Don’t feel bad if you don’t know about Andrea Curry. The shy, soft-spoken 25-year-old admits that she’s been under the radar on the local singer-songwriter scene. But that could change after the East Coast Music Awards take place later this month in Charlottetown.
The Cape Breton-raised, Halifax-based musician is up for three awards: female artist of the year, pop recording of the year and CBC Galaxie rising star of the year. The three nominations are more than the two nods local heavyweights Wintersleep, Joel Plaskett and Buck 65 each received.
“Heart attack-like, anaphylactic shock,” Curry says about her reaction to the nominations over a soy chai latte. “It was sort of, like, ‘Wow! Someone likes me. Three times!’
“You apply and it’s like, ‘Maybe I’ll get’” a nomination, she adds. “‘It’s kind of cool that I got them.”
Haligonians who missed Curry can get a sneak peek of what the buzz is all about when she and her band play The Marquee as part of the Red Light Concert Series on Saturday. The event features an eclectic, two-floor mix of up-and-coming east coast talent. Curry shares a bill with the likes of Halifax hip-hop luminary Trobiz, southern New Brunswick rock band Wheeler and DJ David Stiles.
Curry got her start the same way many other musicians have—at the encouragement of her parents, specifically her mother. She played the piano and trumpet in school band. She received her first guitar at age 16 and immediately began writing songs. Her passion even carried over to university, when she attended St. Francis Xavier for a major in jazz vocals. Following her two years in Antigonish, she now attends Dalhousie, where she continues her music studies.
“When I wake up, I listen to music,” she says. “When I go to school, I study it. I go home and I practise it, then I rehearse with the band, and I write it. I listen to music before I go to bed. That’s my general day.”
While at St. FX, Curry recorded her debut full-length If It Doesn’t Break Me with producer/ musician Jamie Folds. Released last January, promotion for the album halted when Curry’s mother passed away. But the ECMA nominations alleviated any of Curry’s doubts as to whether music was a worthwhile pursuit.
“Honestly, it’s hard for it not to be a validation that I might have a chance to do something musically,” Curry says about the nominations. “Everyone who plays wants to do it. I eat, sleep and drink music. Maybe I’m one step closer to realizing that. I definitely think my mom’s watching over me.”
If It Doesn’t Break Me is a document of emotionally resonant folk-rock with jazz and pop-rock influences and interesting lyrics. Curry says she gathers inspiration for her songwriting from a wide variety of resources, including novels (Good Morning, Midnight), ghost stories (“Afraid of the Dark”) and even less likely forms such as old school rocker Tom Petty (first single “Tom Petty & Me”).
“I had a heartbreak moment—you get your heart stomped on and you think, ‘My life is over,’” she recalls. “I was up ’til four o’clock in the morning and someone was talking about Tom Petty that day, so I downloaded some mp3s and I listened to ‘I Won’t Back Down’ eight or nine times in a row. Each time I got more hyper, thinking, ‘Everything is going to be OK,’” she says. “So I wrote this song about Tom Petty.”
Curry has plans to release the follow-up to If It Doesn’t Break Me in the spring or summer—she’s already recording demos at home with Darren Gallop of Cape Breton jam band Slowcoaster. And if recording and touring albums doesn’t work out as well as she hopes it will, or even if she walks away from Charlottetown without any hardware, Curry knows that there will always be a place for music in her life.
“I want to take it to the grave and have it with me always,” she says. “I would really like to write something someday that is respected and I’d like to make a living by just playing. Also, I really want to teach some day. But everyone wants to be a rock star. You can’t deny it.”
Andrea Curry, February 4 at Hell’s Kitchen, 2037 Gottingen, 9pm, $8 adv/$12.50 door, www.redlightconcerts.com