Stephen Cooke. Local XPress. February 7, 2017.
Heather Rankin thought she was going to have “a mini heart attack” when she heard her name among the 2017 Juno Award nominees on Tuesday.
The well-known Nova Scotia singer and member of the Rankin Family was among a handful of East Coast artists who are up for the national music awards, which will be handed out in Ottawa during Juno Week, March 27 to April 2.
This is the first time she’s been nominated as a solo artist, for her first release under her own name, A Fine Line, which was named in the adult contemporary album of the year category along with Halifax-born Sarah McLachlan’s latest Wonderland, Celine Dion’s French-language release Encore un soir, Chantal Kreviazuk’s Hard Sail and Beating Heart by Toronto pop crooner Mark Masri.
Rankin found out about the nomination when her husband, James MacInnis, tuned into the live stream of the Tuesday afternoon Junos announcement, apparently with higher hopes than she had.
“I don’t know why (he did), just curious, I suppose, and I was thinking, ‘There’s no way I’m going to be nominated!’ ” she says from her home in Halifax. “Then I heard my name and thought, ‘Wait a second, somebody made a mistake!’ and then I couldn’t breath for a second.
“My heart rate is still up substantially! It’s so nice, you feel like you’ve been beating your head against a wall for how many years, and it’s great to be acknowledged, and know that somebody thinks your work is … special, y’know?”
Rankin acknowledges that she wasn’t as quick off the mark to pursue a solo music career as her siblings Jimmy and Raylene, opting to continue with the acting career she put on hold when the Rankin Family became an international touring success. She calls making A Fine Line, with a pop sound that stands apart from her work with her brothers and sisters, the result of a long, long journey.
“It took me a few years to be able to believe that I was capable, and that I had something of substance to say, and that I would be worthy of listening to, as a solo artist,” she says. “It was just lining myself up with the right people, having a lot of patience and perseverance, and a lot of hard work. The record took a few years from start to finish, and I’m deeply moved today.”
Now signed with Halifax’s Laughing Heart Music (Ben Caplan, Hillsburn), Rankin spent 2016 focusing on the audience at home in Atlantic Canada, and is just getting ramped up to take her music to the rest of Canada and beyond. Getting a Juno Award nomination is also a welcome boost as she prepared to travel to the Folk Alliance music conference in Kansas City later this month.
“In some ways I feel like I’m still at the bottom of the hill, but here I am with this nomination, and there’s still so much more for me to learn, and so much more growth that’s going to happen as I go forward,” she says, adding with a chuckle, “But here I am, an old gal on a new block.
“Really, I’m just turning a new corner, which makes this all the more special. I’m a woman who is releasing my first solo record relatively late in life, and being acknowledged by the industry is just the greatest feeling in the world. You just want to be recognized for your work.”
Also acknowledged for its latest release is Nova Scotia-bred, Montreal-based band Wintersleep, whose sixth album The Great Detachment is in the adult alternative album of the year category with releases by Basia Bulat, Gord Downie, Andy Shauf and Leonard Cohen.
After working with Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev collaborator Dave Friedman in New York on 2012’s Hello Hum, the band returned to its roots on The Great Detachment, as guitarist Tim D’eon explained to JunoTV host Sam Sutherland immediately following the nomination announcement at Toronto’s Rebel nightclub.
“We had a lot of rehearsals going into it, and a lot of songs, plus we recorded it in Halifax where we recorded the first three records. It felt like we were tapping into that,” D’eon said of the record, which they made largely live-off-the-floor at the Sonic Temple.
“I think we were able to do an organic live recording this time, because we were very well-prepared,” added Wintersleep drummer Loel Campbell. “We had every part worked out, dotted the Is and crossed the Ts on every tune so we had it all worked out.”
Nova Scotia native Mike Murley also added another Juno Award nomination to his resume, with his group Metalwood’s appearance in the jazz album of the year: group category, for its latest album Twenty.
Two Prince Edward Island artists picked up nominations in the same category, with the East Pointers’ Secret Victory and Ten Strings and a Goat Skin’s Aupres de poele named for traditional roots album of the year. Witty New Brunswick songwriter Lisa LeBlanc saw her album Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen? listed among the contemporary roots album of the year contenders, along with former Halifax resident Jill Barber, who teamed with her brother Matthew for The Family Album.
Besides competing with Heather Rankin in the adult contemporary album of the year category, Sarah McLachlan will also be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, with a special musical tribute on the live Juno Awards Gala, broadcast on CTV on April 2 from Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.