point,” he says,) Klark will at least be staging a performance during the Juno Week’s JunoFest concert series during that weekend in Edmonton…and perhaps gaining a collaborative opportunity or two.

“I’m looking forward to hearing some of the other artists in concert and maybe working with them as a writer or a producer,” Klark noted.

Of course, one of the prime positions you can achieve via the Junos is a spot on the two-hour program, which -to be hosted by actor Simu Liu – will be nationally broadcast on the CBC this year and available throughout its other digital media platforms…as was the case with London, Ontario electronic artists Loud Luxury when they won their first of two Junos in their hometown back in 2019.

While the duo of Andrew Fedyk and Joe De Pace were already a known entity through hits like “Body” featuring Brando by the time the Junos rolled around (capturing the award for Dance Recording of the Year), they said their performance on the show with singer Brando and the Western Mustang Band helped clarify public understanding about the type of music they create.

“I don’t think that  electronic music is one of the best understood genres,” said Fedyk, whose outfit won Group of the Year in 2020 and is again nominated for Dance Recording this year for “These Nights” featuring Kiddo.

“To put it in a public space the way the Junos did made sense across all generations. To people of an older age – my parents for example – it helped them understand why the music we’re doing matters and how it makes sense. 

 “That aspect was really important.  That cemented pop culture for us.”

It’s important to note that all the magical moments that can change a musician’s career don’t necessarily happen on camera.

Allan Reid, president and CEO of CARAS/The Juno Awards and MusiCounts,  recalls the 2017 “In Memoriam” segment that occurred at the Juno Gala Dinner and Awards portion of the weekend in Ottawa that forever changed the life of William Prince.

Reid said that booking agent Julien Paquin recommended Prince sing a song he wrote called “Breathless” during “In Memoriam” and the organization took him up on the offer.

“William’s voice is just stunning – a beautiful baritone bass,” said Reid, “He performed the song and at the end, received a rousing ovation, because the song really resonated with everyone in the room.”

Reid said he attended the Western Canada Music Awards a few months later and was approached by Prince’s manager, Nathalie Kleinschmit, who thanked him for changing her client’s life.

Klienschmit told him that the moment that Prince walked off the stage after performing “Breathless” at the event, she had been besieged by offers from numerous labels to get involved with the singer and songwriter’s career.

Prince, who won Contemporary Roots Album that year for his debut album Earthly Days, ended up signing a worldwide recording and publishing deal with Glassnote Records – home to Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, The Strumbellas and others.

“Here was William, from the Peglas First Nation, couch surfing  on his sister’s house in Winnipeg, trying to make ends meet as a young father, and suddenly he was able to consider home ownership and get rid of his personal debt,” Reid explained. “He also bought a Gibson guitar that he was eyeing and wrote five songs on it over the next two weeks.”

Reid said Kleinschmit told him, “For some people, the awards are seen as ephemeral and intangible. For William, the impact of the Junos is real, very raw and inspiring.”

Concludes Reid: “The Junos can put wind in your sails as an artist.”