Catherine MacLellan

Catherine Ruth MacLellan, singer, songwriter (born 23 April 1980 in Burlington, ON). Catherine MacLellan is a contemporary folk-roots singer-songwriter whose recordings have won multiple East Coast Music Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards, Music PEI Awards and a Juno Award. She is the daughter of “Snowbird” composer Gene MacLellan.

Catherine MacLellan in 2009.

Early Years and Career

As a child, MacLellan lived in Waterdown and Burlington, Ontario, and then in Prince Edward Island from the age of 10. She began writing songs in her youth, following in the footsteps of her successful songwriter father, Gene MacLellan. At age 14, Catherine discovered her father’s suicide at their PEI home, an experience that led her to write songs in earnest as a means of self-expression. (See also Fighting Depression-related Suicide.)

MacLellan later moved to Toronto, where she began performing at open-mic sessions at folk clubs. In 2000, she decided to pursue a music career, moving back to PEI to perform with folk group The New Drifts and country band Saddle River. She independently released her debut solo album, Dark Dream Midnight (2004), in the Maritimes, Ontario and Québec, earning her first of many Music PEI Awards and an East Coast Music Award (ECMA) nomination. She then moved to Halifax for greater performance opportunities.

Catherine MacLellan performs at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival on 11 August 2015.

Church Bell Blues (2006)

MacLellan’s second album, the independently released country-folk-roots record Church Bell Blues (2006), proved to be her breakthrough. True North Records quickly signed her to their label and re-released the album in 2007. It reached No. 1 on iTunes Canada’s roots album chart, was nominated for ECMA Awards for Female Solo Recording of the Year and Folk Recording of the Year, and reaped multiple Music PEI Awards.

The awards gave MacLellan’s introspective songs national exposure, and particularly throughout Atlantic Canada. Her folk-roots recordings, with an occasional nod to her late father’s country stylings, demonstrate the influence of not only Gene MacLellan but also of roots and pop music icons Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie. MacLellan’s bright, evocative voice drew comparisons to that of American country legend Emmylou Harris.

In 2008, True North Records arranged for MacLellan to tour the northeastern United States as the opening act for Bruce Cockburn, and as the opening act for Steve Forbert in the United Kingdom and Europe. She also toured solo in Canada, playing folk festivals in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and elsewhere. That year she also resettled in PEI.

Water in the Ground (2008)

In 2008, MacLellan issued another successful album, Water in the Ground, resulting in a “Critics’ Favourite” designation from the influential Penguin Eggs magazine. A fine array of awards and nominations followed the album’s release: the 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award (CFMA) for Solo Artist of the Year (her first national music award); 2010 ECMAs for Female Recording and Folk Recording of the Year; and Music PEI Awards for Songwriter, Album, Folk Recording, and Female Vocalist of the Year.

Silhouette (2011)

MacLellan toured Ireland in 2011 with Ron Hynes and others, and capped the year by releasing another album, Silhouette, featuring Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy. The album garnered further honours the following year, including the CFMA for English Songwriter of the Year, three ECMAs for Album, Folk Recording and Solo Recording of the Year, and five Music PEI Awards including Songwriter of the Year. Silhouette was named one of the best country albums of 2014 by Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.

The Raven’s Sun (2014)

MacLellan’s next recording, The Raven’s Sun (2014), was produced by her partner and guitarist Chris Gauthier, with whom she tours. Like its predecessors, the album earned numerous honours, including her first Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Solo Album of the Year as well as a nomination for songwriter of the year. It also won CFMAs for Solo Artist and Contemporary Album of the Year. She made appearances throughout Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe between 2014 and 2016 to support the newest album.

Television Work

MacLellan appeared in the 2011 TV miniseries Life is a Highway: Canadian Pop Music in the 1990s. Her songs have been featured on the television shows Degrassi: The Next Generation (“Dreams Dissolve”) and Heartland (“House of Love” and “The Long Way Home”).

Tribute to Gene MacLellan

MacLellan’s next project was a tribute album to her late father. If It’s Alright With You — The Songs of Gene MacLellan was released by True North Records in the spring of 2017, in conjunction with her theatre show If It's Alright With You: The Life and Music of My Father, Gene MacLellan, which showcases Gene’s songs. In the show, MacLellan plays many of her father’s songs and discusses his depression, a condition she has also experienced and received therapy for. The show debuted in Charlottetown before going on tour.

Charitable Involvement

Catherine MacLellan has spoken publicly and blogged about depression. She advocates for improvements to mental health services.

Awards

Music PEI Awards

  • Folk Recording of the Year (Dark Dream Midnight) (2005)
  • Female Vocalist of the Year (2005)
  • Folk Recording of the Year (Church Bell Blues) (2006)
  • Female Vocalist of the Year (2006)
  • SOCAN Songwriter of the Year (2006)
  • Song of the Year (“A Long Way Home”) (2006)
  • Album of the Year (Church Bell Blues) (2006)
  • Female Vocalist of the Year (2010)
  • Folk Recording of the Year (Water in the Ground) (2010)
  • SOCAN Songwriter of the Year (“Take a Break”) (2010)
  • Album of the Year (Water in the Ground) (2010)
  • Album of the Year (Silhouette) (2012)
  • SOCAN Songwriter of the Year (“Eastern Girl”) (2012)
  • Video of the Year (“Stealin’”) (2012)
  • Female Solo Recording of the Year (Silhouette) (2012)
  • Roots Contemporary Recording of the Year (Silhouette) (2012)
  • Female Solo Recording of the Year (The Raven’s Sun) (2015)
  • Roots Contemporary Recording of the Year (The Raven’s Sun) (2015)
  • SOCAN Songwriter of the Year (The Raven’s Sun) (2015)
  • Album of the Year (The Raven’s Sun) (2015)
  • SpinCount Roots Contemporary Recording of the Year (The Raven’s Sun) (2015)
  • Female Solo Recording of the Year (If It's Alright With You — The Songs of Gene MacLellan) (2018)
  • Album of the Year (If It's Alright With You — The Songs of Gene MacLellan) (2018)
  • Canadian Folk Music Awards (2010, 2012, 2015)
  • Solo Artist of the Year (2009)
  • English Songwriter of the Year (2012)

East Coast Music Awards

  • Female Recording of the Year (Water in the Ground) (2010)
  • Folk Recording of the Year (Water in the Ground) (2010)
  • Folk Recording of the Year (Silhouette) (2012)

Others

  • Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Solo (The Raven’s Sun), Juno Awards (2015)