By Keith Sharp
As president of the Canadian Country Music Association, the toughest job Don Green faces each year is to decide who gets to perform on the annual CCMA Awards concert set to be staged Sunday September 11th at the Budweiser Gardens in London Ontario.
Entering it’s 40th year and with such a wealth of domestic talent to choose from, Green and his associates have to select who gets to fill the 13 spots in the two hour show (televised on both CBC and CMT) which also features the awarding of eight major CCMA awards.
“It is the hardest part of my whole job, telling people, no, they can’t be on the show,” allowed Green, prior to heading to London to launch what will be four days of activities culminating with Sunday’s Awards Gala. “I wish we could have a four-hour show but that’s not possible. Still it makes things that more competative for those who are chosen.
Hosted by former eTalk personality Jess Cruickshank and featuring live performances by the likes of Gord Bamford, Dean Brody, Chad Brownlee, Terri Clark, Cold Creek County, Brett Kissell with with Carilyn Dawn Johnson, Tim Hicks with Colin James and High Valley, Madeline Medic, Jess Moskaluke and Johnny Reid plus two U.S imports; Sam Hunt and Kelsea Ballerini, other major domestic stars will get a chance to shine during this weekend extraveganza.
Events kick off Thursday night with an old fashion street party, free to the public which features Tim Hicks, Meaghan Patrick, Cold Creek County followed by the CCMA Discovery Showcase concert which shines the spotlight on up and coming artists, this year featuring Tenille Arts (Weyburn, SK), DaniElle, (Pitt Meadows BC); Eric Etheridge,( Sarnia ON); Livy Jeanne, (Androssan, NB); Runaway Angels,( Toronto ON); and TwoShine County, (Calgary AB).
Friday’s highlight is the Legends Concert which pays tribute to established stars and will feature appearances by the likes of The Abrahams, George Canyon, Murray McLachlan, Michele Wright and Doc Walker while the CCMA FanFest goes Saturday at the Western Fair Agriplex where the general public have an opportunity to meet, and obtain autographs and selfies with the likes of Jess Moskaluke, Kira Isabella, Brett Kissell, The Road Hammers and Craig Brownlee.
Sunday’s Gala activites start with a downtown Pre-Awards Street Concert featuring the likes of Wes Mack, Bobby Willis, The Lovelocks, The Washboard Union, Lindsay Ell and River Town Saints before climaxing with the CCMA Awards Gala.
Add to this, a daily Songwriter Series events where key artists not only perform songs but also explain their origin and creation and you have four days of intense events, geared to interesting even the most casual country music fan.
Green, who has been, President of the CCMA for the past six years, acknowledged that the popularity of Canadian Country Music has been on the upswing since moving over from his previous position as VP Operations with Puretracks in 2010.
“When I came in, we seemed to be in a positive cycle in the development of Canadian country music but people thought it was a cycle and music has always been about cycles,” Green noted. “But instead it’s just been building and expanding. Country music is now considered “The New Pop Music and with good reason”. It’s just so mainstream, you have so many different forms of country and it doesn’t hurt that Keith Urban was a judge on American Idol and Blake Shelton served as a judge on The Voice, that broadened country music’s mainstream appeal.”
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This popularity is spiked by the recent success of the CCMA awards. “We put tickets on sale for this year’s show last December with no promotion as to who would be performing and we sold out in like five minutes,” Green noted, also saying that the city of London are shaping up as perfect hosts for the CCMA’s. “It’s been over two years in the planning, but the City of London couldn’t have been more hospitable. From the City Council, regional politicians and corporate sponsors, the whole city has totally embraced the CCMA’s.”
The next big hurdle for the association is to break Canadian talent stateside, a major undertaking considering how strong and competative the U.S market it. But if Drake, The Weeknd and Justin Bieber can dominate U.S hip-hop-rap charts like they did on Billboard Magazine last December, there is aways hope that a Canadian artist/group can duplicate previous success by the likes of Anne Murray and Shania Twain.
“We have a duo called High Valley that is signed to Warners in the U.S who are playing all over the place down there,” explained Green. “It’s tough and it’s expensive and you do need a little luck to be spotted and signed by the right people, but if you can get one act to break through and get the exposure and attention, it just opens the gates for other bands to follow suit.”