Métis singer/songwriter Celeigh Cardinal has won an Aboriginal Youth Role Model Award, participated in the Banff Centre for the Arts’ Re(Claim) program, been named Cultural Ambassador for the Arctic Winter Games, and received an “ATB Listens” grant from ATB Financial.
And that was all before the release of her dazzling debut album, Everything and Nothing At All (2017).
She has since attended the Indigenous Music Residency in Manitoba, performed at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, earned a 2018 Indigenous Music Awards nomination for Best Pop Album and scored a whopping seven nominations at the upcoming Edmonton Music Awards. She’s also scheduled a European tour for later this year, and started work on her second album. If it’s anything like the first, we can expect a soulful blend of roots, folk, rock and pop alongside some seriously powerful vocals (not to mention a ton of acclaim).
Between local gigs and songwriting sessions, Celeigh recently made time for an interview about all things music. Find out her pre-performance ritual, who she’s currently listening to and more.
How and when did you know you wanted to be a singer?
My first time singing solo on stage was when I was four years old. For as long as I can remember, this is what I’ve wanted to do. I feel very lucky to have unquestioningly known my passion from a very young age.
How would you describe your sound, and has it changed over time?
Eeee. Hardest question. I would say my voice is influenced by blues and Motown music, while my songwriting is influenced by folk and singer/songwriters. So it’s a mixed bag of genres.
Do you prefer songwriting or performing?
I would say performing. It’s my favourite thing to do. Writing doesn’t come as easily, and I tend to prefer things I’m naturally good at.
When you perform with a group, how important are the musicians you play with? Is talent enough, or do you look for something more?
Though talent and skill are very important, one must never underestimate the importance of a good hang. Travelling with people you don’t get on with is THE WORST. You’re in a relationship with the people you play music with, a very special one. It’s imperative that you work well together.
Do you have a pre-performance routine or superstition?
Typically, I try to have a bath before performances. I still get a lot of anxiety and adrenaline from performing, so I try to stay as calm as I can before I perform.
What do you do when you’re not making music?
Eighty per cent of my time is spent working on the admin aspect of my music career: social media, website, booking, etc. Ten per cent performing, five per cent writing and five per cent having baths.
What’s been your biggest struggle or challenge, either personally or professionally?
Balance. That is my struggle with everything. I have an ‘All or Nothing’ complex, so I’m either working so hard I can barely keep up, or I’m doing absolutely nothing and in recovery from that. However, I’m self-aware enough to say I’m working on it.
What are you listening to these days?
Though I’m a ‘90s girls in a ‘90s world, I’ve been adding new music to my catalogue these days. I’ve actually been listening to a lot of my Indigenous Canadian peeps, ’cause they’re making such good music! A few, but not all, examples are Jeremy Dutcher, Sebastian Gaskin, Wolf Saga, Digging Roots, Lacey Hill, and so many more. But I’m also listening to Theo Katzman, Vulfpeck, Erin Costelo, First Aid Kit. Oh, and the Fugees made it back onto my playlist.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way?
You have to do what you love. I cannot do anything else; most other jobs make me miserable. If I was in the constant pursuit of a career in music, I would be very unhappy, and I’ll never settle for anything less than happiness again. Life is way too short.
As a musician, how do you define success?
Honestly, just being able to live off of it. I feel successful in that sense, but I suppose more sustainability, and maybe some medical benefits, would be nice.
It’s also very important to me that I’m contributing some representation in music for younger Indigenous artists. Growing up, I never saw anyone like me playing music (except for Buffy Sainte-Marie, but I didn’t relate musically) and I know how important it is to be able to relate and have role models. If I can do that, I feel I’ve done something.
What are you currently working on, and what’s coming up for you in the next year?
Touring, touring, hopefully, a new album (grants have been written) and more touring!
I am headed to Sweden, Denmark and hopefully Germany in the fall, and I really want to go to Australia and New Zealand next year. I love traveling!
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This article was originally published on digitaldrum.ca. Reproduced with permission from the author.