Country Music Week took over Calgary, Alberta for a weekend of music and celebration leading up to the 40th Annual Canadian Country Music Awards on September 11, 2022.
From songwriters’ sessions hosted at Studio Bell and showcases at many of Calgary’s iconic venues, to Hall of Fame inductions and the big CCMA Awards show — here are the highlights and memorable moments from Country Music Week 2022.
IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG
CCMA Songwriters’ Unplugged presented by TD brought five rounds of songs and stories to the world-class Performance Hall at Studio Bell.
A revered live music format in country music, the songwriters’ rounds featured artists from all sides of the genre, with new and established performers finding common ground in the art of songwriting.
“I love these songwriters’ series because you get to hear the stories behind the songs. You guys have probably written like, maybe 100 songs a year, sometimes more than that, and most of them never see the light of day, so it’s nice when you can bring some out of the vault,” said Ontario country artist Madison Kozak during her session.
Aaron Goodvin hosted the first round with the comedic charm he’s known for, and there was never a dull moment during these shows filled with the back-and-forth banter between performers that makes songwriters’ sessions so unique.
Whether it was the raw emotion in Dave Sampson’s voice as he sang “Trouble” or the captivating lyrics expertly delivered in Kelly Prescott’s new song “Common Ground,” you couldn’t sit in that room without being hit by a song or a story that resonated with you.
COUNTRY FANS AND STARS COME TOGETHER AT STUDIO BELL
If you talk to most country artists, they probably won’t finish an interview without thanking one group of people — the fans. And on Saturday, it was the fans’ time to shine!
CCMA FanFest and the Ford F-150 Truck Powered Performance took place at Studio Bell, where country music fans of all ages gathered for an up-close experience with stars including Brett Kissel, MacKenzie Porter, Dallas Smith, and more.
Fans got the chance to take a selfie with some of their favourite artists and watch live interviews with Pure Country’s Shannon Ella. Outside, the ultimate parking lot party was happening with powerhouse artists Lindsay Ell and SACHA performing from the back of a Ford truck in the Studio Bell parking lot.
The last official CCMA FanFest happened three years ago when Country Music Week was held in Calgary in 2019, and excitement soared as this high-energy event returned to the city.
“Calgary’s really the country music mecca of Canada,” said Lindsay Ell in an interview with Global Calgary. ”The fact that we can host the CCMAs here, I just think it feels right. I feel like it’s the perfect place to host the CCMAs.”
HONOURING CANADIAN COUNTRY MUSIC ROYALTY
For the first time ever, the CCMA Musician Hall of Honour can be visited in person as a temporary display in the National Music Centre’s Homegrown Country exhibition.
The Hall of Honour features musicians who have helped create the sound of Canadian country music. After winning five times in their respective CCMA Award categories, 17 musicians have been recognized in this hallowed hall.
Two Alberta musicians, Mitch Jay and Matt McKay, received their fifth win this year, moving them into the Hall of Honour and giving them a place next to their heroes in country music history.
On Saturday, this year’s Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductees officially received their awards and placed their plaques on the wall in a special ceremony at Studio Bell, the official home of the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Randall Prescott, an award-winning producer, songwriter, and musician, is the 2022 Stan Klees Builder Inductee.
“Oh man, the stories we could tell,” Prescott said as he reminisced about old friends in his acceptance speech.
And he certainly was surrounded by friends. The ceremony was made even more remarkable by the presence of several past inductees, including Harlan Smith, Sheila Hamilton, Michelle Wright, and more who came to celebrate their peers. Patricia Conroy also placed her plaque on the wall as the 2021 inductee.
George Fox, an Alberta rancher who blazed a trail to Canadian country music stardom, is the 2022 Artist Inductee.
“My mom wrote poems a lot, and my dad, he was a good whistler,” said Fox before placing his plaque on the wall. “Up in heaven right now, I hope he’s whistling a good tune, ’cause down here we’re having a party.”
Friday night’s CCMA Legend’s Show featured unforgettable performances by Canadian country legends paired up with today’s stars to sing iconic Canadian pop and rock hits.
Taking place at the Martha Cohen Theatre, the audience got to experience once-in-a-lifetime moments like Michelle Wright and JoJo Mason’s rendition of “Life is a Highway,” or George Fox rocking out with Jade Eagleson on “Born to Be Wild.”
A CITY BURSTING WITH LIVE COUNTRY MUSIC
The Palace Theatre in Calgary hosted the grand finale of the SiriusXM Top of the Country talent competition, featuring performances by the top three finalists SACHA, Shantaia, and Josh Ross, and a special headlining performance by Tenille Townes.
The suspenseful year-long competition came to a close with the big announcement — SACHA is this year’s winner! The Ontario-based rising star will receive a $25,000 prize to help further her career.
The CCMA Off-Country Music Festival celebrated country music on the fringes, with over 60 acts performing free shows at 16 venues throughout the city, including the King Eddy, the Blues Can, and the Ironwood. Alternative country and folk artists brought a fresh sound to the weekend, with performances from Amy Nelson, Wyatt C. Louis, Shaela Miller, and many, many more.
Canada’s top country stars and emerging artists performed on stages throughout Calgary. Everywhere you went, there were showcases, seminars, and interactive activities as the city came alive in celebration of homegrown country music.
THE BIGGEST NIGHT IN CANADIAN COUNTRY MUSIC
For 40 years, the CCMA Awards have celebrated the best of the best in Canadian country music, from producers, musicians, and songwriters to the biggest stars.
Held at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Sunday night, the 2022 CCMA Awards presented by TD were hosted by the pride of Alberta, Tenille Townes, along with American artist Blanco Brown.
The show featured a wide range of performances, from the electricity of Gord Bamford and Meaghan Patrick’s duet “I Ain’t Drunk” to the stripped-down, heartfelt delivery of Jade Eagleson’s “She Don’t Know.” Brett Kissel even became an honorary member of pop boy band 98 Degrees as they performed the song they cut together, “Ain’t The Same.”
But at the end of the night, the real star of the show was Tenille Townes, taking home a total of five CCMA Awards including the coveted Entertainer of the Year Award, which makes her the most awarded artist of the year.
“This is so cool,” said Townes in her acceptance speech. “It’s 40 years of the CCMAs and I would not be standing here if it weren’t for the heroes who held on to this, that came before and paved a path…Patricia Conroy, Terri Clark, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, and here’s to the ones coming next, too.”
Many of those “ones coming next” had monumental weekends as well, with 20-year-old Hailey Benedict taking home the CCMA Interactive Artist of the Year Award, and Nice Horse winning their very first CCMA Award for Video of the Year.
Country Music Week 2022 was a time for Canada’s country music family to reunite, coming together to share projects they’ve been working on through the challenges of the past few years, and celebrating each other’s successes with resounding appreciation for Canadian country music.