Kiesza, Magic! & Bahamas Among Early Juno Awards Winners

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Kiesza accepts her 2015 Juno award during a private gala at the Hamilton Convention Center in Ontario on March 14.

Kiesza, Magic! and Bahamas are neck and neck after trophies were dolled out at the first of the two-night Juno Awards in Canada on Saturday (March 14). Each act won a pair.

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During a private gala dinner at Hamilton Convention Centre in Ontario, 35 of the 41 awards were given out. The honors covered country to classical and jazz to children's, plus a humanitarian award to Rush and a special achievement award to the band's long-time manager Ray Danniels.

The remainder of awards will be presented on the performance-packed televised ceremony Sunday night (March 15) from FirstOntario Centre. It will also include the Hall of Fame induction of Alanis Morissette. Hedley's Jacob Hoggard will serve as host.

Kiesza and Magic! are still up for more: Magic! -- which had a massive year with the ubiquitous reggae-pop single "Rude," from the band's debut album, Don't Kill The Magic -- for single and Juno fan choice. And Kiesza for single, the '90s-inspired dance track "Hideaway," from her album Sound of a Woman, as well as breakthrough artist.

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Both acts will be performing on the Sunday telecast.

Kiesza (real name: Kiesa Ellestad) was excited to win her first award for the one-take "Hideaway" video and brought her brother Blayre onstage.

"I came up with this song, I had no means to create a video, no money," she said. "I called my brother from Canada and said, 'Can you please film me while I illegally run down the street in Brooklyn with no permit?' Our whole budget was his plane ticket and somehow this video came of it."

Magic!, who's currently on tour with Maroon 5, will be flying in Sunday. But so-called fifth member Adam Messinger picked up the producer award he shares with Magic! frontman Nasri Atweh for their work on the band, as well as for Iggy Azalea.

"Nasri's always been an artist really and looking for the opportunity to get his moment on stage and finally came around, and this was the 'magic' ticket and the process just unfolded," he said in the press room.

Jamaican transplant Exco Levi, who won his fourth consecutive Juno for reggae recording of the year, told Billboard, "Jamaicans love reggae music. They don't see Magic!'s sound as a reggae-pop sound; they see Magic!'s sound as a reggae sound. I'm happy for Magic! because it reach audiences that a lot of artists in this time doesn't reach ... One thing I'm happy for is they are not in the same category as me this year," he laughs.

Bahamas, whose real name is Afie Jurvanen, won in both categories in which he was nominated -- songwriter (beating Magic!) and adult alternative album for Bahamas Is Alfie.

"First one. Pretty cool," he said onstage of the win. "Making these albums for a few years and it seemed like nobody cared there for a while. I brought my mother the last two times we were nominated and we lost, but I'm sorry she's not here tonight. I'm sure she's streaming it on her -- no, she's not doing that. But I'll phone her after."

He only came back to talk to the press after the first win. His wife had just given birth 10 days ago to a baby girl named Yuri ("like a Russian thug," he joked backstage). Babies were mentioned more than one time.

Electro-pop artist Lights, who won for pop album of the year for Little Machines, told media backstage, "I wrote this album when I was pregnant and went into labor doing vocals and was back in the studio three days later to keep working on it with a new baby and new idea. I put all that passion and all that emotion and hormonal fluctuations into this record."

Another new dad, Dallas Smith -- who kicked off the show by performing his No. 1 radio single "Wastin' Gas," won country album of the year for Lifted. He is the former singer for rock band Default, originally signed by Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, which won a Juno for best new group in 2002. It just might be a first in Juno history for an artist to win in two different musical genres (Juno publicists could not confirm).

"Whether it's happened or not, I just feel really, really lucky to have this second chapter in my career," the platinum-selling artist told Billboard. "It feels really great. Right from the beginning I felt really blessed to be accepted in a different genre." An EP version of Lifted is out in the U.S. and a tour starts in May, he said.

The two significant highlights for the industry gathering were the lengthy segments dedicated to Rush, who received the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, and the band's manager Danniels, who was honored with the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award. Danniels met the band when they were teenagers and has guided their global career for 40-plus years.

Universal Music Canada president Randy Lennox did the honors, saying of his close friend, "We salute you for the rare achievement of great personal and professional success without ever ever compromising your values."

A tribute video included messages from Bruce Allen, Rush, Riley O'Connor, Arthur Fogel, Vinny Cinquemani, Denise Donlon, Rush and others. The clip also mentioned the other acts he's managed, such as Van Halen, Extreme, The Tea Party and Big Wreck.

In accepting his award, Danniels said of Rush: "You've inspired me for over 40 years and made me a better person in many many ways. I have learned from the three of you that at the end of the day, just do what's right. I've always said that I was at Rush's first shows and I plan on being with you at the last. That hasn't changed. Congratulations on your award tonight. It's well deserved."

Rush's Geddy Lee was the only member of the band on hand to accept the humanitarian award.

"In a very real sense, we are only a small part of every fundraising activity that we have chosen to be involved in," Lee said. "There are the working parts, the people of our office and our management set up that are the ones that really do the heavy lifting, as well as the many and various good hearted and much less famous volunteers who lend their time and efforts to the sole purpose of wanting to be part of something that feels like the right thing to do."

He added that they "gratefully accept this and share equally with all of them."

Backstage, when asked by Billboard why Rush is so quiet about their charitable giving, Lee said, "We're nice Canadian boys. We don't like to make a spectacle of ourselves [laughs]. We focus on our work and publicize the work that we do. What we do privately is private. I don't think it's something that you need to shout about."

Other Juno gala handouts went to July Talk for alternative album; group of the year to Arkells; rap recording to Naturally Born Strangers; electronic album to Caribou; international album to Sam Smith; R&B/soul recording to The Weeknd; aboriginal album to Tanya Tagaq; roots & traditional album of the year to The Bros. Landreth; adult contemporary album to Sarah McLachlan; and metal/hard music album to Devin Townshend.

For a complete list of winners, visit junoawards.ca.

Besides Smith, gala performers were Alvvays, Daniel Lanois and Matt Anderson, and a blues jam featuring Crystal Shawanda, JW-Jones, Steve Hill, Steve Strongman and The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer.