Isabella Samson wins Canadian Folk Music Award

LOUISDALE: As records and singles keep selling, and more concerts are in the works, a local performer received a special award recently.

Singer/songwriter Isabella Samson of Louisdale was named the 2022 Young Performer of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards in Charlottetown, PEI on April 1.

“It was a complete surprise. I found out that I was nominated in November, and going there, I had no idea whether or not I was going to win, or whether I wasn’t,” she told The Reporter. “I was very, very excited that he just called my name. Then when I got there, I was shaking so uncontrollably when I was giving my speech and accepting the award. I was shaking for the rest of the night.”

Samson said there were strict qualifications for the award.

“It’s for people that are below the age of 19. I’m not sure if they required an entire album; I did have that,” she noted. “But it is also about the performance aspect; being able to engage your crowd and just being a good performer at a young age.”

Samson’s fellow Barn Bhreagh band member fiddler Morgan Toney, originally from We’koqma’q First Nation, performed during the awards show.

According to the CFMA, the 2022 awards were held in Charlottetown, as they were supposed to be in 2020 and then in 2021. For the past two years, the awards were forced to pivot to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Samson told The Reporter last year that she started taking piano lessons when she was three, and has been playing piano ever since. Although she has a background in classical music, Samson said last year that during school talent shows, she started getting the urge to sing. She said her first musical memory came when she covered Adele’s “Someone Like You” in Grade 1.

During her time playing music, Samson has performed at various local venues, at community fundraisers, on Telile: Isle Madame Community Television, at the Municipality of the County of Richmond’s “Concerts by the Sea” series, and at the “Cape Breton Women in Song” event.

“I would play talent shows probably up to the age of 14, and at 14, I started doing more shows of my own in restaurants, Concerts by the Sea, and Music Camp on the Canal,” she recalled. “I was around 13 or 14 when I started playing with Keith Mullins around a bunch of different places, and ever since that point, it’s become a lot more professional.”

Samson released her debut album If It’s Not Forever in May 2021 after spending the previous year writing and recording. Samson, who was also nominated for a 2021 Music Nova Scotia Award, released the album on all streaming platforms last year.

Before the album was released, the single, “If It’s Not Forever” made it to number 3 out of 100 songs in the CIOE FM (in Lower Sackville) Top 100 list, spending 15 weeks in the Top 30. Samson said they made a lyric video for the single which they posted to YouTube.

Samson said her second single “Let It All Go Loud,” made it to the Top 30 on CIOE’s ranking.

After winning her award, Samson received a few offers to perform, and interview opportunities.

“It was definitely really cool to be recognized for that. I do put a lot of work into it and a lot of effort. A lot of my time goes into writing songs, writing new stuff, and having the show prepared. It felt really good to be recognized for that,” she said. “I was overloaded with messages and phone calls, and hugs after the awards. It definitely gave me a little boost.”

Last summer, Samson toured with her band Barn Bhreagh, which includes Toney, Mullins, and Jesse Cox, and this summer she plans to mix band and solo performances, with plans to record more songs.

“I’m going to be touring around the east coast this summer. I’ve got of solo shows, a couple of band shows, a couple of shows with other people,” she added. “I’ve also been writing constantly. I’ve got notebooks, upon notebooks of songs that are ready and fresh to record. I’m hoping to get those recorded and out as soon as possible.”