Bridget Swift and Dahlia Waller were like two sprightly fairies at the 40th annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in Bannerman Park. The 15- and 14-year-old musical duo from Corner Brook enchanted spectators with their performance on the main stage Monday night – an opportunity they earned after winning the Newfound Talent contest for their performance on the Neil Murray Stage on Saturday night.
Swift and Waller won the favour of judges and local artists Eddi Kenny, Mallory Johnson, and Jordan Coaker with their performance of “Castle,” a song written by 15-year-old Swift about an old house belonging to her grandmother that was torn down and rebuilt. When the young girls started playing, the crowd fell into the “will of the wisp.”
Swift, who has been writing music since she’s been nine years old, said she wasn’t really thinking about the contest, she was just excited to have the opportunity to perform at the folk festival.
She said winning first place came as a huge surprise. “It’s a pretty big deal because it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done with music. We really didn’t think we were going to win but, we did. It was really cool.”
Now, thanks to the top prize, Swift and Waller will be coached by an industry pro and will have the opportunity to record a professional demo, something Swift says the duo may not have been able to do otherwise.
“It’s a really big deal because normally that would cost a lot of money and it would be really hard to get that, but now I will get it so, it’s really cool.” Swift and Waller got the full package.
Before heading home to Corner Brook, they were brought to the MusicNL offices where they sat with industry leaders to discuss the details of the prize and ways to get started in the professional music industry.
MusicNL offers the Newfound Talent Contest to give young artists an opportunity to perform. The musicians compete for a top prize that includes the tools to help them start a professional music career.
“They get the chance to work with some of the local industry’s best audio professionals on the recording, mixing, and mastering of a demo,” said Abigail Pye of MusicNL.
“They get to work with a photographer, videographer, graphic designer, and manager, and we invite the winner to attend MusicNL conference week where they can attend music workshops and network with local artists and music industry professionals. The prize is designed so that the recipient will have a professional demo and some promotional tools to take with them, as well as skills and a plan for the future.”
Swift and Waller were among good company. MusicNL says the performers this year were extremely talented and judges had a hard time choosing winners. “This year, because the competition was so tough, the judges insisted that we have a fourth place winner,” Pye said.
The young artists were scored on their stage presence, performance, and songwriting. Pye says the young musical duo and their performance of “Castle” really stood out.
“What struck me about the song was the maturity of the songwriting, as well as the gorgeous vocal harmonies,” Pye said. “It was really catchy, I was singing it to myself on the way home from the Folk Festival on Monday night!”
Swift’s lyrics seem to come from an old soul but, when the 15-year-old isn’t writing music, she’s busy being a kid. As for the next step in their music careers, the young friends don’t really have any plans other than coming back to St.John’s later this summer to record their demos. They hope their newfound fame will give them more opportunities to play so people can hear their music.