Survival: On The Land, And In Music

December 11, 2017

I’m in my cabin washing dishes while the boys get sucked back into their electronics, and feeling far away and disconnected from the music industry. Taking time to teach my sons the Cree traditions, building survival skills, and developing resilience into their very core is important to me. Someday they will walk in my footsteps, like I did with my Cree Role Models. It fills my heart with warmth knowing my sons will have seen and experienced firsthand what life is like on the land.

My youngest can already fish on his own. His catch totaled 45 fish, a mix of char and trout – impressive for an 11 year old! They both got to see how traps were set, which is something that has almost completely died off in James Bay. It’s important for them to understand the past to help them see the path forward. This trip only scrapes the surface of what their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents would have endured on the land.

My son-in-law and brother arrived shortly after we turned back because Jr. was too cold to continue tracking fresh moose tracks. “We got two bulls!” said my brother with much excitement in his voice. All of us were happy to have fresh meat, so we hurried off to gut and skin the kill.

It’s not easy skinning a bull moose, and it’s twice as hard in winter when everything seems to slow down from the cold. The hide is almost an inch thick in some places and your blade dulls quickly. If you’re not careful to wipe the blood from the blade before taking it to a file, the file ices up and won’t sharpen a blade.

We’re also working against short daylight hours, and a little boss who keeps yelling at us: “When you guys going to be done, and what’s taking you so long?” Sometimes Jr. lacks patience and understanding at his age, so we work our butts off to please him.

Working my butt off has become the story of my life – not only on the land, and at home, but also in my work as an entrepreneur, and in pursuing a career in music. This has not been easy. We have been working hard on the new Midnight Shine album, and sending tracks to a few industry people to listen to. We are excited by the new music, but I’m feeling frustrated by what a few prominent radio trackers said.

Don’t get me wrong, like every other band, I, too, would like to have commercial success.  But let’s face it, if you’re not Coldplay or some other superstar that everybody already knows, it’s very rare that you’ll ever be good enough for a radio trackers’ ears, or for commercial radio to put your music into rotation.

I often to listen to Apple Music’s rock playlist, called ‘The A-List’, carefully studying the production, arrangements and lyrics. I do hear a difference in sound and style between artists, but a lot of it begins to sound the same to me. Something else I’m very confused about is how crappy songs get into regular rotation on commercial radio. It’s like they play the same artists, over and over, no matter if the songs are good or not. At the same time, they don’t want to give new artists a chance. Guess I’ll never understand that whole world.

I’m trying desperately to fit into the industry, but can’t help but feel like an outsider. Maybe it’s all part of building the brand, paying your dues, and starting at the bottom of the totem pole.

I’m chomping at the bit for the music to really take off, but keeping a positive outlook and believing that good things are on the horizon. With the third album mostly complete, I feel good knowing that all the hard work will eventually come to fruition.

It’s been an awesome experience meeting so many people this past year and being in the same company as great musicians like Jim Cuddy, Dallas Smith and Sam Roberts, and NHL greats like Daniel Alfredsson and Troy Crowder. Experiences like this have really boosted my confidence, and remind me that slowly but surely, we are gaining ground.

Looking back now, I can see just how far I’ve come.