JUNOS Freshman Class of 2015

Published Tuesday March 10th 2015

The JUNOS are Canada’s Music Awards, and with JUNO Week now underway in Hamilton, Canadian music is fully in the spotlight! With 41 JUNO Awards to be won, it’s exciting to note that more than 80 of the artists on the ballots this year are first-time nominees. Here, TD Music introduces you to 15 members of the JUNOS Freshman Class of 2015. Study up as you may see some of them take home a statuette during Sunday’s 2015 JUNO Awards!


BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund) NOMINEES:

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Name: Glenn Morrison

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Nominated for: Breakthrough Artist of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund); Dance Recording of the Year.

Claims to fame: This classically trained pianist turned electronic music DJ/producer began releasing dance tracks in 2005. Whether crafting underground sounds or hugely hooky progressive house, Morrison has connected with audiences the world over through hit tracks like “Contact,” "Symptoms of a Stranger,” the platinum-selling “Goodbye,” and 2014 chart-topper “Colourblind.” He also creates soundscapes for video games and films, and has held DJ residencies at some of the globe’s top nightclubs, including Amnesia and Space in Ibiza, and Space in Miami. His name alone gets 1.7 million social networking and Internet hits a month.

Most likely to… Make you dance, with hands in the air, ‘til the morning light.


Name: Jess Moskaluke

Hometown: Langenburg, Saskatchewan

Nominated for: Breakthrough Artist of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund); Country Album of the Year

Claims to fame: A country-pop artist with mass appeal, Jess Moskaluke first landed major accolades in 2011 when she won the New Artist Showcase Award at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards. Her debut single, "Catch Me If You Can,” then earned her Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2013 Saskatchewan Country Music Association Awards. Moskaluke’s debut album, 2014’s Light Up the Night, included the Gold-certified single "Cheap Wine and Cigarettes,” which helped Jess become the first Canadian female solo country artist to surpass 40,000+ downloads for a song since Shania Twain.

Most likely to… Light up Nashville with her bright Canadian smile and style.


Name: Kiesza

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta

Nominated for: Single of the Year; Breakthrough Artist of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund); Dance Recording of the Year; Video of the Year (Sponsored by MuchFACT, exclusively funded by Bell Media).

Claims to fame: Not many people can say they moved from a potential career path in the Royal Canadian Navy to international dance music stardom, but Calgary-born Kiesza is far from typical. She’s a former tall-ship sailor and trained ballerina who started in music as a folk singer, and studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. A move to New York led to the love of deep disco and house that can be heard in Kiesza’s infectious worldwide hit “Hideaway,” which went two-times Platinum in Canada, and throughout her shimmering debut album, Sound Of A Woman.

Most likely to… Dance her way through a city block.


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Name: Mac DeMarco

Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta

Nominated for: Breakthrough Artist of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund)

Claims to fame: Some have called the off-kilter pop of Mac DeMarco ‘slacker rock,’ but that’s selling the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer short. At the age of 24, DeMarco has already released one EP and two critically-acclaimed albums, with both 2012’s full-length named 2 and 2014’s Salad Days having garnered "Best New Music" nods from Pitchfork. Salad Days was also a shortlisted nominee for the 2014 Polaris Music Prize. Now based in Montreal, DeMarco writes self-reflective songs that are both sly and sincere, delivering heartfelt observations over crisp production and warm melodies. To the delight of his fans, DeMarco is perpetually on tour.

Most likely to… Be found rocking out with his mom, Agnes.


Name: Shawn Mendes

Hometown: Pickering, Ontario

Nominated for: Breakthrough Artist of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund)

Claims to fame: Shawn Mendes almost broke the Internet. The teen pop singer and songwriter first made waves in 2013, by posting a series of six-second cover song snippets via the social video app Vine. Within months, Mendes picked up tens of thousands of views, and now has a social media following in the multi-millions. A 15-year-old Shawn did, in fact, break records with his debut single, "Life of the Party,” released last year on Island Records. The song entered the Billboard 100 singles chart at number 24, making Mendes the youngest artist to land a debut single in the Top 25. His first album, Handwritten, drops in April.

