Nanaimo’s Whitey Somers is one of 10 “live performance” Canadian Songwriting Competition finalists. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo musician Whitey Somers makes Canadian Songwriting Competition short list

Winner will be decided by online public voting, which closes Feb. 28

Whitey Somers doesn’t normally partake in songwriting competitions – he says they can sometimes be “popularity contests” – but about a month ago he submitted a video from a new song to the Canadian Songwriting Competition and soon learned that he was a finalist in the live performance category.

“I did it on a bit of a whim,” the Nanaimo-based singer-songwriter said.

“I just said, ‘Why not? … Go for it. Whatever, a couple bucks, see what happens.’”

What happened was the performance of his folky blues number Down that Road, the title track from his upcoming album, unexpectedly made the cut.

The competition is open to amateur and professional songwriters alike. The songs must be original and at least half-written by Canadians.

Prizes range from a $10,000 grand prize, to studio time and professional development opportunities. A roster of industry judges, this year including recording artists Joel Plaskett, Sam Roberts and Alan Doyle, will pick the winners for all categories except for “live performance,” which is decided by public voting.

Somers said he was “stoked … humbled and surprised” when he heard the competition committee placed him on the 10-artist short list. He said his song must have connected with the committee members.

“I think it’s just engaging, you know. It’s warm, it’s honest, it’s a lot of fun and the song itself is fairly catchy,” he said.

Somers said he’s been having a good 2018 so far and his position in the Canadian Songwriting Contest is further evidence of that.

He is currently “right smack-dab in the middle” of recording a new blues album that he hopes to release in the spring. He said he’s been getting more into the blues since moving to Nanaimo from Collingwood, Ont. in 2013.

“There’s a big blues thing on the Island. There’s a lot of blues players and that’s where a lot of the work is, is in that sort of genre: roots [and] blues,” he said.

“I’ve sort of started swinging in that direction a lot more.”

The oldest track on the record Somers wrote when he was a teenager in the mid-’70s and the latest was written the night before heading into the studio.

“There’s a couple of really new tunes on the album that people have never even heard and there’s some I’ve been kind of flogging around a little bit for a while,” he said, adding that the songs of his youth were “not as deep, but for a 15-year-old I obviously had a sense of the blues.”

To view all 10 live Canadian Songwriting Competition finalists, click here. Voting is done by liking the artist’s post. Voting ends on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.

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