NORTH BAY -- After several loved ones close to Esther Pennell passed away in a short period of time, she decided to pick up the banjo to help deal with some of the emotions she was feeling.

"I needed some kind of grieving tool, something to help me feel what I was processing. The banjo just kind of found me," said Pennell.

"I had no intention of being a superstar -- not that I am one or anything -- but I never had any inclination toward that."

Pennell told CTV News her music honours her son Theo, who died in 2015 to an accidental overdose.

She wrote the song ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ for him.

'I've learned how to stand up tall'

"I’ve cried, I’ve faced fears, I’ve learned how to stand up tall and I found my voice. It’s all happened since he’s been gone," Pennell said.

"I used to stand in front of his picture on the wall and sing it to him when I was missing him, which still happens quite often."

Pennell has a new album out called 'Big Dream,' and she said it focuses on "peace and harmony." The album was recently nominated for Country Album of the Year at the Summer Solstice Indigenous Music Awards.

"I got an email one day saying ‘Congratulations, you’ve been nominated for country album of the year,'" said Pennell.

"I was like, oh wow. There was over 250 submissions across Canada, so just to be counted amongst them was a real honour for me."

Pennell has now released three albums and said her plans in the near future are to re-record and re-release a few of her favourites.