The sisterly country duo known as The Keats is hoping an upcoming trip to Edmonton, Alta., will lead to big things for the Halifax-based group with central Newfoundland roots.
Jolene and Sharlene Keats, twin sisters from Gambo, will be one of eight emerging artists from the nation’s country scene to take party in Country Music Week’s New Artist Showcase. The event is being put together by the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA), and will take place Sept. 8-12.
The winner of the showcase will receive the 2010 New Artist Showcase Award.
“It feels great because the timing is perfect,” said Jolene Keats, who plays keyboards, guitar and mandolin in the group, while sister Sharlene handles fiddle, keyboards, and guitar.
This year, the group nabbed an East Coast Music Award nomination for Country Recording of the Year in honour of their six-song release, Good to be Home. The nomination helped the group’s exposure, as did airplay on Country Music Television for its music video, Give Me a Ring.
“All these little things created a snowball effect, and now we’re playing at big festivals, and then we got invited to do this,” said Jolene Keats.
The showcase has proven to be an effective launching pad for country talent in the past. The 2004 winner was Corb Lund, who has since gone on to become a popular recording artist who has won Juno and CCMA awards and toured Europe.
Jolene Keats said Country Music Week will be filled with industry types who can help open new doors for The Keats. In fact, the last time the sisters attended the event was in 2008 – an experience that helped get the group discovered, said Jolene Keats.
“It feels great because the timing is perfect.” – Jolene Keats
“That’s kind of how we got our start, I guess. In 2008, we were in Winnipeg for the CCMAs (Canadian Country Music Awards), and that’s where we were in a demo panel, and I suppose you could say that’s where we were discovered, because we met our manager. We’ve been working with him ever since.”
With an award nomination, shows and an album behind them, expectations have been altered somewhat in the lead up to the 2010 edition of Country Music Week. Having spent time in the industry, Jolene Keats said many of the people at the event are people they consider friends and colleagues.
“Instead of climbing your way through the weekend and trying to meet people, now we’ll get there and it will feel like family. It will feel like meeting up with old friends. It’s not as scary as it used to be, and it’s more exciting that way.”
The pair has been focused on performances in recent months, with a few summer festivals under the belt this year. Jolene Keats said the pair has also been recording and writing all year, as the majority of the material The Keats perform live was written two years ago.
The independently released Good to be Home was done as a shorter release in order to help establish The Keats, and Jolene Keats said the next step will be to come out with a full length recording. The group has met with various labels and made trips to Nashville to help the process move along.
“We’ve been there four or five times now, and the first time, we just couldn’t believe it,” said Jolene Keats. “It’s just such a fascinating city, and even to just visit there as a country music fan is a dream come true.”
The pair, being twin sisters and all, have an obviously lengthy musical repartee, but their more serious pursuit of a career is music with The Keats has been ongoing for five years. At the time, they were both studying music at Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB.
The New Artist Showcase at Country Music Week will have an additional local connection – Hare Bay’s Tara Oram will be hosting the event. Ms. Oram won the Rising Star Award at last year’s CCMA Awards.