Helen Austin didn’t think things through very well when she packed for the Canadian Folk Music Awards.
She forgot to leave room for some extra baggage on the flight home.
Austin and her Big Little Lions songwriting partner Paul Otten, of Cincinnati, won the CFMA for Ensemble of the Year, at the Awards Gala Sunday evening in Edmonton.
The nomination was in support of their first full-length album, A Little Frayed, A Little Torn.
Being but a weekend jaunt to Edmonton, Austin only packed a small overnight bag to go along with her guitar.
She discovered later that a larger bag would have served a purpose.
“It’s awfully big,” she said of the award, with a laugh. “I looked at it after I won and said ‘oh. How am I going to fit this in my suitcase?’”
The CFMA award adds to an ever-growing list of achievements for Big Little Lions. In the short time Austin and Otten have been together, they have won first place in the International Songwriting Contest and the top prize of Song of the Year in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition.
Austin said the first time they connected on a project, she sensed something special.
“From the first song that he sent me that we sung together, I thought ‘wow, our voices really fit well together.’ I didn’t really know him that well, when we first decided to work together.”
There are some hurdles, dealing with the fact that they live more than 4,100 kilometres apart, but Austin says it’s working so far.
“I don’t know why it works, but it does,” she said.
The CFMA Ensemble of the Year Award was particularly special, as Austin was the only B.C. artist honoured this year.
“I had no idea … usually there are quite a few B.C. artists that win, so I just assumed I was one of many,” said Austin.
This was Austin’s second CFMA award. She won the Children’s Album of the Year award in 2013 for Always Be A Unicorn.
Austin had connections to that category this year as well.
She produced nine-year-old Comox singer-songwriter Stella Swanson’s album I’m Not A Bunny, nominated for a 2015 award.
Although Swanson did not win this year, Austin said this is just the beginning for the budding star, who performed at the Awards.
“She did the showcase Saturday night and she just blew everyone away – I know we are going to be talking about her for a long time,” said Austin, of her protegé. “Everybody was saying ‘wow, she’s only nine and she’s so on it, and her rhythm is great’ … everyone was just gushing. So that was really cool.”