Over the years, Saskatchewan has played home to some stellar Blues acts and for this year's JUNO Awards ceremony, one modern Blues artist receives her rightful Canadian and international acclaim with a nomination for Blues Album of the Year.
Dione Taylor, born and raised in the provincial capital of Regina, is one of only two nominees from Saskatchewan represented in the shortlist for the upcoming JUNO Awards; the second being K-Anthony of Yorkton. K-Anthony sees a nomination for Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year with "The Cure" and Dione for the aforementioned Blues Album of the Year with Spirits in the Water.
JUNO nominee image for Dione Taylor's "Spirits in the Water"
Both K-Anthony and Dione not only represent the sole two Saskatchewan artists present on the nominee roster, but more than this they represent the less than 1% of the province's population identified as Black on the most recent provincial census statistics available; giving Canadian musicians of visible minority from the Prairies a strong representation on the national and global stage when May 16th roles around for this year's ceremony.
The amount of Saskatchewanians recorded as Black may be small today, but it was smaller still when Dione's parents emigrated from Jamaica to Regina. In befriending a tight-knit community of Regina's Black residents, Dione's parents became part of a wider movement to establish a community church - the Shiloh Assembly Apostolic Church - a church that still operates today with that same thriving community in-place; adding to the tapestry of diversity and inclusion that's seen in the city today.
Dione has since left Saskatchewan for Toronto, to pursue a professional recording career in music, but the singer/songwriter is clearly very proud of her Prairie roots; as I discovered when I had the pleasure of chatting with her. Join me as we get the lowdown on the JUNOS, Spirits in the Water and all things Dione Taylor:
Album artwork for Spirits in the Water
MARK: Dione, thanks for joining me. First of all, a huge and very deserved congratulations for your nomination in this years JUNO Awards. How does it feel to be nominated for not just Canada's premiere music awards, but an award ceremony that's recognized on the world stage alongside The BRIT Awards and The GRAMMY's?
DIONE: Thank you so much! Actually, this is my second JUNO nomination (the first one was for my debut album, “Open Your Eyes”) so I’m doubly excited.
Being recognized for my album, Spirits in the Water feels incredibly satisfying because it was such a labour of love. It best represents and showcases my signature sound, the ‘Prairie Blues’ (a term that I coined that’s a mix of Folk, Americana and Blues). Next stop, the GRAMMY’S!
M: You're out there, flying the flag for Saskatchewan, as one of only two nominees to have a direct connection to the province. Saskatchewan artists have been notably absent from the short list for the JUNOs for a while now. How do you feel, as a musician yourself, about the lack of representation of the Prairies at Canada's leading music awards?
D: I’m so ridiculously proud to represent my home province of Saskatchewan at the JUNOS, especially as a black female. I was blessed to have so many incredible teachers and support systems who nurtured me in my formative years in Regina. I’m thankful and grateful for the love and support of my church family, all of my music teachers in school and at the Royal Conservatory of Music, my private piano teachers, my vocal teachers and coaches, my friends...it really does take a village to succeed! I would not be the artist I am today without ALL of their guidance and confidence in me. It’s so important to have arts education programs in schools and to have teachers who are motivated to encourage kids to be creative. It’s not enough to have a dream, you also need to do the work.
I hope that after this year there will be more representation of artists from Saskatchewan at the JUNOS, because I know there are a lot of talented musicians living there who deserve to be seen and heard.
M: Both yourself and K-Anthony not only represent the sole two Saskatchewan nominees present on the short list, but also musicians of minority from the province. How important do you think this is for musicians from minority backgrounds in the prairies?
D: Representing Saskatchewan at the Junos is an honour regardless of race, gender or colour. However, I do recognize that having two black Canadians solely representing Saskatchewan at the Junos in 2021 is a pivotal moment in Saskatchewan history. We are representing the very best and the top artists that this country has developed and produced and we are proud of that. We are being recognized and acclaimed for our outstanding talent and expertise in music and that’s just amazing. It’s essential and necessary for BIPOC people to be visible and recognized in the public eye and my hope is that aspiring minority artists will see us and feel a sense of hope, tangible possibilities and enormous pride.
M: What's next for you in your career? Can you drop any hints for fans at what you've got in the pipeline?
D: Currently, I’m working on some new music which is exciting! Fingers crossed, I have some concerts and shows coming up in late 2021/2022 that were postposed because of COVID. I’m so excited to travel and I can’t wait to play music with my friends again!
Thank you so much to Dione for taking the time to chat with me.
Dione's JUNO-nominated album Spirits in the Water can be streamed on Spotify, Deezer and YouTube, along with prior nominee Born Free. Physical copies of both albums can be ordered in through your local record shop. Signed copies of Spirits in the Water are available in Saskatoon exclusively from Collector's Edge Comics and Games.