For a young singer/songwriter, the chance to work with accomplished Canadian bands like Triumph and the Tragically Hip would be a dream.
For Taylor Kurta, it became a reality after she won the RBC Emerging Artist Music Mentorship Prize. In addition to the mentorship sessions with members of the award-winning bands, she won the opportunity to perform in Canada’s Walk of Fame Festival this month, as well as $25,000.
“I freaked out. I didn’t think it was real at first,” she said. “You don’t [think] things like that happen to you. When they do it’s too much to comprehend.”
The 20-year-old Thornhill native said she applied in March, and assumed she wouldn’t win, so she stopped herself from thinking about it so as not to get her hopes up. She said she had completely forgotten about the competition until she got the call in June.
“Obviously, RBC Foundation has changed my whole entire life,” she said.
She went into the famous Metalworks studio on Aug. 26, where she worked with Gil Moore and Rik Emmett, members of Triumph.
“I’m used to working in a basement studio so being in a real studio was crazy. Everything is so nice and they gave me Fiji water and everything,” Kurta said. “Having them listen to my songs and catering to me, it was a weird feeling. I’m not used to it.”
She knew that many acclaimed artists have recorded or mixed their tracks at Metalworks studio, including Guns N’ Roses, Sam Roberts, and most recently, hiphop superstar Drake.
She said it was a “crazy” feeling to see all of the studio equipment, and to work with people “who knew what they were talking about and who gave me amazing advice.”
Some of the advice included slowing down one of her songs to bring the audience into the music.
“Getting advice from Canadian legends like that was really surreal, and I feel so fortunate,” she said.
In total, she spent 20 hours in the studio. She’ll get another 10 hours of expert advice when she heads to another studio with Gord Sinclair from the Tragically Hip. She hopes to complete the 30 hours with a new extended play to her name, an album with three or four professionally recorded songs.
Kurta’s first purchase with the prize money was a new guitar – an electric acoustic guitar, which she said will drastically change and improve her live sound.
It’s a Martin guitar – the same company as the one that made her first ever guitar, which she got when she was 14.
“One day I saw my friend playing guitar and I thought, ‘I wonder if I can do that.’ So I sat for two weeks, playing four hours a night,” she said.
By singing over the music, she was able to develop a certain vocal style, which she said is quite different from many other singer-songwriters.
Samples of her songs are at taylorkurta.com.
The rest of the prize money will go towards a degree in music therapy – something that Kurta sees herself doing in her future, as well as performing. She plans to enrol for that program at Wilfred Laurier University starting September 2014, although she’s happy to move it if her performing career takes off.
She chose Laurier because of its proximity to Toronto, so she can continue to perform in the city while she studies.
She said that music therapy is so important to her because of its ability to heal people.
“I feel like everyone in this world has this purpose,” she said. “If I was given a gift, it’s my duty to share that with other people. If I can heal other people with music, then why not?”