Music NL Country Artist of the Year winner Carolina East admits she would rather be on the road touring and promoting her latest album, but for now she’s settled at her home in St. John’s Newfoundland, waiting out the coronavirus pandemic.
Her fourth album is called, Soaked in Whiskey, featuring her powerful, soulful vocals.
Q: Most musicians like to sleep in, so I hope you’re okay with a morning interview.
A: It’s okay. I’m up late, and I’m also up early. I find the morning very quiet and relaxing and I get a lot done. I guess my writing gets done all over the place, but I do my best writing in the nighttime. It’s a time I can reflect on what’s been going on that day.
Q: How’s it going on The Rock?
A: To be completely honest, when the pandemic hit I really struggled. Every day was just about getting up and surviving. I know that sounds super dramatic but my life literally changed overnight. We lost so many tour dates and the revenue that went with that, and I felt worried about everything going on in the world. I felt like I should be performing more online, but I couldn’t do it. My brain had to catch up with everything that happened.
Q: St. John’s has a great music scene. Is that where you started your career?
A: Music is one of the biggest parts of our culture and that’s no exception for me. I grew up in a musical family. My father is very musical, and so are my uncles and aunts. I started playing on George Street when I was 16.
For those that don’t know, George Street has the most bars per capita in North America and there’s no vehicular traffic, just foot traffic. I would perform five, six, sometimes seven nights a week, for eight to 12 hours a day. I learned how to entertain a crowd, but eventually I found I’d be doing these gigs and watching TV in the back of the bar, getting tired of performing cover music. Then in 2016 I met up with a gentleman named Rob Wells.
Q: And who is Rob Wells?
A: He’s an award winning producer/songwriter based in Toronto. He’s worked with Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Nick Lachey, Selina Gomez, Backstreet Boys; the list goes on and on. He and his wife were keynote speakers at the Music NL awards – the Newfoundland version of the Grammys. I was staff worker at the awards at the time, and I had to pop into a venue to make sure the mics were working. When I walked in everyone was yelling, “You’ve got to get up and sing.” So I jumped onstage, and I ended up staying up there for an hour and a half and Rob said, “We have to work together.” We’ve been working together ever since.
Q: Have you toured much outside of Canada?
A: Not a lot, but hopefully more next year. I’ve toured across Canada three times.
Q: How did you find out about your Indigenous background?
A: I only found out eight or ten years ago. I have blonde hair and blue eyes, so you would never suspect. But my cousin Erika was living in Goose Bay, and the chiefs there told my cousin she’s one of them. So we started researching and sure enough we found out we were of Mi’kmaq descent.
I’ve struggled with it a little because I’m so blonde with fair skin. Some people don’t believe me. But it’s a lesson to me to accept people no matter what. So now I reach out to people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I encourage them to look into their bloodlines and dive into Indigenous music as well. I hold my Indigenous background sacredly, and I’m so honoured to be a part of that.
Q: ELMNT FM is proud to be an Indigenous radio station that promotes Indigenous music. In general, do you think Canadian radio is doing a better job of promoting Indigenous artists?
A: In the past three years, the artists, growth and creativity have been mind-blowing. I see a lot of crossover artists as well. There’s a ways to go, but Indigenous artists are finally getting the recognition they deserve. It’s moving in the right direction and it’s moving quickly.
Q: What are your thoughts about the fact that some Indigenous artists said they shouldn’t be in a separate Indigenous Juno Awards category?
A: I don’t agree with that. Indigenous artists have fought so hard to be heard, and based on our ability to fight and persevere; that alone is reason to keep that category.
Q: By the way, Newfoundland is known for its kitchen parties. Do you ever host kitchen parties?
A: Yes, any house parties in Newfoundland always find their way to the kitchen. And listen, when you’re in Newfoundland, we’ll do lunch, we’ll go to a kitchen party, we’ll do everything.
You’re on Carolina! And to connect with Carolina East, here is a link to her website.