After more than two years, country musicians regrouped at the 2021 CCMA Awards in London, Ont, on Nov. 28 to salute each other, mingle, and share a few laughs.
In a surprise selection, CCMA adjudicators awarded a tie between Matthew Atkins and Ben Bradley as the 2021 Drummer of the Year. Ironically, both drummers once lived in St. Albert. Bradley now lives in Brooks, and Atkins moved to Coquitlam, B.C.
The scaled-down event featured award presentations during a gala dinner. While Atkins attended, Bradley was at London Music Hall setting up for a gig.
“I was half-way through my salad when our names came up,” said Atkins. “I was completely unprepared. I was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans. I was expecting to cheer for my friend Ben Bradley. But to win with him, I can’t think of anything better. He’s an awesome drummer and has won the last four years in a row.”
Atkins added that in his teenage years, Bradley was one of his students.
“Way back in St. Albert, he used to come to my house to take lessons. I really just showed him a bunch of stuff. He put in his hours and has become a really good musician.”
Now sporting five trophies, Bradley retires to the Musician Hall of Honour. He joins bass player Travis Switzer from St. Albert and drummer Chad Melchert from St. Albert. The Musician Hall of Honour is reserved for musicians who have won an award in the same category five times.
This trophy was Atkins’s third win. The last one was in 2001.
“It’s literally 20 years. This win is awesome, but more importantly, if you can have your name on a list, you are relevant. It shows you have a career. I’ve been nominated 17 times. I think I’m the Susan Lucci of the CCMAs,” Atkins chuckled.
There’s a niche in his home reserved for the third trophy — a recording studio built on the top floor of his house. During the pandemic’s shutdown, musicians across the country emailed electronic files to his studio for remote tracking.
“Everyone wanted to continue doing it. I just happened to have the right place at the right time and a lot of people reached out to me. People with a high-end budget go to Bryan Adams's studio in Vancouver. But a lot of people don’t have big dollars and by coming to me, they can have their tracks professionally recorded.”
Tyler Vollrath was singled out as Fiddle Player of the Year, and Mitch Jay was named Specialty Instrument Player of the Year.