Secret City Celebrates 10 Years of Music in Canada and Abroad

Posted on
October 12, 2016
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Secret City Records has been celebrating its 10th Anniversary this fall with events in Montréal, London, Paris and Reykjavik. On Thursday, September 22, the label marked its tenth year with a special hometown party as part of the POP Montréal festival. Secret City artists, members of the wider music community and partners from around the world attended the celebration at the Clubhouse POP at Rialto Hall in Montréal. The event was also a celebration of Secret City’s diverse friends, family, peers and supporters, and featured a set by Jesse Mac Cormack, whose new EP, After the Glow, came out September 16.

Following the Rialto party, Secret City artists Emilie & Ogden also performed at Montréal’s Chapelle St-Louis on September 23 and 24. Further parties have taken place overseas in London and Paris, and a fourth is planned for Reykjavik in Iceland this November. The celebrations coincide with a number of other commemorative projects, including a 10th Anniversary anthology, released September 23 as a double album. The deluxe compilation features 34 chronological tracks chosen by Secret City artists to represent a decade of musical output from the label. Five additional tracks were also included by Patrick Watson, The Barr Brothers, Plants and Animals, Suuns and Thus Owls.

Ten years have passed since Patrick Watson’s Close to Paradise was released in 2006, the first album issued on Secret City Records. In the early 2000s, label founder Justin West remembers there being a burgeoning energy in the Montréal music scene. At the time, West had just completed studying business at McGill University and was working with his father at the Montréal-based Justin Time Records.


Secret City's first recording artist and Polaris Music Prize winner, Patrick Watson

A year after Secret City released Patrick Watson’s Close to Paradise, the singer-songwriter won the Polaris Music Prize, putting him in the same orbit as contemporary Canadian music talent like Arcade Fire and Feist. Subsequently, it seemed that the success of one Secret City artist continued to fuel another, generating more popularity for the label overall. As a result, a family spirit has become evident at the company, as well as a sense of community that continues to attract new artists. The feeling of belonging to a musical family was certainly attractive to Leif Vollebekk, a singer-songwriter from Ottawa who will release his first album through the label in 2017, and who recently performed at Secret City’s anniversary celebration in London, England at the Oslo Hackney club.

Along with a sense of family, the label’s success can additionally be credited to long-term planning and the cultivation of lasting bonds with artists and industry partners. According to West, this approach gives artists the freedom to experiment and take their creativity in more inspired, rewarding directions.

"It’s not necessarily about genres and it’s just as much about the person as it is about the music," says West. "It starts with that feeling when you hear something special and then it moves to a question of fit - in terms of values, approach, work-ethic, personality, and so on.”

Today, the label has continued to follow a vision of bringing great artists to markets around the world, with an international infrastructure now in place to achieve this goal. Their roster currently includes The Barr Brothers, Basia Bulat, Daniel Isaiah, Diamond Rings, Emilie & Ogden, Jesse Mac Cormack, Leif Vollebekk, Miracle Fortress, Owen Pallett, Patrick Watson, Plants and Animals, Suuns, and Thus Owls, and has been responsible for earning Secret City three gold records in Canada, a Polaris Music Prize and multiple JUNO and Félix nominations over the past ten years.


For more details on Secret City's 10th anniversary, compilation album, artists and events, click here.

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