Inside the Much Music Video Awards

The iHeartRadio Much Music Video awards are a whirlwind. Musicians, actors, directors and celebrities come from all over the world to celebrate the magic of music videos in Toronto. Everyone from Canadian talent such as Scott Helman and Jessie Reyez to actors KJ Apa and Brandon Flynn found themselves in the company of music heavyweights such as Lorde and Imagine Dragons, who both performed and won awards at the show on June 18.

Here are some highlights from the press room, which Atwood Magazine was fortunate enough to be granted access.

Atwood Magazine at the MMVAs 2017

The first musician in was triple threat Kat Graham. It was the actress/dancer/singer’s second time attending the awards show. Graham walked in looking confident in a Schiaparelli Haute Couture tuxedo, to discuss her takes on music and her role in the music biopic of Tupac Shakur’s life, All Eyez on Me.

“Have you seen it?” she asked the room. “If you haven’t seen it you don’t get to ask me anything about it.”

Graham has cited Shakur as an influence on her music in the past.

“Well, I’m a nineties-inspired kid, you know I grew up watching a lot of Janet, listening to a lot of Babyface, rocking out to Boyz II Men, Blackstreet, Fiona Apple, Tricky; so to be a part of a project like this that is all about honouring the legacy that is this incredible artist, seemed like the absolute thing I wanted to do. I was excited, like anyone would be, to be a part of something that would highlight his successes in the industry. Even [my] record that just came out, that I did with Babyface and that Prince wrote on, so for me, I’m somebody who I want to be someone in the industry because a lot of my fans are pretty young and not necessarily educated on the music that I grew up listening to, that influenced me, that I don’t see enough of in modern music. I don’t see enough musicianship, I don’t see enough melodic choruses, I don’t see enough structure, I don’t see enough bands on stage […] I just want to bring back timeless artist appreciation.”

“I think that’s why it’s so great that I get to be the kind of artist that highlights the kind of artists I grew up listening to, so if you I listen to Janet or I listen to Tupac for instance, this is somebody who was a multi-hyphenate and I think that’s something that should definitely be embraced. I think it was more embraced in the olden days with the Josephine Bakers and Sammy Davises and Frank Sinatras and Marilyn Monroes. You saw a lot more of that happening in the industry, even in the nineties you saw kind of a surge of that happening. But I think it’s less common today which is unfortunate. I think that so many actors are so talented, and so many music artists are so talented, I think I would love to see them express themselves in whatever way they have at their fingertips.”

“I want to be somebody in the industry that has integrity with everything that I do, with my music even if it sells no records, with my films, even if no one sees them. I want to be somebody who’s known to do everything in their power to bring the highest level of respect I can to every character I play, whether fictional or non-fictional.”

“I think the pressure now is to make sure people understand that this movie is about honouring the artist, the late Tupac Shakur, and it’s about honouring the greats in music that have come before us, that have planted the way for African-American artists and more diversity in Hollywood. And this is an homage. And I hope that people understand this is what that film is, to have a better understanding of the man and to have an appreciation of him, and to show him love. In a lot of ways a lot of what I’ve been doing since “The Vampire Diaries” is to pay homage to great artists like George Benson and Sly and the Family Stone, and Babyface, and maybe people that aren’t familiar with these artists and try and find ways to bring elements of their music into my own so people can have a newfound appreciation for them.”

Watch: Kat Graham at the MMVAs

Another musician that stopped by was Toronto singer-songwriter Scott Helman. Having released his first full-length album Hotel de Ville in May, the singer kicked off his round of questions by offering advice to up and coming artists in the music industry.

“I would say just be yourself and work hard. I don’t really know what else I did that made my career at all possible, and just don’t compromise that because it really really matters now, more than it has before I think. It’s been a long time coming, but I think that the value of artists as themselves and as people that want to create something where the fans are really interacting with them and not this idea of someone that is famous or has good hair, is really popular now. The world is getting a bit bored of that to be honest. So I think if you just be yourself and you just work hard, that goes a way longer way.”

