When you look into the eyes of reggae artist Belinda Brady, you see a vivacious energy. There’s a smile on her lips, as she enjoys a plate of calamari set before her.
But search a little deeper into her orbs and you might find a hint of relief.
Bathed in the glow of Alleycatz lighting, and wooed by gentle jazz melodies from a band setting up for the night, she radiates the energy of success.
The North Toronto resident released her album, The Time of My Life, in June. It’s hard to believe it’s the first full album for the two-time Juno nominee.
In 2007, when the Town Crier caught up with its former advertising sales rep, she was close to distributing Naked, her first full release.
“That album wasn’t released, unfortunately,” the Gen-Xer says, exhaling ruefully as she talks about the expected Warner Canada distribution that failed to materialize. “That was a heartbreak for me because I put my heart and soul into it.”
Six years and a lot of time and money later, Brady is back into the music industry groove, adding self-management to her skillset.
“I learned a lot about the business, and made tons of mistakes, and spent a ton of money — a ton of money,” she says. “I learned a lot in terms of what moves to make, what moves not to make, especially a year ago when I had to get an investor.
“I had to be wise in how to spend the money to do a complete album.”
She connected with the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings — FACTOR, for short — and went to work on her latest contribution to her discography.
But there was a caveat.
“When I submitted, they said you have to spend on the project and then issue your receipts to be reimbursed,” she says, with a peppering of Jamaican accent in her words. “It took me two years to find an investor, and getting extensions.
“It has been a very challenging experience.”
But it was a time of great joy in late September when Brady and a throng of well-wishers descended on Alleycatz to celebrate the release of The Time of My Life.
“It was a really exciting time because a year ago, I didn’t have a record,” she says now. “The 26th was a celebration of the fact that we did the record.”
A new single, “Ole Ole”, has her hoping for something bigger than a Juno nomination, though.
She wants it to be an anthem for either the Women’s World Cup or the PanAm Games in 2015.
“I was inspired by the Olympics, PanAm Games and FIFA,” she says, stirring fresh-squeezed lemon juice into her hot water. “I like to bring people together from different cultures — it doesn’t matter what race or class.
“I was inspired by K’Naan, and I said, ‘I will write a song that represents (his hit, ‘Wavin’ Flag’) as well’.”
The video for “Ole Ole” was shot at the Scarborough Bluffs. It features a Brazilian guitar intro and is what Brady unabashedly calls “an anthem.”
“That song I want to pitch to one of these huge games, and I want to say, ‘ I want this to be your theme song’,” she says, a coy smile forming at the corners of her mouth. “We feel that this song is an anthem, and it can represent one of these sporting events.”
As for any future Juno nods, to add onto the ones received in 1998 for Best Reggae/Calypso Recording, and 2003 for Reggae Recording of the Year, she’s candid, admitting it has no bearing on her musical future.
“I think with the Junos, and I can’t speak for any other artists, it’s just a representation of what keeps you current,” she says. “It’s kind of like saying you’re cool again, and I don’t need to be cool again.
“At the same time I don’t want to sound like I’m being double-standard.”
That means she’ll be submitting The Time of My Life for any possible honours — but she’s not basing her career on it. “If I get it, that’s great,” she says. “It helps me get through to the next door. It’s like a key.
“If I don’t get it, that’s not going to determine whether I do music or not.”