By their very nature, music awards celebrate the accomplishments of a stellar group of artists but also must exclude a host of equally talented musicians each year. If you were watching the Juno (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy) nominations earlier this year, you probably were making the same comment as me about each category as it was announced: “but what about X, Y, and Z? They put out terrific work as well.”
One artist in particular, however, no longer needs just to wonder about what it’s like to be a Juno nominee. Corin Raymond, who released the excellent “Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams” last year, earned his first nomination in the “Contemporary Roots Album of the Year” category. Filled to the brim with unique, somewhat confessional, and personable songs (such as “Hard on Things,” available below), this album is well deserving of a nomination and the accolades it has received.
This is not the first time that Raymond’s artistry has earned him attention and respect. His previous album, “Paper Nickels,” was crowdfunded almost entirely with Canadian Tire money. (For those outside Canada who may not know what Canadian Tire money is, here’s an explanation.) That kind of support seems to me to be a sign of tremendous love and admiration from his fans.
Asked to compare this kind of respect with recognition by his peers, Raymond says, “There’s no substitute for either of those: my music only works when fans allow the songs to become a kind of emotional soundtrack in their personal lives. The fans invite you into their most secret hearts, and there’s no generosity that can replace that. Also, they ensure that I get to eat next week! So there’s no doing this without them. Whereas your peers are aware of the nuts and bolts of what you’re doing in ways that most people aren’t. Onstage, I’m always aware of other songwriters in the room. I did a show last night in Canmore and four young writers who were doing a residency in Banff came out – and when working songwriters choose to be at your show, it’s a very satisfying compliment, because it means you’re doing something that inspires them. It always ups the ante to play for other songcrafters. So you need your fans and your peers, but they fuel you in different ways.”
Raymond has commented previously that he specializes in dark and bleak songs. I asked him how a song about his Juno nomination would go; he responded, “It was facetious of me to say that my specialty is dark and bleak. There’s certainly an ache, a longing, and some hard truths in my most popular songs, but joy is what that runs through it all. I have a job by which I get to express on a daily basis how thrilled I am to be alive. A song about my Juno-nom experience so far would have a mid-tempo lilt to it, an uplifter for sure, loose in its limbs, and it would embrace all of my fans in its optimistic arms.”
Indeed, some of the songs on “Hobo Jungle Fever Dreams,” while firmly grounded in the realities of daily life, nevertheless exude that very joy in life. “Morning Glories,” for example, depicts some of the characters around Raymond’s home neighborhood of Kensington Market (in Toronto) and unpacks the beauty in that somewhat quirky neighborhood existence: “and it’s plain to see now / that the darkness is growing / that you’re not down and out / when you’re down and out going.”
So this weekend, Corin Raymond will be on that red carpet, enjoying the whirling dervish of Juno week. What does he imagine it will be like? “It’s gonna be a hectic one, I can tell you that. Lots of hopping round town. I don’t get into limos much, so bring it on. I’m especially excited to run into friends I don’t normally get to see, and to meet some that I haven’t met yet. The best things the weekend has in store can’t be predicted, like all best things. I’m just gonna hold on and take the ride. No rest for the stupid. I imagine that when it’s done I’m gonna want to investigate this thing I’ve been hearing about called Netflix.”
To Corin and all the nominees: enjoy the ride. You’ve earned it.