Arts & Entertainment
7 min

East Coast Music Awards turn 25

Several queer women up for top honours, including Heather Green and Ria Mae

Rose Cousins hosts the ECMAs in Halifax.
The East Coast Music Awards turn 25 this year, and crooner David Myles and singer/songwriter Rose Cousins will host the gala awards in Halifax. They promise plenty of antics and anthems.
 
With multiple East Coat Music Awards, Nova Scotia Music Awards and a Canadian Folk Music Award under her belt, it’s not surprising Cousins is also up for four ECMAs this year, including Songwriter of the Year. Her latest album, We Have Made a Spark, also garnered Cousins her first Juno nomination.
 
“It’s definitely been a crazy year. I think the title speaks well to the results since its release,” Cousins says. “So many friggin’ sparks . . . I feel like my music has gotten to more ears this year, and I’m just hoping that means I can keep going.”
 
Cousins, who is originally from Prince Edward Island, says she appreciates being welcomed in Halifax and at the ECMAs. “The opportunity to meet with international delegates I might not otherwise meet has helped me tour overseas, get my music placed on TV shows and simply learn more about the industry, how to know and talk about what I want,” she says.
 
Much like Cousins, Heather Green has found a home in Halifax after relocating from Los Angeles. Her album, Your Last War, is nominated in the ECMA Pop Recording and Rising Star Recording of the Year categories.
 
“I couldn’t be more thankful for the East Coast music community,” Green says. “I love it here, so I feel pretty lucky. When I visit home I get kind of made fun of when I say ‘out and about’ and offer people ‘supper’ and spell words differently.”
 
Green says the ECMAs allow musicians like her an opportunity to showcase their work to ears beyond the Maritimes. “They provide us with a pretty stacked list of music professionals from all different parts of the world who are looking to partner with performers for all different kinds of reasons, so it feels like the opportunities for this week are almost endless.”
 
Another ECMA first-timer, Breagh Mackinnon, from Cape Breton, is nominated for Rising Star Recording of the Year. Mackinnon recorded and released her full-length debut, Where the Days Went, last year. “I grew up surrounded by music, and watching music be created in a very collaborative way,” she says. “I think the collaborative aspect of music is what makes me love it the most.”
 
For Molly Thomason, this year is a homecoming. She moved to Toronto last fall, and though she says she’s enjoyed big-city life, she is thankful to return for the ECMAs. She’s performing on the pop-rock stage March 7.
 
“After being out of it for the past few months, I am really looking forward to this chance to see everyone, hear everyone, hear about the new things going on, and any new bands on the scene this year,” she says.
 
Her latest single, “Never Felt a Thing,” is a duet with Carleton Stone that was produced by local legend Joel Plaskett. “It was a much more hands-on, in-depth experience than I’d had in a studio,” she says.
 
In 2012, Ria Mae took home the ECMA Pop Recording of the Year and is nominated for 2013 Song of the Year. Her single “Leaving Today,” produced by rap artist Classified, hints at what’s to come on Mae’s next album.
 
“It’s a bit different this year. Not as exciting as the first time, of course, but it still feels great to be supported again,” Mae says. “I am very supported by the East Coast. It would be a lot harder to get a start in a different city.”
 
But Mae also has a critique of the East Coast music scene: “I don’t think we support our black artists or our hip-hop artists as much as we could,” she says.
 
“I think the scene is built to support folk music and indie rock and is super male-dominated, but I can’t say I don’t feel supported. I’ve been given a lot of opportunity here.”

Check out Heather Green’s video below. Go to ecma.com for a full list of nominees.