2014 has been a very good year for Nova Scotia folk musician Dave Gunning.
Just two days into the year, his song “A Game Goin’ On,” a track taken from his 10th record No More Pennies claimed the top spot over more than 1,000 entires in a Hockey Night In Canada Song Quest competition.
Co-written with David Francey, Gunning says the ironic thing about winning the contest was the fact that he didn’t originally intend to enter it; it was his manager who submitted the track.
“I’ve always been leery of getting involved with any kind of reality competition when it comes to my music,” Gunning says. “I just never considered it to be my thing but my manager Shelley insisted that we should enter the competition so she sent it in. It truly surprised me when the song won the whole contest but as I’ve found with being a folk singer, success is defined as a lot of small milestones as opposed to a few big events.”
Fortunately for Gunning, he has a wealth of those milestones to his credit. Since 1998, he has taken home more than a handful of statuettes from the East Coast Music Awards and Canadian Folk Music Awards, in addition to placing in the finals or semi-finals for numerous international songwriting competitions.
At the end of March, Gunning and Canadian country superstar George Canyon were selected the first place winners in the Singer-Songwriter category of the 15th Annual Great American Song Contest.
In early September, Gunning, Matt Andersen, Thom Swift, Joel Plaskett and others leveraged their talents to help bring awareness to the ongoing air quality issues around Pictou, Nova Scotia’s Northern Pulp Mill. The artists performed in a free, all-ages concert before an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people.
Residents of the area have grown increasingly concerned about the emissions from the mill, which tests conducted last year showed were well above legal limits.
Gunning says that while he considers the show a success in raising awareness, there is still much work to be done.
“Even if Northern Pulp get within compliance for what the province of Nova Scotia has set out, the laws are still ten times less stringent than what companies in the United States and elsewhere are required to operate (under),” he says. “I wish that the province would adopt the clean air act like New Brunswick has.”
“It is not so much that we want the mill to go out of business; there are people that need those jobs which we completely understand. In speaking with the government, it feels as though there is progress being made but it is difficult to gauge exactly how far along we are. It is indeed a very complex situation.”
Although Gunning’s show this Saturday night at the Riverview Arts Centre is being billed as a Christmas Concert, his performance will blend holiday music taken from his two Christmas albums – 2006’s Dave Gunning Christmas and 2011’s Christmas Too – with a selection of his original songs.
By Gunning’s own account, his schedule of holiday shows this year is tame compared to past years with only six to eight shows planned in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday.
“I am fortunate to live here in the Maritimes where everything is seemingly so close,” he says. “It is nice to be in the position where I can book shows close to home and not be away from home any longer than I need to be. It is contrary to the last couple of years where I found myself extremely busy in the time leading up to Christmas.”
Gunning’s desire to stay close to home has also undoubtedly been fuelled by the fact that he is in the midst of writing and recording songs for a new studio record, which he hopes to release mid-2015.
Thus far, he says the material gathered for his upcoming self-produced album is very much a return to his folk roots.
“I have definitely been guilty of trying to cram too much in the way of instrumentation onto previous records so with these new songs, I am stripping things down to the bare essentials. I am quite pleased with the way the recording is going so far.”
What: Dave Gunning
When: Saturday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Riverview Arts Centre, 400 Whitepine Rd., Riverview
Tickets are $20. Advance tickets are available at Jean Coutu (438 Coverdale Rd., Riverview), Frank’s Music (245 Carson Dr., Moncton), Sobeys (1160 Findlay Blvd., Riverview) as well as online at riverviewartscentre.ca