BY ERIN FAWCETTE
Red Deer native Danielle McTaggart, part of the duo Dear Rouge, won Breakthrough Group of the Year the Juno Awards held earlier this month.
McTaggart, along with her husband Drew, formed Dear Rouge in 2009 when they were touring across Canada, each pursuing their own music projects.
The awards, which took place in Calgary, were the first awards show attended by Danielle and Drew.
“It was amazing. All of Canada gets together and where you notice it the most is that you get to hang out with the Canadian music industry. We get to stay at the same hotel as other bands and it brings the community together,” said Drew. “Just the exposure of the Junos for us is so huge. People look at it as Canada’s top music awards and everyone gets excited. People from our hometowns are just going crazy.”
Danielle, who was born and raised in Red Deer, said local fans have showed their support and excitement as well.
“It feels like the timing was insane just being nominated and performing in my own province – the energy was just amazing,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity, better timing – just all of it. It feels like it was our time and the right time for Dear Rouge.”
Hearing their name called as the winners of Breakthough Group of the Year was surreal, Drew added.
“We were shocked. We obviously knew there was a small percentage of a chance we could win because we were in the category, but we weren’t really thinking about it because performing and being nominated was a huge win for us already. We were there in gratitude,” he said. “The award came up quick and it shocked us. We got up there and it was our first time doing something like that, we thought we forgot a whole bunch of people. It’s weird because you don’t want to contain yourself, but you want to thank everyone.”
Danielle added there is no feeling like winning a Juno.
“I feel like I was stunned with happiness. I was shocked with joy – I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that kind of emotion,” she said.
The duo also performed at the Junos and Drew said that was an absolute rush.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt a bigger weight off my shoulders after,” said Drew. “It’s a live performance and you watch some of the best artists in the world and sometimes there’s mix ups with sound – you could break a string, you could trip on a cord – anything can happen.
We were kind of getting riled up and we had our dress rehearsal and it made us a little bit more nervous, but when it came to that moment, we just had this calmness over us. We were really excited and confident. We came out and it felt really good to play.”
The Vancouver-based couple released their major label debut CD Black To Gold to critical acclaim last year.
“We were very happy with it, and that it happened naturally,” explains Drew of the recording process for Black to Gold. “It was really organic. We didn’t really understand how big it would be, or how much exposure it would get. We hoped for big things, but you never really know so we didn’t really feel that much pressure.”
The disc was actually recorded in 2013, but the couple is thankful for the time they had to spend on it. The last couple of years have been exceptionally busy, so the release date wasn’t immediate as they took up a slate of opportunities that came along with their notable and rapid success.
Last fall the couple were named winners of the 2015 SOCAN Songwriting Prize for their hit single I Heard I Had – one of three singles including Best Look Lately and Black To Gold to soar to Top 3 at both alternative and modern rock radio.
Named one of the 15 most anticipated Canadian indie albums of 2015, Black To Gold was the realization of an artistic vision that spans more than two years in the making, helmed by Drew and producer/engineer Ryan Worseley, with input and influence from Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, Mother Mother) and Gavin Brown (Metric, Billy Talent).
It was back in the spring of 2012 that Dear Rouge released their debut EP Heads Up! Watch Out! and the response was pretty much immediate. Only six months after their debut, they followed it up with the Kids Wanna Know EP in 2012.
Looking back further, a love for music was sparked early on in both. “I grew up in a home where my mom was very much involved in singing and in competitions,” Danielle has observed. “I was always very encouraged by her to sing a lot. I also grew up in the church, so I sang a lot there as well. But I had no idea I could do it as a career until I started to get encouraging comments, like ‘You can really do this’.”
She helped launch Christian band Gaetz Avenue and the group landed considerable success. As time went on, she tried different ventures but things really picked up again when she met Drew. For Drew, he was surrounded by music from the get-go. His dad was a music teacher. His mom taught piano. His brother has a degree in music and his sister loves to sing.
Looking ahead, Drew said the duo is currently in the middle of writing. “We’re compiling songs and this weekend was an encouragement because everything is teed up for us. Some of the past winners of this award – it’s amazing as to what they have gone on to achieve. I think now we’re going to put our heads down and be creative as much as possible and when the time is right we’re going to do a record and that will be a very exciting but a nervous thing.”
– with files from Mark Weber