Musicians excited to kick up heels at Canadian Country Music Association Awards

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SASKATOON - Carolyn Dawn Johnson has 14 artist awards from the Canadian Country Music Association, so you might think another nomination would seem old hat.

Apparently not.

When the CCMAs are held today at Saskatoon's Credit Union Centre, Johnson, 41, will vie for female artist of the year _ a title she's won four times. But the Alberta-native admits she still gets "a little nervous" when nominations are announced.

"Because I'm like 'I wonder if I'll get in there. I wonder if I'm still valid,' " said Johnson, who is also a Juno award winner.

"You make music because you want to make music and that's your passion. That's what you want to do _ you don't do it for the awards. But then you get around to the awards time and you go 'I would really actually like to be part of this,' " she laughed.

Johnson, who has been writing and performing off and on since the 90s, said winning can help an artist's career because sometimes they get more gigs or recognition. It's exciting, but also not the be all and end all.

"You know if there's a day when I'm really tired and exhausted and I go 'I can't do this anymore,' then maybe I won't mind if that doesn't happen anymore," Johnson said Saturday at FanFest in Saskatoon.

"But until then, I'm still interested in singing for people and moving people. Whether I win awards or not, that's really the main thing that I want to do."

Johnson faces Victoria Banks, Terri Clark, Tara Oram and Michelle Wright in the female artist of the year category.

The Scottish-born, Toronto-bred crooner Johnny Reid has a leading eight nominations. Dean Brody of Jaffray, B.C., is next with seven. Alberta-based Gord Bamford nabbed six nominations.

All three will compete for the fans' choice award, single of the year, songwriter of the year and male artist of the year.

Brody was taking it all in stride Saturday at FanFest, where he signed autographs and performed his hit "Canadian Girls" before a cheering crowd.

"Johnny's the guy. He's the guy, man, but he's earned it. He's got just a fan base and he's one of our most talented Canadian musicians and artists out there," said Brody.

"I'm just happy to be in the running with Johnny."

Reid and Brody split the haul at the awards in 2011. Each artist took home three trophies.

Brody said there's a sense of camaraderie among Canadian country music artists and events leading up to the awards show brings that out.

"It's one place where we all get together. You know, we'll run into each other on the road, but it's usually in passing. But here we can kind of have a little bit of time at night to hang out with each other, so it's easy to be excited here," he said.

Chris Thorsteinson of Doc Walker figured he's been going to the CCMAs for probably 10 years. The magic is still there, he said.

"I was talking to my wife about it and I'm like you know, remember the first time I came here, seeing all these country stars walking around. I was losing my mind," Thorsteinson said before Doc Walker took to the stage at FanFest.

"You know there's all this electricity to CCMA week and I mean after this many years it's nice to still be a part of it."

Doc Walker is nominated for group or duo of the year along with Emerson Drive, Hey Romeo, High Valley and The Stellas. Murray Pulver, also of Doc Walker, said there's a mutual respect among all the artists.

"It's great to see people we hear on the radio, but don't get to see all year. And this is sort of the annual camp out," laughed Pulver.

Organizations: Canadian Country Music Association, Credit Union Centre, Victoria Banks

Geographic location: SASKATOON, Alberta, Scottish Toronto Jaffray High Valley

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