IT’S LESS THAN a week until the JUNO’s come to Ottawa, and the city has been buzzing with excitement. With tons of special events, chances to meet internationally recognized artists, and celebrity basketball and hockey games, it’s no wonder that Canadian media coverage will be swarming Scotiabank Place on April 1. But before the city gets doe-eyed and frantic for the big names about to step into the nation’s capital, the Fulcrum decided to catch up with two breakthrough artists nominated for the coveted Best New Artist of the Year.
The hit single “Alone Again” has transformed 19-year-old Brampton native Alyssa Reid into a household name. Her debut album, The Game, recently dropped and since then the international music community has been signing its praise, with Reid’s JUNO nomination as the latest note.
The Fulcrum: Were you expecting your Juno nomination?
Reid: I wasn’t expecting a nomination, but I knew I was getting one the day of because I was invited to the nomination ceremony. I was very excited to find out I was invited to the ceremony and I was not expecting that, but I kind of knew when I went to the ceremony that something was [happening] or they wouldn’t have bothered inviting me.
“Alone Again” was a massive single. Why do you think it resonated with audiences so well?
I think familiarity is a big factor in [its popularity]. I think a lot of people knew the song when Heart did it and I think it brought a lot of people back to a time in their life where they absolutely loved “Alone”, [the] Heart version. I thought that’s why it appealed to such a great audience as well, because the younger generation don’t really know about Heart so they just heard the song and they liked the song and then their parents could like it, too.
Your next single, called “The Game”, was quite different from “Alone Again”. Why did you choose such a different song to follow up with?
The point of “The Game” being so different from “Alone Again” was because it was actually supposed to play off of it and be a complete polar opposite. “Alone Again” showed a very weak and insecure side to me, and “The Game” was my assertive and self-assured side.
Does your album have one message behind it?
It didn’t have a specific message behind it. A lot of the songs were about finding yourself and doing this and kind of the people and relationships in your life. I guess if there was a common denominator with my album, that would definitely be it.
Describe your past year in one word.
Overwhelming, but I mean overwhelming in the most positive way.
Between releasing a record, touring with Robyn and PS I love you, Johnny O’Regan— known as Diamond Rings on stage—has had quite the year. His debut album Special Affections had the honour of attracting both critical praise and mainstream attention. Diamond Rings, who is also a contender for Best New Artist of the Year, was also long-listed for a Polaris Prize.
The Fulcrum: What has this past year been like for you?
Diamond Rings: It’s been great. It’s been busy, which is usually how I like it. I’m mostly just excited that I had the opportunity to refine my craft and my art, and that there’s been an audience for what I do, and that’s allowed me the time and energy to get better at what I do. I’m happy that I’ve been able to keep learning.
You’ve gone on some pretty big tours. Can you tell us about that?
I love touring. I love performing. It’s the grind. I did 110 shows last year and you know some of them were great, some of them were in between, some of them were not so great, but it’s now more than ever very much a part of the job description … For me that’s one of my favourite parts, but I’m not going to lie, by the end it’s a bit draining, especially performing material that’s been out for a year and half or so. By the end you just want to get on and that’s what I’ve been doing.
Are you surprised that you were nominated for a JUNO?
Yes and no. I think the whole process—I didn’t even know what the process is, like how someone [gets] nominated for a JUNO. It’s relatively nebulous. I thought I made a good record and that I had a really great year, so on one hand I don’t feel surprised, but at the same time, had I not been, it wouldn’t have been exactly shocking either.
What is Special Affections about?
I’m really happy with how it turned out and what I chose to sing about and the words that I used to express how I was feeling at the time. I wrote the record when I first moved to Toronto, and I think it expresses a lot of uncertainty and, you know, self-doubt, hopefulness at the same time. I think that the whole sort of range of conflicting emotions that people feel when they’re thrust into an environment that they may not be accustomed to—in my case, a new city.
Where did you get the name Diamond Rings?
The name embodies the qualities that I want to possess as an artist, as a pop singer. Diamond is multi-faceted, depending on how you hold it, how you look at it, how the light reflects, you know. It’s always sort of changing, different and at the same time, it’s a really hard rock too … It balances those two qualities, that kind of, you know, bright, shiny, glamorous sort of façade, with some substance underneath the back. Those are the qualities that I try to embody.