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P.E.I. native Steve Coady, 2018 Canadian Country Music Award winner, talks about his career journey

Steve Coady poses for a photo after winning Industry Person of the Year award at the 2018 Canadian Country Music Awards in Hamilton, Ont. last month. He says growing up in a musical family in Charlottetown inspired his career. -John Marshall/Now and Then Magazine
Steve Coady poses for a photo after winning Industry Person of the Year award at the 2018 Canadian Country Music Awards in Hamilton, Ont. last month. He says growing up in a musical family in Charlottetown inspired his career. -John Marshall/Now and Then Magazine - Contributed

Looking back, Steve Coady can see a certain theme running through his life.

“Everything I’ve done has consistently been informed by a love of music and a respect for the artists who make it,” says the P.E.I. native who is vice-president of radio promotion for Warner Music Canada.

From his early days as a drummer, performing with Atlantic Canadian bands like Taquila and The Trees (formerly Screaming Trees) and his first job as a record executive with A&M/Island/Motown division of PolyGram Records Canada in Halifax to his current position, promoting the music of up-and-coming and established artists to radio stations across the country, Coady’s passion for music and people has served as his guiding light.

Steve Coady, right, and Kelley Burns Coady, hang out with Blake Shelton in 2016 at the Boots and Hearts Music Fest at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ont. Coady and his P.E.I.-born wife live in Toronto. Their P.E.I.-born daughter, Lauren, lives and works in New York City.
Steve Coady, right, and Kelley Burns Coady, hang out with Blake Shelton in 2016 at the Boots and Hearts Music Fest at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ont. Coady and his P.E.I.-born wife live in Toronto. Their P.E.I.-born daughter, Lauren, lives and works in New York City.

“A big part of my job is people skills. And because I’ve been in recording studios and I’ve toured around I can kind of speak the language of artists, especially the younger ones. So, if people seek my advice, I have experience that I can call upon.”

Coady’s dedication to performing artists, radio stations and the company he works for was rewarded last month when he was named industry person of the year at the 2018 Canadian Country Music Awards in Hamilton, Ont. 

“It’s very humbling, an honour I don’t take lightly,” says Coady, who was presented with the trophy during the industry dinner on Sept. 8.

While he’s happy to have his face on the award, it’s an honour he shares with his record label family who also took home the award for label of the year the same weekend.

“It’s an award for a team I’m on, Warner Music Canada. I think we’re just blessed to have some really great artists and great clients.”

Coady was blessed to develop a love for music in childhood. His father, Jimmy Coady, was a drummer for The Downtowners, a popular six-piece swing band that played dance clubs all over the Maritimes throughout the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

“As soon as I saw my dad play drums professionally, I knew that’s what I needed to do,” says Coady, during a telephone interview from Toronto, where he’s based.


Family connections

  • Steve Coady comes from a musical family is the son of Jimmy Coady, who started playing drums professionally in 1936 (age 14) and stopped in 1982. He was a member of The Downtowners, a group that played 4,000 shows over four decades.
  • Steve started playing drums professionally in 1975 (age 14) and stopped in 1992.
  • His brother, Shane Coady, started playing drums professionally in 1980 (age 14) and continues to do so.

With live music played constantly in their Charlottetown home, his mother wasn’t surprised when, at the age of four or five, her son picked up his first pair of drumsticks.

“Steve used to play drums and guitar in the basement. There was a workshop outside. (When things got too noisy), I remember telling him to go and play out there,” laughs Peggy Coady Compton.

Steve Coady is shown with his bandmates on the cover of a self-titled CD by his former group.
Steve Coady is shown with his bandmates on the cover of a self-titled CD by his former group.

At 14, he started playing drums professionally, gigging with Taquila, a cover band that played music from the 1950s and ’60s to the hits of the day. He also played with the Colonel Gray High School band.

Eventually, he got an invitation to play drums with The Trees. So, he said goodbye to Taquila and moved to Halifax. Originally called The Screaming Trees, the band had changed its name after discovering that a West Coast group had the same name.

Coady played with The Trees from 1984 to 1992, touring across Atlantic Canada and a bit in Ontario and Quebec.

When living in Halifax and touring with The Trees, he heard that a rep for A&M Music, David Porter, had gotten a promotion and a transfer to Toronto.

“I thought, ‘there’s a cool guy and he’s got a really neat job, and I’m going to apply for it’. So, I got to be the Atlantic rep for A&M Records,” says Coady, who stopped playing drums in 1982.

He was soon transferred to Toronto where he went on to hold progressively senior promotion positions with PolyGram, Sony Music Canada, Zomba Records Canada and finally Warner Music Canada, where he is celebrating his 18th year as vice-president, radio promotion.

Although he doesn’t play with a band anymore, Coady remembers how great it felt when record companies and fans supported The Trees.

And he tries to take a similar positive attitude into his job as a promotor.

“We’re in there, each week, pitching our artists’ songs, whether it’s a Canadian country artist, an American rock artist or a British pop artist that fall under the Warner umbrella. Our job is to convince the people who program radio stations to add our artists’ songs.”

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