A pair of South Okanagan promoters are going head-to-head in the running to win a Canadian Country Music Award.
Penticton’s Jim Cressman, president of Invictus Entertainment, is vying for back-to-back wins. Summerland’s Paul Biro is hoping to bring home his first CCMA award. Both are nominated for the Ron Sakamoto Talent Buyer or Promoter of the Year category and will find out Sunday who the winner is.
Cressman has won the award numerous times, most recently in 2016 and 2014.
“I feel great. Ultimately industry awards are partly a popularity contest among the membership and a by-product of daily rituals and habits in your work life. My team and I are always growing, learning, and striving to add more value to the clients we work with and that mandate is noticed by the membership, who are kind enough to recognize and reward us for it,” he wrote to the Penticton Western News in an email Thursday while en route to Country Music Week.
The four-day industry and fan event is happening in Saskatoon, Sask., ending with the two-hour awards ceremony.
In addition to his personal nomination, Invictus Entertainment Group is also up for Booking Agency of the Year and Management Company of the Year.
“They all have meaning. I like to win Management Company of the Year because I get to see Louis O’Reilly deliver a great speech, or Agency of The Year, because Rob Cyrynowski gets up to speak and accept the award. So cool to see those guys who have aligned their vision with mine to build this brand. Winning Talent Buyer/Promoter of the Year is substantial too, because the award itself is named after one of my mentors, Ron Sakamoto. They’re all an honour,” he stated.
A number of the artists Invictus represents are also up for awards including Aaron Pritchett, Brett Kissel and Dan Davidson.
Pritchett and Kissel are both nominated for Male Artist of the Year while Davidson is up for Sirius XM Rising Star.
Kissel is also up for several other awards including Country Music Program or Special of the Year, Interactive Artist or Group of the Year, Video of the Year for I Didn’t Fall in Love With Your Hair, Single of the Year for Cool With That and Songwriter(s) of the Year for the same tune who he co-wrote with Ted Hewitt and Phil O’Donnell.
“I met Brett Kissel when he was 12 years old on the steps of the Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton in 2004. He was just putting his name out there and introducing himself to people in the business. He was forthright, professional, humble, confident, articulate and had a great pitch. I was blown away by his charisma and character. I remember saying, ‘kid, if you can sing half as well as you present yourself, you’ll be a massive star.”
Biro spent most of his career in Calgary, then moved back to the South Okanagan about nine years ago. He’s originally from Oliver. Besides the Promoter of the Year award he is up for the company he works for, Sakamoto Agency, and several of its artists are up for a number of other industry awards.
“I’d be lying if it wouldn’t be fun to have one those,” he said. “I think I have a spot in the house. It would probably go right on the dining room table. Or maybe it would be better at the front entry.”
The award is named after his mentor and partner Ron Sakamoto, one of the biggest names in Canadian Country Music. Sakamoto won the Talent Buyer or Promoter of the Year award so many times in his career they finally just named it after him.
“Ron Sakamoto has 50 years in the business. He’s a great mentor, just an incredible guy to work with, great insight into the business,” said Biro.
Biro’s received nominations from the CCMAs for Talent Buyer or Promoter of the Year at least three times in the last decade. His career in the music industry spans 25 years.
“It’s always huge. It’s always an honour to be nominated. Win or lose. It’s kind of like, you feel like it’s an honour to have your peers recognize you,” he said.
Although he’s got his fingers crossed he’ll hear his named called Sunday, he said he’s most excited and nervous for the artist’s he works with.
Sakamoto Agency represents Washboard Union, which is up for Group or Duo of the Year and Roots Artist or Group of the Year.
“I can remember the first day I met them on the streets of Nashville. Now, to the fact they are on an awards show. They won a couple awards last year and having just gone through the paces with them over the last year and the last four years, it’s been incredible,” he said.
Sakamoto also represents Northern Alberta country sensation Aaron Goodvin who is up for the Sirius XM Rising Star award. Goodvin’s debut single Knock on Wood was a Top 40 hit and was followed by Top 10 smash hits Woman in Love and Lonely Drum.
“Two years ago no one knew who he was. It’s incredible to watch this journey,” he said.
Biro was part of the team tasked with putting together the Rockin’ River Country Music Fest in Merritt this year. The festival is nominated in the Country Festival, Fair or Exhibition of the Year.
“We were able to get Willie Nelson to that this year,” he said.
Biro said it was always his goal to return to the South Okanagan.
“It’s a fantastic area to live in. That I get to do this job at this level from the Okanagan Valley is just killer. It’s outrageously awesome.”
Sakamoto Agency is also up for Booking Agency of they Year.