Celeigh Cardinal is a Métis musician from Peace Country, Alberta. A nominee for Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year, she’s gearing up for her first JUNOS happening this March 15. Coined as a lyrical genius by leveraging themes of sorrow, spirit, and humour in her music, she is on a strong growth trajectory and looking to further her career while in Saskatoon this month thanks to the support of Canada’s Music Incubator, a national not-for-profit incubator.

Also, as a member of the program, which is supported through the TD Ready Commitment, she will have a chance to connect one on one with industry professionals who will offer her career advice and support from performing to marketing and booking shows.

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about Celeigh’s musical journey so far and to find out what’s next…

Your voice is stunning and deeply moving. Tell us, how did you decide to get into singing?

First of all, thank you so much. I don’t remember ever making the decision to get into singing. I only remember just singing and feeling/knowing that this is what I supposed to do. I started singing on stage because I raised in the church, and I had my first solo performance at 4 years old. My mother drew lyrical cues for me because I wasn’t able to read yet. I just always sang. I started writing songs at 12 because I had something to say. When I was 19, I started playing in a band, and haven’t stopped. I took some breaks here and there, I tried “real jobs” when I was drowning in debt, but I always came back to it. It is my calling.

What support did you have growing up from your family, friends and community?

I wouldn’t be able to do this without my family. 100%. The main concern I have always had pursuing music was financial stress. I am a single mother, and that limited my ability to be away from home too often or to live that “starving artist” life. My parents have bailed me out many times over the years, and my mother has been co-parenting with me the last couple of years. Recently my life has changed significantly since I was welcomed into the Indigenous music community in Canada. They’ve welcomed me, lifted me up, and shared the space they worked hard for with me. It has given me a new purpose to do the same for others.

Who are some of your favorite artists and why?

My first instrument is piano. It’s preferred writing instrument. So, I love piano playing singer songwriters like Fiona Apple, Tori Amos and Rufus Wainwright. I am currently very inspired by Jeremy Dutcher, Richard Inman, Lizzo and Begonia. The music they create lights me up. They are all very gifted in such different ways, and so incredible at what they do.

We love hearing stories behind the songs. Can you share one of your favorites that you’ve written?

All of my songs are very real. All based on true stories, some happier than others. The last song on my album “Stories from a Downtown Apartment” is called “Loving is letting go”. It is, in a way, a breakup song. I started writing it when I realized what I needed to do for the person I was in a relationship with. We had been struggling for a while, and finally I decided to face the fact that I would never be able to give my partner the things he wanted and needed. I realized the most loving thing I could do for him was to let him go, so he could have those things, that life. I still get teary when I sing the song, but I know it was the right decision, it was just a hard one. I still think of him fondly, and always will.

The second verse is more about letting go of shame, and heart break, the things that hold you back from being happy – letting of these things, is loving yourself.

The song is about making tough choices out of love. Be it love for yourself, or love of others.

You have a beautiful gift of voice and must be an inspiration to those who want to follow your footsteps. What advice do you have for them?

Find people who understand you. Find a community of authentic support. If there isn’t one, build one. One friendship at a time. Lift up other and support them, and they will do the same for you. The most empowering thing you can do is empower others. That builds an incredible foundation to work. Also, put in your 10,000 hours. Get your pitch perfect, get that control. Take lessons and be the best you can be.

As a Juno nominee for Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year, what does that mean for you personally?

Well, it is truly an honor. It’s an honor to be recognized, it’s an honor to be side-by-side with Riit, Nehiyawak, Northern Haze, and Digawolf. I don’t take it lightly. I feel lucky to have this kind of recognition. It inspires me to be as successful as I can possibly can so I can be the Indigenous representation I never had as a kid, (and so I can support my own kid) and I can pave paths for the next generation.

What kind of support are you receiving from Canada’s Music Incubator? 

CMI is a national not-for-profit incubator with a mandate to help artists and artist managers of all musical genres evolve from starter companies into sustainable businesses through ongoing mentorship, industry connectivity and community collaboration. CMI was co-founded by Coalition Music and funded in part through support from organizations like TD. Through The Ready Commitment, TD’s corporate citizenship platform, I’ve learned how they’re helping actively diversify the talent pipeline in the music industry by providing access to tools and supports for emerging artists of all backgrounds. Partnering with CMI is one way they can help do that.

I attended CMI’s high-regarded AE West program in late 2018. The majority of costs for the program are offset thanks to the generous supporter like TD, Stingray Music, Canadian Heritage and others. What is incredible about this program was that it gave me practical tools for every aspect of being a self-employed artist. We learned about all of the financial aspects (from royalties to accounting), management, social media and even dove into the creative aspect and did a co-writing session. Since leaving the program I’ve kept contact with Ryan, the programs director, and Jesse the director of live events and artist curation – they fully support my career aspirations and are big cheerleaders. Anytime I receive an accolade they are one of the first to congratulate me. There is an ongoing support after taking the program that I never expected.

There are a number of programs and activities that will be made available to you through the CMI program during the JUNOS, can you tell us what you’re most looking forward to?

The next opportunity for me to work with CMI is during JUNO Weekend. Over the course of the weekend, I’ll be performing in the TD Green Room, which I’ve heard to be a favourite industry hot spot. As well, I will be one of many artists that will be taking part in an extension of CMI’s Toronto-based Artist Entrepreneur program that’s supported by TD. It will be taking place during JUNO weekend and will be offering complimentary one-on-one artist and manager mentorship sessions for local artists and managers from Saskatoon seeking guidance on developing their careers and businesses, over JUNOs weekend. It’s great to see organizations like TD and CMI helping to empower aspiring musicians with the tools and resources required to make it in the industry. These programs are really important and truly make an impact in artists’ careers and lives.

I also have plans to go to Toronto and use some of the resources CMI has available for out of town artists to do some co-writing. I have recommended CMI programming to many artists, and especially to the Indigenous artists I encounter often. Recently a friend of mine, Melody McArthur, attended the AE West program and told me she was so glad I recommended the CMI program because she learned so much, even about herself. I truly appreciate having continued support from CMI and am excited to continue working with them whenever possible.

Good luck Celiegh! We’re cheering you on!!!

Follow her career at www.celeighcardinal.com