Most likely to… Tour the world before he’s 17.


 BREAKTHROUGH GROUP OF THE YEAR (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund) NOMINEES:

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Name: Adventure Club

Hometown: Montreal, Quebec

Nominated for: Breakthrough Group of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund); Dance Recording of the Year

Claims to fame: Friends Christian Srigley and Leighton James started making pop-punk while in high school, later turning to electronics. Adventure Club’s blend of EDM and dubstep has built the duo an impressive following for their banging remixes, uplifting summertime anthems, and infectious DJ mixes. The duo’s 2013 debut EP, Calling All Heroes, was hyped by many key music blogs, and spawned the song “Wonder,” which hit #46 on Billboard’s Canadian Hot 100 chart. Adventure Club’s remixes and original songs having received millions of plays, bringing them headliner status at huge clubs, festivals, and events across North America and beyond.

Most likely to… Drop the bass.


Name: Alvvays

Hometown: Toronto (members originally from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island)

Nominated for: Breakthrough Group of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund); Alternative Album of the Year (Sponsored by Long & McQuade)

Claims to fame: This indie pop quintet may have come together in Toronto, but their collective hooks and humour hearken back to two islands. Vocalist Molly Rankin (daughter of John Morris Rankin of The Rankin Family) and keyboardist Kerri MacLellan were next-door neighbours in Cape Breton. They, along with PEI’s Alec O’Hanley, Brian Murphy and Philip MacIsaac, share a love of jangly, melancholic and melodic indie rock. The band’s self-titled album of 2014 won hearts the world over with its breakout hit “Archie, Marry Me.” Alvvays got props from Rolling Stone, went to #1 on U.S. college charts, and made it onto an impressive number of year-end lists.

Most likely to… Inspire awkward, awesome dance moves.


Name: Magic!

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Nominated for: JUNO Fan Choice Award (Sponsored by TD); Single of the Year; Breakthrough Group of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund); Songwriter of the Year (Sponsored by SiriusXM Canada); Pop Album of the Year (Sponsored by TD)

Claims to fame: Magic! is the combination of four Toronto musicians who followed different paths to reggae pop stardom. In-demand songwriter and producer Nasri has worked with some of pop and R&B’s biggest names. When he began to write with guitarist Mark Pellizzer, the music flowed so naturally they called it ‘Magic!’ Drummer Alex Tanas and bassist Ben Spivak soon joined, and the quartet released their first single, “Rude,” in October 2013. The instantly hummable tune topped charts in many countries, followed in 2014 by debut album Don't Kill the Magic.

Most likely to… Make a stadium-sized crowd sing as one.


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Name: USS

Hometown: Markham (Ash) and Stouffville (Kebab), Ontario

Nominated for: Breakthrough Group of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund)

Claims to fame: Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker a.k.a. USS is Ash Boo-Schultz (vocals, guitar) and Human Kebab (turntablist, hype man), friends making music since 2005. Most easily described as an alternative dance music duo, theirs is a world of sound that includes acoustic rock, EDM, hip-hop, dub, and orchestral pop. Their highly contagious, self-described ‘campfire afterparty’ songs have earned the duo heaps of radio play, critical acclaim, and both CASBY and CMW Indie Awards. Their debut album of 2009, Questamation, put them in front of growing audiences while subsequent EPs spawned singles like “Yo Hello Hooray (Everyday)," and breakout hit “This is the Best.”

Most likely to… Bring an acoustic guitar to a rave.


