Sarah McLachlan poses for a photo at the Juno Awards Nominations event in Toronto on Tuesday, January 29, 2019. The 12-time Juno Award winner will host this year’s awards show. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Sarah McLachlan hopes to overcome her terror of public speaking as Juno host

TORONTO — Sarah McLachlan is feeling a sense of “thrill and terror in equal measures” as she prepares to step into the role of hosting this year’s Juno Awards.

The “Building a Mystery” singer says she’s never hosted any event at all, so starting with Canada’s biggest night in music will be a considerable challenge.

“Up until very recently I’ve been terrified about public speaking,” McLachlan admitted on Tuesday as the Juno nominees were revealed in Toronto.

“I’ve had to become used to getting up in front of people… which seems ridiculous because I stand in front of thousands of people and sing and talk — but that’s when I’m in my moment and playing music.”

McLachlan will be in good company when she takes the stage in London, Ont., on March 17.

Leading the nominees is pop superstar Shawn Mendes with six nods, including for his self-titled third studio project, which is up for album of the year, and the song “In My Blood,” competing for single of the year.

The Pickering, Ont.-raised singer is also nominated for the Juno fan choice award, as well as artist, songwriter and pop album of the year.

Hitmaker the Weeknd pulled in five nominations, most of them in top categories including album of the year, which is determined by sales and streaming figures.

However, despite his massive popularity Drake was missing from the Juno nominees list again this year. His 2018 album “Scorpion” didn’t receive any recognition, even though it broke streaming records with the help of viral hit “In My Feelings” last summer.

Junos president Allan Reid said Drake chose not submit his work for consideration.

And while the Toronto rapper could have still qualified for the fan choice and best single awards, the organizers didn’t include him as he “opted not to participate.”

Representatives for Drake did not respond to a request for comment.

Drake has chosen to skip major awards shows before. He caused a stir in the music industry after boycotting last year’s Grammy Awards by not submitting anything from his previous release “More Life.” He changed his mind this year for “Scorpion” and is now among the leading Grammy contenders.

The CARAS organization, which runs the Junos, has struggled to win favour with Drake after he hosted the 2011 show but was shut out of all of his five nominations. Two years ago they resurrected the international achievement award after 17 years to hand it to the rapper, though he didn’t show up to accept.

“We would love to see him back and hopefully will someday,” Reid says.

Among the other highlights this year are DJ duo Loud Luxury who scored four nominations helped by their breakout hit “Body.” They’re contending for single of the year alongside Alessia Cara’s “Growing Pains,” Mendes’ “In My Blood,” the Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar’s “Pray for Me” and German-Canadian newcomer Bulow’s “This is Not a Love Song.”

Bulow was recognized in four categories, which also included fan choice, breakthrough artist and pop album of the year.

Buzzworthy Quebecois singer Hubert Lenoir proved his crossover appeal in English Canada by grabbing three Juno nominations for his concept album “Darlene.” It’s in the running for francophone album, pop album and the coveted best album of the year categories.

Joining Lenior in the best album category is Mendes, the Weeknd for “My Dear Melancholy,” Three Days Grace with “Outsider,” and Jann Arden’s “These Are the Days.”

About one third of the Juno nominees were female this year, Reid said, which is “pretty much almost the same as last year.”

But two closely watched categories — engineer and producer of the year — lacked a single female nominee.

The Junos have faced criticism for repeatedly failing to recognize women in both fields. Five women have won the producer award in the 44 years that it’s been handed out, including Diana Krall last year. The engineer prize has never gone to a woman.

Reid said he recognizes the ongoing conversation around gender diversity, and pointed out the Junos saw more submissions in the production category by women, helped by outreach by organizers.

“It takes time for those things to change,” he said. “We don’t have any gender-based categories so it’s about going out, being discovered, and it was nice to see the increase in submissions.”

“But those eventually have to turn into nominations at some point,” he added.

The Juno Awards air March 17 on CBC-TV.

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