Giving you behind-the-scenes access to this year's CCMA Awards, presented by TD, through the lens of nominated artist MacKenzie Porter and Ultimate Fans. In collaboration with TD.
by Gabby Sgherri
For country singer-songwriter MacKenzie Porter, the Canadian Country Music Association
(CCMA) Awards are always a kind of homecoming.
The Nashville transplant moved to the Music City in 2014, but her roots reach back to Alberta.
Raised on a cattle and bison ranch near Medicine Hat, the 32-year-old country singer has
racked up five number one hits on Canadian country radio and shot to prominence in the U.S.
after spending six weeks atop the Billboard Country Airplay charts for her feature on the song “Thinking ‘Bout You” by American singer, Dustin Lynch.
Now a bona fide international country star, Porter still maintains her connection to home, and understands the power of community in fostering homegrown talent, something she’s reminded of each year when she returns to Canada for the CCMA Awards. At this year’s ceremony, held in Calgary for a record 10th time, Porter was nominated for three awards, including Female Artist of the Year, Video of the Year, and Songwriter(s) of the Year for “Pickup,” shared with Will Bundy and Lydia Vaughan. Her guest appearance on Pure Country Top 50 Of 2021, a New Year’s Eve special hosted by Shannon Ella and other special guest Dustin Lynch, was also awarded with Country Music Program or Special of the Year.
“It was a full circle moment for me, celebrating country music back home,” she said.
“The awards are always a family affair, not only for the fact that I’m back home, but the country music community in Canada is like my second family, both my fellow artists and the fans. They helped me get where I am today.”
It’s a sentiment that CCMA Awards Presenting Sponsor, TD Bank Group (TD), shares with Porter: a supportive community can help produce great things, and music can be a building block for community. That’s why TD was proud to sponsor the 40th annual awards ceremony, to help celebrate Canada’s brightest country stars and give the community of country fans an opportunity to connect and reunite.
“It’s where fans and artists come together to experience the evolution of the genre and celebrate the people who have made it what it is today,” said Robert Ghazal, Senior Vice President, Branch Banking, Prairie Region, at TD.
“Every year, on stages big, small, and virtual, TD helps bring Canadians together through music. It’s this fundamental power of connection that inspires us to sponsor and support more than 60 music and cultural festivals and award shows, including the CCMA Awards.”
The events and activities sponsored by TD throughout Country Music Week exemplified the importance of supporting music in different ways, big and small, leading to an overall impact that fosters positive change – and maybe even a new superstar.
It’s fans like Robyn Ashley and Willow Irwin who helped push stars like Porter to the top of the charts and who fuel the community today. The duo, who won this year’s CCMA Ultimate Fan Experience contest, presented by TD, are so passionate about the scene that 2022 marked the fourth year they had entered the contest. Their country music dreams finally came true when they won exclusive access to Country Music Week, plus a special opportunity to attend the CCMA Awards as presenters of the Amazon Music and Alexa Fans’ Choiceaward live onstage.
Though this year’s ceremony was the ultimate experience, it wasn’t their first time at the CCMA Awards in Calgary. In 2019, they managed to find their way onto the side of the red carpet to watch all their favourite country stars arrive to the ceremony, the last in Calgary until this year. “Now being there [again] in this capacity was such a meaningful experience for us,” said Ashley.
Fandom and stardom truly collided at the TD Live Karaoke Stage on Calgary’s Stephen Avenue, a first-time activation for TD at Country Music Week, where fans belted out their favourite Canadian country tunes with the support of a live band.
Ahead of the awards, Ashley and Irwin couldn’t decide which of their favourite country stars’ songs would make for the perfect cover, but one Canadian country icon was natural fit: “Shania [Twain] is always a good karaoke choice, 100 per cent of the time,” said Ashley. “It would be a toss-up between a Dallas Smith song, a Hunter Brothers song, or a Tenille Townes song, but we’d start with Shania and then make our way down our list.”
For Porter, that choice rings true. “It would probably be a Shania song like ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman!’” she said of her own karaoke pick, had she been able to take to the TD Live Karaoke Stage.
For Canadian country fans and stars, it’s all about going back to your roots in support of the community where they have found so much to sing about.
“We do this because music helps us find common ground, discover new perspectives and work together for a more inclusive future,” Ghazal said. “At TD, we’re proud to help Canadians connect with the incredible wealth of artistic and musical talent across the country.”
TD has been the presenting sponsor of the CCMA Awards since 2019. For more information about the Bank’s support of the CCMA Awards and other Canadian music programs, visit https://tdmusic.com/