News / Winnipeg

A Canadian first: Manitoba artists Matt Epp and Faouzia win international songwriting prize

It's the first time in the competition's 16-year history that Canadians won the top honour.

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Dozens of industry experts and famed artists, including Lorde, Tom Waits and the late Chris Cornell, chose two Manitoba musicians to make history this week. 

Matt Epp and Faouzia were the first Canadians to win the International Songwriting Competition, currently in its 16th year.

The pair won for Epp's latest single featuring Faouzia, "The Sound,” which was inspired by an email Epp received from his 1.5-year-old daughter while on tour in Germany.

"I get an email from her account and of course it was my wife writing, but it said, 'What’s the sound that a longing heart makes? I miss you, Daddy,'" Epp said. "And of course I broke down crying and wrote the chorus of the song then. It just came to me immediately."

The rest of the lyrics escaped him, but when Epp showed the song to Faouzia, "immediately she jumped on the piano and went into singing a verse, and that unlocked the song," he said.

Faouzia, a 16-year-old from Carman, Man., crafts music in her parents’ basement and hopes to record her first EP this year, thanks in part to the prize winnings.

The pair’s grand prize includes $25,000 US and nine days of recording at a Nashville studio.

"I have a whole bunch of songs that I’ve written up and this is perfect because I can start working on them and further my career this way," Faouzia said.

Epp and Faouzia were chosen first of 16,000 submissions from 137 countries.

According to Pipe & Hat Music Group, songs were judged on "creativity, originality, lyrics, melody, arrangement and overall likeability."

The duo met last year at the Winnipeg Folk Festival's Stingray Youth Performers program where folk-rocker Epp mentored pop-inspired Faouzia.

"When she started singing, it caught me off guard and I got all teared up," Epp said of their first meeting. "I think she resonates at a soul level. There’s some kind of science going on with her voice and delivery."

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