7 Questions With Celena: First-time Reggae Recording of the Year nominee - The JUNO Awards

Get to know 2023 Reggae Recording of the Year nominee, Celena in our “7 Questions With” series where we speak with first-time JUNO Award nominees from all genres.

After battling years of self-consciousness, scrutiny, fear and self-denial, in the summer of 2019, Reggae artist Celena made a life changing decision to own her craft, and released her first single “Hanky Panky”. A song that aimed to inspire and empower women to know their worth, value themselves, never settle for less and to be unapologetic with their standards. Celena brings a fresh, unique modern vibe to Reggae Music. She infuses different genres of music and style into her craft to arrive at her true authentic sound. She aims to promote positivity within her music, empower and uplift her listeners.

1. How does it feel to be nominated for a JUNO award?

I feel blessed, grateful, honoured, humbled, and excited and I am extremely proud of myself!  Looking back on how this journey started and where I am now, definitely makes me feel a bit tingly inside and this nomination accentuates more belief in myself.

2. Tell us a bit about your JUNO-nominated project.

“Like a Star”, the song that was nominated for Reggae Recording of the Year, is from my EP I’mpossible. This project was recorded at The Orange Lounge Studio in Toronto.  I wrote the lyrics, performed the main and backing vocals, and it was produced and mastered by the talented Shakim. This project was partially funded by FACTOR through the Artist Development Program.  

The song was written from a place of analytical thinking and observation. I wanted it to be a representation of self-acknowledgment; a reminder to love yourself, be authentic and confident, stay true to yourself and celebrate your individuality.  I believe the words would have resonated with most listeners because they are uplifting and empowering.

3. What has been the craziest moment of your music career to date?

I’ve had so many crazy moments on this journey, but I’m going to share a crazy cool one.  October 2022, my husband and I were in line at the Canada/US border to go into Michigan. When we approached the Immigration Officer, we were asked routine questions like what’s the purpose of our trip and the length of time we would be there.  So I responded that I was an aspiring artist and I would be in Detroit for the day for a workshop and photoshoot.  The officer looked at me and asked me what kind of artist I was and I responded Reggae artist.  He continued to validate my responses and asked where he would find my music, so I told him on all streaming platforms. 

He did not stop there, and now I have this puzzled look on my face and was saying to myself, “where is this going?” Then he looked at me and asked YouTube? so I said “yes, you can find me under my stage name celenathis.”  I thought this would have been the end of the conversation but it wasn’t.  There was a moment of silence, then he bursted out, “I’m going to look you up right now!” He found my page and I heard my song “Closer” playing on his computer screen. To my surprise, he started bobbing his head to the beat, and this was all happening while we were still waiting to get clearance to go through.  He then said how much he loved Reggae music and that my song had a nice vibe to it. He wished me well and finally cleared us to cross the border and told us to have a safe trip.  That really made my day!

4. What’s your favourite lyric from this project, and why does it resonate with you so much?

My favourite lyric from this project is the line “cause a diamond affi form beneath whole heap a pressure fi glow.” I was almost finished writing the lyrics of the song but I wanted a convincing line to connect a part of the chorus and one night, from having a random conversation with my producer, he said something to me about diamonds being formed under pressure and that was the line I was looking for!

This line resonates with me because diamonds are rare stones and they are formed under a lot of pressure.  With all the outside pressures in the world of what to be and what not to be, by standing firm to those forces, and not conforming to socially acceptable standards, or compromising your true identity, basically, you are a diamond being formed.

5. Which Canadian artist would you like to collaborate with and why?

I would love to collaborate with the Queen of Country Pop, Shania Twain. I’m all for girl power and women empowerment and Shania Twain definitely exudes this nature to me. I am also intrigued by her style, uniqueness and originality. Her sound is authentic and relatable.

6. What would you like music fans to know about you? How would you introduce your music to
new or soon-to-be fans?

I am a dream chaser! I am a fighter! I have had many reasons to quit or to give up but I keep reminding myself daily that my biggest failure in life would be if I never tried. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason and I try to learn and grow from every experience, whether it may be good or bad.  

My music is more of a Reggae/Pop genre.  It’s fun, captivating, and relatable and it will get you moving. I tend to address real-life situations when I write; this is why I aim to write positive lyrics that are encouraging and uplifting. I want my listeners to feel good when they listen to my music. 

7. What’s next for you?

I’ll be doing more live performances where I can interact more with my fans.  Keep promoting my EP and of course more new music.

Tickets for The 2023 JUNO Awards are on sale now! Don’t miss out on an unforgettable night of Canadian music hosted by Simu Liu on March 13.