Women dominated the East Coast Music Awards nominations announced Monday, including a song-of-the-year nod for a P.E.I. singer-songwriter’s heartbreaking story of an adolescent sexual assault.
The front-running women include solo singer-songwriters Rose Cousins, Jenn Grant and KINLEY, whose lyrics describe her experience of being raped after her high-school prom.
KINLEY, who has said writing about the assault on her debut solo album Letters Never Sent helped her work through difficult emotions, picked up four nods, including rising star recording of the year.
Her song Microphone paints a picture of a boy taking the hand of a girl and leading her to a field, where she was sexually assaulted despite repeatedly saying no.
“He was a year older than me and I barely knew him at all and it really, really kind of ruined me for years. I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with my emotions,” KINLEY, whose full name is Kinley Dowling, told The Canadian Press in 2016.
“People don’t want to bring it up … because it’s a really hard thing to talk about and you don’t ever want to feel those feelings ever again. But you have to let them out to allow yourself to be able to get over it and move on with your life.”
KINLEY released Letters Never Sent after spending nine years playing violin for Newfoundland indie ensemble Hey Rosetta!.
Island-born, Halifax-based artist Cousins’s eight nominations lead the pack, including album of the year and solo recording of the year for her melancholic heartbreak record Natural Conclusion.
In a blog post on her website, Cousins writes that the album came from a place of vulnerability, and is the “best thing I’ve made.”
“It came from the depths and I made it with people I deeply respect,” said Cousins, set to embark upon a tour with dates in Nova Scotia, Ontario and P.E.I.
Ryan Freeland and Joao Carvalho’s engineering work on Cousins’s record was also nominated for a Grammy alongside albums by Bruno Mars and Roger Waters in the category of best engineered album (non-classical), although the award ultimately went on the weekend to the engineers of Mars’s 24K Magic.
Halifax’s Grant, who weaves folk with ambient pop on her album Paradise, received six nods — including songwriter of the year and pop recording of the year.
Meanwhile, fellow Haligonian and chart-topping pop artist Ria Mae, whose self-titled album was produced by Enfield, N.S., rapper Classified, received four nominations, including fans’ choice video of the year for her hit single Bend.
East Coast Music Awards veteran Joel Plaskett and his father Bill were nominated for their collaboration album Solidarity, a record firmly rooted in Bill’s English folk influences, but still upholds Joel’s signature rock swagger.
“It was fun to try and make the album work where it sort of told our individual stories in small fragments, and our collective stories together,” Joel said during an interview with The Canadian Press in his Halifax-area recording studio New Scotland Yard last February.
“That to me was the fun of it and also the challenge. It was not as easy as I anticipated it to be.”
Cape Breton’s Port Cities also scooped up several nominations, including song of the year for the Gordie Sampson-produced Back to the Bottom, from their debut self-titled album.
The ECMAs are a five-day celebration of music showcasing hundreds of East Coast artists.
The awards ceremony — hosted by comedian Jonathan Torrens — is set to take place in Halifax in May, marking 30 years since the event’s inception.
Performers include Halifax rock royalty Sloan, Newfoundland indie-folk group The Once, and award nominees Port Cities, Joel Plaskett, Rose Cousins, and P.E.I. trio The East Pointers — nominated for group and folk recording of the year for What We Leave Behind.
The Nova Scotia government has announced $300,000 to support this year’s festival and conference.