Whatever the future brings in their musical careers, Jamie Fine and Elijah Woods will always remember Algonquin College.
Since graduating nearly four years ago, the two alumni, both in their early 20s, have acquired a growing reputation for their music-making talents. In January, after winning an episode of CTV’s The Launch, their musical careers leaped to another level.
It all goes back to a fateful day in 2014, when Woods – then a student in the College’s music industry arts program – heard a classmate’s smartphone recording of Fine’s voice. Her singing so impressed him that he immediately tracked her down. “I was just blown away. I was like, ‘Why don’t I know her?’”
He soon did. Woods found Fine in the decidedly unmusical environment of the College’s culinary arts program, which she had recently completed.
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and a collaboration that promises beautiful music.
“We hit it off instantly,” says Woods, recalling that he persuaded Fine to come to the College’s recording studios where they recorded their first song, “Falling Down”, one of Fine’s earliest efforts. “She had great, great vocals. I’d never felt that connection with anyone musically. Now we’re best friends.”
They both credit Algonquin College in providing them with the foundations of success. “You’re not just another student number here,” says Fine. “People really do care about you and the teachers want you to succeed. We took that with us after we graduated.”
Before coming to Algonquin, Fine thought she wanted a career in social work. “That was what I was going to be, but at the last minute I asked myself why I was doing this,” says Fine, who was born and raised in Ottawa. “I’m super passionate about cooking.”
A graduate of Merivale High School, she has been singing since her early adolescence, but it was her love of cooking that brought her to the College. “It really was the right choice for me. I have no regrets.”
Woods, who was raised near Perth and has been composing music since he was a teenager, echoes that view, although he describes himself as having been “a little bit confused” about what he wanted to do with his life before coming to Algonquin. The one thing he did know for certain was, as he says, “wanting to do music full time.”
His meeting with Colin Mills, the College’s music industry arts program coordinator, was the deciding factor. “I met with Colin and he was super helpful and very persuasive in convincing me this was the right program for me.”
Both Fine and Woods laud their College programs, and their professors. Not only for the coursework, but also for teaching valuable life-lessons.
“I learned so much in music arts,” says Woods, referring to the top-of-the-line equipment he had available to him and the teachers who became mentors. “Coming here I was unsure about my goals, but I spent the right time with the right people and with the right gear, and I came out of it with a good foundation.
“I also found that I got as much out of (the program) as I put into it, that I could have any level of success that I wanted, depending on how hard I worked.”
Fine shares the sentiment. “The best lesson I received from my professors and the chefs here was to put in the hours,” she says. “It’s those basics – the hard work, and knowing that those long hours in the kitchen were the real thing; that’s what I’ve taken with me. And that applies to absolutely everything you do in any career you choose.”
So it seems, for Woods and Fine. Fine is the singer-songwriter, while Woods, as co-writer, takes care of arrangements, instrumentation, and production. Since graduating in 2014, they’ve combined their talents and done relatively well at it with more than a million streams on their Spotify channel.
Then came The Launch. Their appearance on second episode of the show, in which the Woods-Fine version of OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder’s “Ain’t Easy” stunned musical industry professionals, looks set to take their music careers to new heights.
Woods concurs. “We want to make good music, and I think the show really accomplished that for us.”
Regardless of their success, though, they haven’t forgotten their roots. But then Algonquin hasn’t forgotten them, either.
“It’s great to have your teachers emailing you to say they’re watching your success,” says Fine.