© Heather Taweel - The Guardian
Island singer/songwriter Rose Cousins, shown here outside the Delta Hotel in Charlottetown on Friday, says her travels sometimes take her far from the East Coast, but the region is never far from her heart.
Meaghan Blanchard, Catherine MacLellan and Rose Cousins
The enthusiastic cheers that erupt from the audience each time one of these women steps in front of the microphone is an indication that there is no need for an introduction.
Meaghan Blanchard, Catherine MacLellan and Rose Cousins are three of the headliners of the East Coast Music Week, all with distinctively different styles, but all with a common tie to their home province of Prince Edward Island.
“My music is the East Coast. It’s who I am, it’s what I write about and it is my music,” said MacLellan.
Her career as a musician flourished through exposure to different provinces and experience in different bands across Canada but ultimately brought her back to the Island.
Her intimate performance on Thursday night in Mavors presented a collection of songs reflecting experiences from her life on the Island in a fluid and poetic style.
“Songs just spill out of me,” she smiled.
Cousins shared an equally intimate performance with her audience in a much less intimate setting on Thursday night. Hundreds of fans filled the seats and the standing room in the Delta ballroom as they were treated to Cousins’ rendition of the song “Blue”, by one of her inspirations, Joni Mitchell.
“She (gave) me permission for my devastatingly sad repertoire,” Cousins informed the crowd.
“My music is maybe sadder around the corners,” she said, “but people listen to music because they want to feel connected and feel empathy, sympathy and compassion with others.”
Blanchard’s music strikes a distinctively different note than both that of MacLellan and Cousins. She opened in the Delta ballroom on Thursday afternoon with her song “Watchin’ the Dandelions Grow”, a delicate and sweet ode to her childhood experiences of playing baseball on P.E.I.
From multiple records released, international performances played and numerous awards won, each artist can say that they’ve achieved success beyond the confines of Eastern Canada, but each can also say that the East Coast has stuck with them throughout.
“It’s very much a string that runs through all my work and my songs,” said Cousins. “I’m far from the East Coast but it’s never far from my innards.”
All three artists have found it necessary to invest time abroad to network, gain exposure and build recognition as musicians, but each is grateful to have come from the East.
“There’s an advantage to growing up in small communities,” said Cousins. “So many people might tag it as competitive but I’ve found it’s nothing but supportive.”
Blanchard echoed this sentiment.
“People know each other within the East Coast music scene,” she said. “It’s like a family that way. We all support each other.”
Blanchard is nominated for country recording of the year for her latest album “She’s Gonna’ Fly”, while Cousins received fans’ choice nominations for both artist of the year and video of the year.
With Blanchard setting long-term sights on owning a record label one day, and with MacLellan and Cousins simply hoping to continue in their careers as singer-songwriters, there is no sign that these P.E.I. natives will be disappearing from the music scene any time soon.
And by the audience’s roaring response as they exit their respective stages, it’s a good thing they’ll be sticking around.