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Local rapper 'ups the ante' in bid for CBC Searchlight crown

Zain Campbell hopes his song that honours his friend and mentor, Jake Beers, will wow the judges and allow him to realize dream as an aspiring musician

Big news this week? It’s time for the CBC Searchlight Contest again! Or, this year, the Toyota Searchlight Contest in honour of its new sponsor, Toyota.

Regardless of the sponsor, Orillia musician Zain Campbell is giving the contest this one last chance, and needs your help to succeed and move past round one of the voting.

“I am entering my song and video 'Fences' in honour of my good friend and mentor Jake Beers (Hxmesweethxme). I chose that song because it has a brilliantly filmed video behind it that judges enjoy seeing and it shows my song-writing ability the best," said Campbell. 

"It also has a relatable subject matter I feel can help me stand out amongst everybody else," he explained.

“The other times I entered a song they were superficial pop songs. I later learned CBC judges pick the winner based on songs that have a deeper meaning to them. So, I decided to up the ante a bit and submit one of my favourite songs in honour of my brother. I feel like this year is my time.”

Fences can be found on YouTube here and features Campbell’s long-time friend and mentor, musician Jake Beers (Hxmesweethxme), who tragically passed away in December 2019. Jake’s death was a shocking event for friends and fans everywhere.

Campbell has used the time since Beers died to reflect and regroup and Fences is one of the projects he has been working on. He is also working on a new album, Sundial, which he would love to take to the next level, with the help of the Searchlight Contest.

Searchlight Round One started May 11 and Campbell must gather enough votes by May 20 at 3 p.m. to move into the second round. Voters can vote on multiple devices, one vote per device per 24 hours. To vote, click here and search Zain Campbell, then click VOTE. It’s very easy and would make a world of difference to this talented local musician.

“Grand prize winner gets a spot in the Allan Slaight Master Class, Trip to the Junos 2022, five-day residency at the NMC Studio Bell in Calgary, paid studio time, music equipment, an estimated value of $86,000,” Campbell says.

“I really don’t care about the money. I really would love to record in Studio Bell’s professional studios and craft new songs with a larger machine behind me to distribute them," he told OrilliaMatters. "It would be a dream to experience the ins and outs of the Canadian music industry and pay my dues further as an aspiring musician.”

Campbell has entered Searchlight three times previously.

“Last year I had a tremendous amount of votes (and) trended on Facebook with an overflow of support. Sadly, for some reason it wasn’t enough to get past Round One, though I am happy for the rest of the contestants who ended up going further and winning,” Campbell muses.

If Campbell gets through Round One, Round Two voting of the top 100 musicians starts on June 1 at 3 p.m. and finishes June 8 at 3 p.m. Then, judges pick the winner from the top 10.

Help this deserving musician take his career to the next level, and honour his friend, another talented musician, who was lost too soon. Vote today and every day!

Lots of other arts news today.

The City of Orillia is looking for animation for its See You On The Patio program again this summer. The goal is to pair performers with local restaurants and have live entertainment each Friday night from July 2 to Sept. 3, subject to COVID-19 guidelines.

Entertainment can include music, theatre, spoken word, and visual arts, including muralists, painters, and other creatives, so there is plenty of opportunity for all local creatives to get involved. To apply to be included, click here. Deadline is May 28.

The Leacock Museum is presenting the K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Celebration, running until June 30. From the Leacock Museum website: “The Leacock Museum proudly presents the 6th annual Connor Poetry Prize. Established by the late Harry Connor in memory of his wife K. Valerie Connor, the prize honours poets in the Adult, Student, and Elementary categories. ‘Val’, as she was known to friends, was a dedicated teacher, lover of the arts, and tireless volunteer who endeavoured to make her community a better place.”

Entry fees are adults $10/poem/$25 for three; children and students are free to enter, and the deadline for all submissions is June 30. Cash prizes will be awarded in each category to first, second, and third place winners.

For more details, including rules and regulations, click here. Good luck on your submissions!

Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH) has a survey out, asking parents what they would be interested in, in terms of virtual or non-virtual programming for their kiddos this summer. To participate in the survey, click here. Of course, OMAH will also be having an online auction featuring some works by Charles Pachter, beginning June 1. Stay tuned for more details!

Creative Nomad Studios is presenting another free virtual paint lesson, this one on How to Paint a Sphere, Thurs. May 13 at 2 p.m. To join in, click here.

Creative Nomad has really been working hard to present great material for all of us during these trying times. Check out their website for everything else they offer, and become a member today.

Otter Art Club is presenting another four-week online course, this time on Watercolours, Art and Conversations. Join in on four weeks of inspiration for only $80, here.

The Orillia Public Library is hosting a free Make a Worry Creature Workshop for the kiddos, Saturday, May 15 at 10:30 a.m. And whose kids don’t need a worry creature, these days? Registration closes May 13 at noon in order for kits to be picked up, so register now. For more information and to register, click here.

And finally, The Big Event presents a virtual concert with Craig Cardiff, this Saturday at 8 p.m. Join in and celebrate the livestream launch of his latest album, “All This Time Running”. For tickets and more information, click here. The show is being livestreamed from Cardiff’s home in Kanata.

That’s all for me this week, folks. Enjoy all the sunshine and don’t forget to take 30 seconds out of your day and vote for Zain Campbell in the CBC Toyota Searchlight Contest, here.

If you have arts news, send it to to be included.