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Best Pianist 

Aaron Collier, Jimmy Swift Band

Craig Mercer is a busy bee. He’s in the Jimmy Swift Band, the jam-rock outfit that has successfully taken over his life. “My full-time job is making sure we can play music for a living,” he says over a cup of two-blend coffee. “Every day I wake up and think, ‘how, today, can I advance what we do and how can we survive doing what we do.’” But he’s obviously got some of the answers. Over the past year, the Jimmy Swift Band has been steadily raising the volume in a local music scene that has grown relatively quiet since its days of grunge-making brouhaha. With no videos and just one album, last year’s Now They Will Know We Were Here, the band has found a surprising amount of success by doing things the old-fashioned way: building up a solid fan base through constant touring. Last year alone, the five-member band racked up 150 shows—a number they plan on topping this year. For Mercer, who sings, plays guitar and shares primary songwriting duties with bassist Mike MacDougall, the thrills come from playing live. “With the kind of music our band makes, we have the capabilities of putting our audience on a trip. We can literally watch them go from bobbing their heads to just shaking their ass to the point that they can’t even breathe,” he says in his slight Cape Breton twang. “It’s the music in its purest form—people being affected by what they hear and not as much by what they see, in a way that is good or bad...depending on the night.” Hmm, suffocation could be key. Whatever it is, its working. The Jimmy Swift Band not only performed and picked up Alternative Artist of the Year at this year’s East Coast Music Awards, it swept the polls in the Coast Readers’ Poll, winning for Best Band, Best Live Act and Best Album (a tie with Joel Plaskett’s Down at the Khyber). Keyboardist Aaron Collier tied with Kim Dunn for Best Pianist/Keyboardist, and bassist Mike MacDougall also took top honours. “Winning is not important,” says Mercer. “It’s the fact that a bunch of people care enough to write in. I think our fans are really awesome, really loyal people.” This June, the band hits the studio to record an all-instrumental follow-up to their debut. Until then, look for them in a dark bar near you. —Carla Gillis

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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