MusicNL Week 2011 will take place in St. John's Oct. 24-30, with the awards gala set for Oct. 30 at the St. John's Convention Centre.
Four artists from central Newfoundland are nominated for awards this year, including Patsy Penton of Bishop's Falls, whose lifelong dream came true when she released her first album, "Broken Vessel," in April 2011.
The album has helped her receive her first MusicNL award nomination for Gospel Artist of the Year.
Ms. Penton said music has always been a big part of her life.
"I was born into a musical family," Ms. Penton said. "My Dad (Charlie Andrews) was a fabulous singer and he played piano accordion."
At the age of 12, Ms. Penton said she realized she could sing, and she began playing guitar.
She said she wanted to audition for a musical in her high school, so her brother taught her who to play guitar.
"I sang and I got the part but I was so shy that I wouldn't do it," Ms. Penton said.
For years, Ms. Penton sang folk and country music.
"Then I got into gospel music in 1996 when I gave my heart to the Lord and got involved with the church," she said.
"People would always ask me if I had CDs or tapes, but I didn't because I could never afford it then."
Then, she said, a miracle happened. Her oldest son, Kris Nelson, completed the recording arts program in Stephenville, and is a sound technician with the Arts and Culture Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor.
"He had a small recording studio and he said 'mudder, you got to do a CD,'" Ms. Penton said. "And I said 'yes, b'y.'"
He kept asking her for a while, and she decided to give it a whirl.
"I told him I wanted to do a gospel CD because I have wanted to for 40-odd years," Ms. Penton said. "I wanted to do a record, and a cassette, and a tape, and a CD.
"I actually gave up on the dream for a little while because it just never seemed to work out. I was praying one night and I said 'Now God, I am just going to leave this with you, and if you want me to do it, then you will provide a way.' And he did."
Her son did the music and mixing of the album, and Ms. Penton would go to his house to record.
"He learned all the songs because he (does not know) gospel music," Ms Penton said. "This is a Metallica fan now we're talking about. He did an amazing job on the music."
Byrne Ellis, a member of the church Ms. Penton attends, played the drums for the album, Dena Rice-Ellis played keyboard, and Ms. Penton's daughter, Wendy Brace, did harmonies and background vocals.
"When we got it all together and I went up to his house to listen to it and all I could do was cry," Ms. Penton said. "I said 'Kris, that can't be me.' Even if I never published it, I would have been happy."
She then took the master to a studio in central Newfoundland and it was sent off for manufacturing.
"I ordered 500 copies at that time because I thought I wouldn't sell very many," Ms. Penton said. "Within a couple of months they were gone. I ordered 500 more then and there are 100 of them sold. What a journey it has been. It was April 15 we released the CD and it has been awesome. I don't know any other way to describe it."
Ms. Penton was invited to perform at the New Brunswick Gospel Music Festival this past August, and also performed at a Women's Ministries Retreat in September.
She added she is also hearing her music on the radio.
"It blows my mind," she said.
Ms. Penton said she writes her own music but not for her first album.
"People like to sing along...so I did songs that I thought my generation will know and they can just sing along with it," Ms. Penton said. "My next CD I am hoping to include a couple of my own songs."
She said her inspiration for writing comes "from Heaven, nowhere else."
She said her first award nomination is amazing.
"I was really surprised," Ms. Penton said. "They called and said 'would you like to accept the nomination,' and I said 'Yes, b'y, you knows.'"
She also received an email on Thursday from ECMA wanting her to submit her CD.
"I thought that must be a mistake," she said.
But it's not.
"It's almost like you watch a dream unfolding," Ms. Penton said. "This is something that I have dreamed of since I was young young, and now I am getting old old, I only have 186 more Mondays to work and I can retire."
Norris Arm native Chris Kirby is up for three awards this year - Male Artist of the Year, Jazz and Blues Artist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year.
Ms. Kirby, who is currently living in St John's, moved to the city in 2001 to attend university. During that time, he stared playing in a band in the bar circuit, something he explained as happening naturally.
"You get into it and you stay into music because there's something in you," Mr. Kirby said. "You do it because you can't not do it. It's so demanding and such a struggle sometimes that the only real reason that you do it is because there is a drive or something inspiring inside you that you just can't turn off and doing anything else in your life just seems frustrating and a waste of your time because you're not being creative.
"The day after I received my engineering degree from MUN I released my first CD ("Chris Kirby on Rum and Religion"), so I have been doing a double life for a long time," Mr. Kirby said.
That CD earned him MusicNL and ECMA nominations, and a couple years later, he began working with Gordie Johnson from Big Sugar who produced "Vampire Hotel."
