04/21/2013 01:02 EDT | Updated 05/15/2013 10:44 EDT

Juno Awards Winner Rose Cousins' Connection To Boston Bombings, Rita MacNeil


Halifax roots darling Rose Cousins was her usual hilarious deadpan self when she accepted the Juno award for Solo Roots & Traditional Album of the Year for the intimate, affecting record "We Have Made a Spark" at Saturday night’s untelevised Juno gala.

“My earrings are from Shoppers Drug Mart,” she cracked when she reached the podium, adding, “I just threw up in my mouth a little.”

Backstage, however, she was more reflective, still reeling from the week that was. The Boston Marathon bombing hit very close to home for Cousins. He winning album "We Have Made a Spark" was recorded with a tight-knit group of Boston musician friends and collaborators Rose has grown very close to over the past decade. A short film, "If I Should Fall Behind," was released alongside Cousins’ album, documenting this community.

Thankfully, everyone the singer/songwriter knows is OK — including her former producer Luke Doucet (Whitehorse), who ran in the race.

“It’s been a rough week,” Cousins told Huffington Post Canada exclusively backstage. “Boston is a second home to me. I felt like...,” she paused, her blue eyes sparkling with tears. “I felt like someone was coming after my own.

“And then Rita MacNeil died.”

MacNeil’s death hit Cousins hard; Cape Breton’s first lady of song was one of her personal idols.

“My mom would have had Rita MacNeil cassette tapes,” she recalled. “My sister and I would belt out the songs. When you’re from the East Coast and someone gets big, you claim ownership of them. She always wrote with such truth about where she was from. She was an unassuming superstar.”

Those lows, coupled with the dizzying highs of winning a Juno award for a heavy, soul-bearing album and performing the poignant “This Light” during the In Memoriam portion of last night’s awards, has made for an emotional week.

“But I feel good,” she said. “It’s been a roller coaster ride for sure, and I was very nervous about performing. But I was in a category with all my friends,” referring to fellow East Coasters Amelia Curran and Old Man Luedecke.

“It couldn’t have turned out wrong.”

- Juno Winners