Name: Zeds Dead

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Nominated for: Breakthrough Group of the Year (Sponsored by Factor and Radio Starmaker Fund)

Claims to fame: Zeds Dead’s creative amalgam of electro house, hip-hop, glitch, dubstep, and drum ‘n’ bass has taken them from sweaty dive bars to some of the world’s biggest festival stages. Friends DC and Hooks formed Zeds Dead in 2009, and soon attracted large crowds to their Bassmentality club weekly. 2011 single "Rumble in the Jungle," released on Mad Decent, reached #1 on Beatport's breakbeat chart, which helped propel Zeds Dead to international status. A large catalogue of both original releases and remixes, paired with extensive touring, has led to hundreds of millions of online views and listens. Zeds Dead’s most recent collaborative track, “You Know,” reached #1 on Beatport’s Top 10.

Most likely to… Be found somewhere other than home.



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Name: Emmanuel Jal

Hometown: Born in South Sudan, now in Toronto

Nominated for: World Music Album of the Year (Sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts)

Claims to fame: Emmanuel Jal is a musician, author, advocate, actor, and international ambassador. Born in a war-torn region of Southern Sudan, Jal was a child soldier who managed to escape, and has lived his life in a number of countries and through multiple forms of expression. He published an autobiography called Warchild, with a documentary and album of the same name, has addressed the United Nations and U.S. Congress, and acted in films including The Good Lie. Jal’s JUNO nomination is for 2014’s The Key, his fifth studio album, which fuses hip-hop, pop, reggae, soul, and Afrobeat into a deeply personal whole. Jal’s messages of peace and reconciliation have resonated around the world.

Most likely to… Introduce politicians to pop stars.


Name: Lydia Ainsworth

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Nominated for: Electronic Album of the Year

Claims to fame: Bouncing between Brooklyn and Toronto, Lydia Ainsworth quietly wrote and recorded a debut album that beautifully blends technical music school chops with an incredible originality and looseness. Right From Real blurs the boundaries between indie music, filmic orchestration and electronic music. It received attention and support from Pitchfork, made Noisey Canada’s ‘Top Projects of 2014’ list, and CBC Music’s ‘30 Best Canadian Albums of 2014.’ Ainsworth’s unique voice, combined with subtle sampling techniques and strong string arrangements, make her one to watch.

Most likely to… Thank opening acts on Twitter.


Name: Naturally Born Strangers

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Nominated for: Rap Recording of the Year

Claims to fame: When Toronto trio Naturally Born Strangers released their self-titled mixtape at the close of 2013, interest was immediate and widespread. All three members - Rich Kidd, Adam Bomb, and Tona – are strong, respected artists. Rich Kidd is a versatile, prolific producer and MC whose beats have backed countless rappers, while Tona and Adam Bomb are also members of the Freedom Writers. As Naturally Born Strangers, they create socially conscious narratives that question accepted norms. Media sources including Exclaim, Okayplayer, and Complex have heaped praise on the album and the trio’s rare, theatrical shows.

Most likely to… Buck the system.


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Name: Sagot

Hometown: Montreal, Quebec

Nominated for: Francophone Album of the Year

Claims to fame: Best known as the drummer for the band Karkwa, whose fourth album, Les Chemins de verre, won both the 2010 Polaris Music Prize and the 2011 JUNO Award for Francophone Album of the Year, Julien Sagot is also a distinctive vocalist and songwriter. The multi-instrumentalist’s second solo album, Valse 333, which translates to ‘Waltz 333’ in English, has received great critical praise for its unique songwriting and Sagot’s dramatic voice. Sagot is a gifted storyteller and sonic explorer who transcends categories and time signatures.

Most likely to… Burst out in spontaneous song.


Name: Thomson Highway

Hometown: North of Brochet, Manitoba

Nominated for: Aboriginal Album of the Year (Sponsored by Aboriginal Peoples Television Network)

Claims to fame: While this is Thomson Highway’s first JUNO nomination, he is a well-established, award-winning Cree playwright and novelist, as well as pianist and songwriter. Highway is known for plays including The Rez Sisters, Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing, Rose and his most recent musical play,The (Post) Mistress, for which he composed the 11-song soundtrack that has earned him this JUNO nomination. When not writing new works, Thomson performs cabarets of his own songs all over the world.

Most likely to… Crack a joke in multiple languages.