That CD won a MusicNL award for the Jazz and Blues artist of the Year and was nominated for five ECMAs.
He added his inspiration for songs can come from anywhere, most songs stem from life experiences, often with embellishments.
"I have written songs about just completely made up stuff our of thing air and for me, they are not as good as the stories that I can relate to, at least in some small way," Mr. Kirby said. "Life inspires me."
He added growing up in central Newfoundland he believes helped him in his music career, specially being a part of the Kiwanis Music Festival.
"I think it certainly played a roll in nurturing the creative spirit," Mr. Kirby. "I was involved with the Kiwanis festival growing up. They have festivals like that everywhere, but in central in such a small community you get to know everybody and get to know all kinds of musicians coming up from different communities.
That continued when he became a professional musician because that's the way the music industry works, he said.
"You get really close with people from all over the island, all over the country," he said. "Growing up in central where I would meet people from Grand Falls-Windsor and Bishop's Falls and Botwood and stuff like that, I would meet them once a year for the Kiwanis Music Festival, but then see them around here and there. I think that prepared me for life in the music network."
In late 2009, early 2010, he said he started to get really busy.
"We played at the Olympics in Vancouver," he said. "I did CBC Song Quest last year in 2010, which they pick one songwriter from every province to write a song about a road in their home province and I was the Newfoundland artist.
"Since that time I have left my day job as an engineer so I am 100 per cent music now. I have been touring a lot, I think I have gone on five tours this year so far in Canada and I have also been down to Los Angeles for a period of time."
These days, he said, he is touring and writing for and with other artists.
He also produced two records this past year, both of which are nominated for MusicNL awards this year, and he has an acoustic album that he has been promoting called "Sounds Like Wednesday."
"That is a collection of songs that I have been playing since I started that just weren't on any band recordings, at least how people would hear them at my solo shows," Ms. Kirby said. "I have two personas I guess, with the band I am like a R and B funk kind of deal and then on my own I am a little more singer songwriter and a little more blues focused."
He added he is thrilled with the nominations this year.
"The album that I have been nominated for is the acoustic album that I did as a special off stage sale only," Mr. Kirby said. "It's not in stores. It's only recently become available on iTunes, so it hasn't received a whole lot of promotion so to be able to receive some nominations for it means that my touring and my efforts as a live entertainer have really been well received this year because enough people have heard or maybe even received the album and enough people have done that to consider me worthy of a nomination."
Entertainer of the Year is a fans choice award. Anyone can vote for the MusicNL 2011 Bell Aliant Fan's Choice Entertainer of the Year Award, at http://exclusive.bellaliant.net/Music.
"That is really the biggest one for me because this past year was my biggest touring and entertainer year to date so for me to be recognized for my efforts this year really means a lot," Mr. Kirby said. "It really means I am reaching some people the way that I want to and that I am on the right track."
Other local nominees
Also nominated in for Gospel Artist of the Year is Kellie Loder of Badger.
At 10, Ms. Loder was placed on the drumming schedule for her church. Her brother Bradley taught her the first three guitar chords, and by 14 she received her first guitar. At 15 she discovered her ability to write songs. She then went on to learn how to play piano.
While attending nursing school she met with a producer and in 2008 recorded her first track of her indie album "The Way," which was released in August 2008.
Based on her songwriting abilities and musical talents, Ms. Loder was awarded an artist development package from YC Newfoundland and Labrador, which included time with production and industry professionals, studio time, MusicNL and ECMA membership and a featured slot at YC 2010.
In January 2010, she moved to St. John's and worked on the sophomore album "Imperfections & Directions," which was released in 2010, and is the album which helped her receive the 2011 nomination.
Barry Canning's newest album, "Light of a Setting Sun" is nominated in the pop/rock category. The Bishop's Falls native, popular as a singer-songwriter who's played in venues from Bishop's Falls to parts of the U.S., Cuba, Ireland and Spain, to name a few places, also released "Last Man Standing" in 2003. Also during that time, in addition to penning songs on a par with songwriters like Canada's internationally and critically admired Ron Sexsmith, he is teaching school.
He was the East Coast Music Award nominee for Male Artist of the Year (2004) and Pop Artist of the Year (2003, 2005). Mr. Canning also was the recipient of the 2004 Arts Council of Newfoundland and Labrador Artist of the Year, winner of 2004 Music Industry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (now MusicNL) Songwriter of the Year (Last Man Standing) with Alan Doyle, Album of the Year for Last Man Standing, and Male Artist of the Year, and winner of 2001 MIANL Male Artist of the Year and Pop/Rock Artist.