We are around my desk monitor, and I’m pulling up a video of an old music friend and compatriot still in her twenties. The two of us are marvelling at the big talent on the screen, and there’s a three-way connection. Stacey Kay and Leah Daniels have been best friends since age eleven when the two competed in talent contests.
The look in Daniels’ eyes is that of a young woman that’s inspired and in awe of her good friend. In many ways, their careers mirror one another. Both are fiercely independent, have a clear vision where they want to go with their careers, and are determined to get it right. Both work outside the walls of a major record label and connect directly with their audiences.
Kay rocked it on America’s Got Talent and Daniels took home the Canadian Radio Music Award as the FACTOR 2016 Breakthrough Artist of the Year, earned four CCMA nominations, and has a new recording set to arrive in May 2018. There’s also something else that binds the two. I keep in mind what Warner Canada Music Steve Kane CEO said to me a few years back after I posed this question about evaluating talent.
BK: Is there a checklist?
SK: Yes, there’s a mental checklist. I’ve got to tell you at the top of this checklist – “Does this artist know who they are?” Do they have a sense of self? Do they have a sense of where they want their career to go?
The answer? A resounding yes! Here’s that conversation.
Coming out of Sheridan College’s arts program how focused on country music were you back then?
Country was not on my mind at that time.
I guess in high school it was more about musicals and pop and rock music and after Sheridan I wanted to create my own music. I wanted to write. After Sheridan I went to Humber College for music because I wanted to do my own thing and they had a new program that was a degree program that focused on songwriting specifically. I was like, that sounds perfect. I completed first year but was anxious. I wanted to create music instead of being in school for another four years.