What is a “Roots” artist?
It’s a simple question, but one of the most difficult to answer when attempting to determine what music qualifies for the Roots category at award shows.
Each year, music organizations and associations wrestle with this issue. Many artists submit their music and do so with an attitude of “let’s see if this will get through”. This makes the selection process even more difficult, as many of these performers do not qualify. But hey… there’s no harm in trying.
For the CMAOntario Awards eligibility criteria, the Roots category is defined as follows:
This award is given to a Roots artist whose music is based on traditional country styles, but through innovations and originality is different from what is considered mainstream country. Roots music embraces a multitude of musical styles, including, but not limited to: Alternative Country, Bluegrass, Celtic, Country-Blues, Folk, Gospel, Hillbilly, Honky-Tonk, Rockabilly and Western Swing. This award is based on the performance of the artist, either on record or in person within the eligibility period.
It should be noted that a large portion of the material on an artist’s project should reflect at least one or more genres of the aforementioned styles before being truly considered as a Roots artist. As I have stated in the past, “One song does not a Roots artist make”.
To be fair – when in doubt, an appointed committee, using the above criteria, decides by listening to the applicant’s body of work to determine if an act might be considered Roots.
A true Roots or traditional artist knows that his or her music will likely not be embraced by radio and gigs will be limited. That is a huge commitment, knowing that your income and venues for exposure might be far less than a mainstream artist. So for these artists, we want to get it right and not blur the qualification lines.
If you are an act who considers themselves “New Country”, or maybe simply “Country”, and your main body of work does not include a large portion of the definition above, then you need not apply. If you are not sure, then we can help make that decision as fairly as possible for you. If you are an act that reflects those genres of music in most of your work, then we encourage you to submit your music for the Roots category next year.
That being said, I want to congratulate all the final nominees in every category of this year’s CMAOntario Awards. It’s almost become cliché to say it, but to me, they’re all winners. Reading that list should make us all very proud that we have such fine talent in our home province!