Sturgeon County songwriter on Polaris Music Prize long list

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In 2015, Métis singer-songwriter Ella Coyes performed folk music in regional parks, passing the hat for donations.

Fast forward to June 2022 – the once straight-ahead, guitar-playing folkie has rebranded her image as Sister Ray. In June, they were informed Communiontheir debut album under the new name, was shortlisted for the 2022 Polaris Music Prize.

Polaris is a major music award that honors and financially rewards recording artists who produce Canadian Album of the Year. A panel of judges selects a recipient based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, commercial popularity, or record company. The winner receives a cash prize of $50,000.

“It’s so awesome. I keep telling my family and friends that it’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s really exciting,” said Coyes, a former resident of the Sturgeon County now based in Toronto.

“The appointment is very rewarding and significant. There are so many great records on the list. And it’s nice to share with such great artists. I’m lucky to have a team that has supported me so much. »

As one of 40 recording artists on the longlist, Sister Ray was in contention with names including Arcade Fire, Backxwash, Basia Bulat, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Tanya Tagaq and The Weeknd. Unfortunately, their names were not on Polaris’ shortlist on July 14.

In an interview with The Gazette several days before the shortlist was announced, Coyes said they didn’t expect to make the cut.

“I don’t want to be self-deprecating. It’s a fantastic thing. If I do, I’ll be happy to share it with the people I’ve done [Communion] with. Otherwise, I will have a nice party with my friends,” they laughed.

In their late teens and into adulthood, Coyes performed at a range of regional venues and festivals including Amplify Festival, La Crema Cafe, Arcadia, Edmonton Folk Festival, Cha Island Café, The Aviary, The Ale House and Starlite Room, to name a few. some.

Their raw yet powerful voice could switch in the blink of an eye from calm, deep-seated feelings to emotions of pain and sadness. Few listeners knew they were going through a dark time in their lives that combined violence, family issues, and how colonization continues to affect their Cree relatives to this day.

In its entirety, the new record is a vulnerable and candid collection of experiences that define Coye’s past. The intimate portraits paint ordinary and consistent moments in their lives.

” In writing Communion, I was exploring my identity in a way that involved grief and insecurity,” Coyes said. “These songs were written in the spirit of liberation.”

Armed with a $25,000 Canada Council grant, Sister Ray hired cross-border collaborators Jon Nellen and Joe Manzoli (aka ginla) to produce their 10-track through Royal Mountain Records.

When they first met, the trio didn’t click.

“I had no idea what I wanted and who I was musically and sonically. The second time we met, we were able to work in a more nuanced way. The music I love has intimacy and a sense of freedom. I wanted something that felt intimate and had space and room, but was also quite sparse with lots of guitar and drums.

The traditional Métis music that Coyes danced to as a young child while his father played the fiddle gives them freedom and provides a guiding light throughout the songs.

“I make sad music. My music is dark and there are a lot of dark themes. Visually for me, these are not always pleasing images. I agree with that. The songs are sad, but there is a freedom in expressing the sadness, and they were written over a long period of time.

Visionsfor example, is a breakup song. crucified, instead, runs through the course of a relationship. Coyes came up with the idea of Violence on their way to Lake Wabamun after a crow hit their car, and Justice was written during the pandemic while considering what is right and choosing not to.

“My immediate goal is to tour as much as possible, and my long-term goal is to be the best songwriter I can be and put myself in a position where I can dedicate my life to that.”

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