“It’s not that good hair isn’t important, because it sure as hell is,” he said laughing. “But it’s just that I think that artists who are taking a precedence when you have people like Lorde, and you have people like Ed Sheeran and you have people […] like Arcade Fire just put out amazing music. You know, the reason I always say Arcade Fire is one of my favourite bands from Canada, is because that’s an indie band from Canada that to me is so special because I don’t think we’ve had an artistic statement like that from a band in awhile. And to know that it’s just from them and that’s Canada is just really special. So just be yourself!”

Helman also recently filmed the music video for his song “Kinda Complicated” in Slab city.

“I was on the phone with the director for that video and we were going to go to an abandoned water park near Las Vegas because we thought it would look cool. That was the starting point; we just wanted to find a great location first. Then I looked up where the location was and realized it was  right next to Slab city, and I had heard about Slab city when I was quite young because I was very into stuff like that when I was in high school, and I was like ‘why don’t we go to Slab city as well?’ and as I said it to him, the song “Kinda Complicated” was about this relationship that was up and down and kind of all over the place, The reason why I wrote that song was because I had written “Cry Cry Cry” on my first record [the Agusta EP released in 2014] like a ‘Fuck you’ song, I’m pissed that we broke up and you’re the worst person in the whole world,’ but I didn’t want to write that song again, because I didn’t feel it had as much value and I felt I really wanted to write a song about having broken up with someone but writing about the best parts of the relationship while we were together and it wasn’t supposed to work but it did for that time, so I thought that was a nice idea. And I thought about Slab city, if anyone doesn’t know Slab city it’s this community in the desert and it’s been there since the 50s, 60s, basically just drifters and different kinds of outlaws go there to build their community there. I thought the idea of that was so beautiful, cause if you told me right now ‘I’m going to go to the Badlands of California and start a commune in the desert of people who don’t want to be a part of traditional society’ I’d be like ‘good luck with that I’ll see how that goes in about a year’ but it’s been there for 60 years so to me it was a metaphor for this relationship that I was in.”

Watch: Scott Helman at the MMVAs

Rapper and hip-hop artist Tasha the Amazon was having a big night, being the first female artist in MMVA history to win for best hip-hop video for “Picasso Leaning.” She was accompanied by the video’s director Colin G. Cooper.

Pop singer Shawn Hook also popped in, fresh on the heels of the release of his new EP My Side of Your Story on June 16.

When asked about how it feels to have the EP finished he said: “It feels good. It’s always a balance between anxiety and excitement when putting out a new project.”

He also chatted about his all-time favourite music video.

“That’s a tough one, for some reason I thought of Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ because I think when I was a kid I thought that was the coolest song ever, and the video was more like a movie rather than a typical music video.”

The toughest question for Hook to answer? Picking three words to describe his new EP.

“Emotional, because that’s where I am as a songwriter; I like to write emotional stories that I’ve gone through and stuff that I think people can relate to. That’s one word! Hard work, that’s two words I guess, but this was an EP of four songs made from 85 songs, we picked four over the last year and-a-half, so it was a lot of hard work, a lot of fun time in the studio. And just fun, the process I had, I got to collaborate with a lot of great people: Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic, … Jane Cash,  a lot of  heavy-hitters in the songwriting community and the production community. It was just a lot of fun making this music.2m43”

Hook explained his creative process when it comes to crafting new music.

“When I’m sitting down to write a song, I usually start with music first and that somehow gets me into the zone where I’m not thinking about lyrics, I’m not thinking about what’s gonna sound good, I’m kind of just expressing and emoting and then I just build on that and start singing random melodies and go from there until I feel like I have something that resonates.”

Rockers Imagine Dragons, who took home the MMVA for iHeartRadio International Duo or Group of the Year talked about getting ready to tour again and the most fun music video they’ve made to date.

Watch: Imagine Dragons at the MMVAs

Another highlight was courtesy of Hamilton-based rockers the Arkells, who won the award for Fan Fave Video award for their explosive song “Knocking At The Door.” Lead singer Max Kermin was working overtime, as the band not only performed and did press, but also took time to film his podcast “Mike on Much” before the show.

“Every year you turn around and go ‘oh we did a bunch of stuff’ so every year we’ve been checking off bucket list things, and this year especially. We played our first headline arena show, and we played Coachella, and we played the MMVAs […] things that took a little while to get to but for us it’s just the right pace. Nothing’s ever felt like it came overnight, it’s always sort of one step at a time and we feel pretty cool with that.”

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