Tupperville’s Aidan Duchene, 15, may not like small spaces, but she likes big contests.
Duchene recently won the Next Gen Junos contest, earning $1,000 in the process, for her song “I Don’t Like Small Spaces.”
The CBC’s Afternoon Drive radio program oversaw the competition.
Initially announced on Feb. 11 on Afternoon Drive, musicians aged 18 or younger in Southwestern Ontario were asked to submit original tunes. The winner – Duchene – got to perform her song before a live audience at the London Music Club two days prior to the Juno Awards.
All this occurred in a very tight time frame, made even tighter by Duchene. She learned about the contest by listening to the CBC, and then fretted over what to submit, or even if she should take part. Fortunately, her friends intervened.
“I debated whether or not I should send my song in. I recorded it the night before (the contest deadline of March 8),” she said. “I had written a few songs for the competition but couldn’t decide. And then I wrote the one the night before (“I Don’t Like Small Spaces”), but I couldn’t get the guitar to sound how I wanted.”
That left Duchene thinking about not entering, but her friends would have none of that. They learned of her dilemma on March 8 and encouraged her to submit. She did so during school.
Three days later, she received a call telling her she’d won. Four days after that, she was performing her song with a band at the London Music Club.
Musicians Emm Gryner and Michael Hargreaves judged the submissions, according to an article on CBC.ca.
Gryner, in commenting to CBC, said she liked Duchene’s lyrics and approach to her song.
“I just felt like there was something real about it,” Gryner said to the CBC.
Duchene said her song is about dealing with depression.
“There are a lot of kids my age who struggle with sadness and depression. I was struggling this winter. I had switched schools and had to make new friends,” she said. “It was a bit out of character for me. It was a tough winter for me.”
Duchene shifted from Ecole secondaire catholique de Pain Court to Ursuline College. She left behind people she’d known since kindergarten to make new friends in a much larger school.
“I have a few really close friends who are really supportive of what I do. They are always encouraging me to do things. My best friend is who told me to start song writing. I just started in October,” she said.
And now she has an award for her song writing mere months later.
It’s part of Duchene’s whirlwind musical evolution. She said she started taking guitar lessons about three years ago, but didn’t like the structured format.
“I wanted to learn songs I liked,” she said, so she stopped with the lessons.
But about a year ago, she picked up the guitar again and taught herself to play the songs she enjoys.
As for singing, Duchene admits she’s been doing that for most of her life.
“When I started talking is when I started singing,” she said.
She’s had a number of vocal coaches over the years. Duchene is currently working with Kim Benoit, she said.
“She encourages me to get out more and enter in competitions. She was really excited when I told her I entered this contest,” Duchene said.
In terms of musical influences, Duchene admitted she’s all over the map, having an open mind, and ear.
“I really like listening to older rock bands – Radiohead, Nirvana. I like how sometimes lyrics are more difficult to figure out, but when you do, you see the deeper meaning,” she said.
Duchene also listens to performers such as Norah Jones and the late Etta James.
And being Canadian, she admits to having some maple leaf influences such as The Tragically Hip.
“I would have loved to meet Gord Downie. I was so sad when he passed,” she said of The Hip’s lead singer and primary songwriter, known for his lyrics.
With such diverse influences, Duchene said she is in the right place, able to “take a little bit from every genre.”
As for her future, with the Next Gen Junos win, Duchene plans to continue to write and perform her own songs. As of right now, she has three cover tunes posted to YouTube, but hopes to soon augment that with some of her own material.
She dreams of having a career in music.
“It is something I really enjoy. Everybody wants to do something they love,” Duchene said.
In the meantime, her performance in London is one she’ll remember for a long time.
“It was really a great experience; my best performance experience,” she said. “I got to play with a real band, the Texas King Band from London. They created an entire arrangement for me. Singing with them felt super cool.”