Local Francophone musician Stef Paquette recently came home from the Contact ontarois music competition with five out of the seven available prizes.
While he's excited about his success at the Jan. 15-18 competition, and the judges' reaction to his second solo album, "Salut de l'arrière pays", Paquette said the prizes mean just one thing to him: employment.
One of the awards he won guarantees him a booking at most of the Francophone music festivals in the country in 2014 and 2015.
“It's not big money, but it's enough to live and feed my kids,” said 40-year-old Paquette, who is also known locally as a host on Le Loup FM, as well as an actor, starring on television shows such as TVO's "Hard Rock Medical".
“To know that I'll be living as a legit artist for the next two years is very cool,” he said. “That's the golden ticket.”
The only drawback the father of three can see is going back on the road, spending a lot of time away from his family, something he admits is a bit more daunting than it was 20 years ago.
This isn't the first award the musician has won with "Salut de l'arrière pays", which was released in 2011.
Last year, he picked up the Prix Trille Or (Trillium Gold Award) for best album. The awards, presented in March, celebrate the best in French music in Ontario and the West.
Paquette said he's surprised by all the attention, as he never really promoted the album, as he was so busy working in television when it was released.
"Salut de l'arrière pays" couldn't be much more “northern.” Co-written by Normand Renault, the acoustic folk-pop album focuses on the stories of small Northern Ontario towns such as Sturgeon Falls and Gogama.
Paquette said the album's message seems to resonate with people from northern communities across the country.
“Northern cities are northern cities, no matter what province you're in,” he said.
Those interested in purchasing Paquette's award-winning album can do so at La librairie du Centre on Lasalle Boulevard, or online at www.apcm.ca or on iTunes.
Paquette also has a few local performances coming up, including Festival Quand Ça Nous Chante, which takes place Feb. 20-23, and La Nuit sur l'étang, which takes place March 22.