William Prince tours Western Alberta with musical companion Justin Lacroix
Heritage is a blessing that connects stories with deep roots of family and tradition. Rising star William Prince, an Oji-Cree from Peguis First Nation north of Winnipeg, is earning awards and playing large crowds due to his talent and hard work.
His album Earthly Days—a showcase for Prince’s timeless honey baritone and wise songwriting—was nominated for two Juno Awards this year: Indigenous Music Album of the Year and Contemporary Roots Album of the Year. When he won in the roots category, he felt validated as a songwriter.
“It made me feel like they were addressing the songs,” Prince says. “They weren’t concerned with my background, my heritage—they just wanted to hear good music.”
Not that where he came from didn’t shape the artist he is today. A teenage Prince played and recorded with his father, the late Ed Prince, a successful gospel musician. You can still feel the countless hours that Prince played in churches, at wakes and at funerals.
“As a younger kid I got to see how music brings about joy,” Prince says. “How it helped people. The old hymns and gospel allow people to cry, to feel, to raise their voice with other voices. I guess now I’m playing a modern-day folk church. And people express themselves so thoroughly and vividly after the shows, it helps them let something out.”
His parents DJ’d events, often bringing young Prince who would make a bed under the table. It’s where he first understood the power of songs—especially when played loud.
“I got to hear really great songs from huge speakers at crazy volumes,” he says. “It was subconscious—the music seeps in through osmosis. The first time I ever heard Graceland by Paul Simon was like that. That song changed me forever.”
Prince says he has a lot of new songs to play—no doubt some inspired by his young son Wyatt, who is going on 16 months. He says it’s hard to leave his family to tour, but that’s his job.
“It’s what I do to support him.”
Keeping him company on the tour through the prairies to the West Coast is Justin Lacroix, a veteran contemporary in the Winnipeg music scene. Lacroix, a Francophone who writes songs and sings in both English and French, was buzzing with energy after scoring a beautiful instrument off Kijiji in Calgary.
“I just bought a Martin D-18,” Lacroix says. “You can do a lot with very little, if your heart is in the right place. But sometimes having an instrument that can inspire you is priceless.”
The Justin Lacroix Band has brought groovy-folk to stages since 2005, connecting with audiences through road-warrior touring and festival sets. He’s got an epic tour planned for next year: Paris, ON, where he’s opening for Prince, to Paris, France via Eastern Canada.
“To be able to share the prairie-Franco experience is something I truly value,” Lacroix says. “I’m proud and honoured and just happy to be able to share that culture.”
Thu., Dec. 7 (7:30 pm)
William Prince w/ Justin Lacroix
Arden Theatre, $35