Canadian singer-songwriter William Prince has described his musical sound as “21st Century Northern-Interlake-Country-Gospel” which was shaped by listening to country music’s outlaw singers and growing up as the son of generations of preachers in the Peguis First Nation community in Manitoba, Canada. The Juno Award winning artist who is about to embark on a US tour with The War and Treaty which coincides with the release of his upcoming fourth studio album. We last spoke with William around twelve months ago (read HERE) and he has since returned to the UK where he performed at last year’s Black Deer Festival along with his showcase during UK Americana Music Week back in January. During his performance in Hackney, William teased that a new project was on the way and this Dave Cobb produced album “Stand in the Joy” will be released via Six Shooter Records on April 14th (pre-save/pre-add HERE) which William gave us the complete lowdown on when we recently caught up with him once more.
It’s great to see you buddy and thanks for time, I know you’re pretty busy right now because it’s not just the record about to come out but you’re jumping on the road with The War and Treaty too. “Yeah, I’m driving down to Kentucky from Winnipeg and starting the month-long trek. I’m so excited because it is seventy-five percent cities that I haven’t been to yet. You know Columbus, Ohio might sound pretty ordinary to some and Cleveland for the first time.”
It’s ticking off these places, so they don’t just exist on a map, it becomes a real place all of a sudden. “Totally, it’s huge playing two-to-four-hundred-seater rooms, so if I can even bring home thirty percent of that, it’s going to spread the word of what I’m doing and then I can maybe go back the following year and play a show on my own, then go back again and play even bigger. It’s a garden, you’ve go to tend to it all of the time.”
Michael and Tanya are heading here in the summer for the first time to play one of the big festivals here so we’re really looking forward to having them come and play for us because I love what they do musically. I guess as well as visiting new cities and getting to try to grow off their audiences, they must be great to be jumping on the road with? “They’re really sweet folks and we’re all like a family already. We’ve actually played together in Germany a couple of times and did a little Scandinavian run with the folk-country connection thing that they do up there. That was where I first met them and we just hit it off, then Dave Cobb made both of our records back-to-back essentially down in Savannah, so it was really kismet how it all worked out in that way.”
You mentioned Dave (Cobb) and he has come back as producer for this album as he didn’t do the last one, which was in a slightly different lane to this and the previous records. “Yeah, I did my Gospel mixtape as I call it, like how all the hip-hop artists have the official albums then put a mixtape out to see what happens. That was my 2020 sitting around project which I thought may have been my album ten thing, but we had the time at home to do it, so I did it.”
What is it about working with Dave Cobb though that feels the right fit for what you are putting out? “He is such a music lover and appreciator. He really brings the best out of you when you’re working and he’s a musician through and through. He knows so many styles and I guess I’m just defining a great producer but on a human level, you are sitting with a person who is making some of the biggest, most impactful music in the world and it feels like you are just sitting with a friend. We would go to dinner all the time, talk about songs and families. We’re country boys at heart and I just feel really at home when I work with Dave. He’s so good at what he does which lends itself to making really great music, that’s why everybody goes to him. He will find your thing and add his thing to it.”
I like how you describe “Gospel First Nation” as like your mixtape at that time, when we spoke in the run up to that record coming out you had said that like a lot of people do, that with the writing, recording and releasing cycle you are a step or two ahead when a record comes out. One of the things that you said about what was on the horizon was; “I have another statement to make, and it is going to be beautiful” which you are about to share with “Stand in the Joy”. “It’s my love letter to love and time, to my wife to be and my son, giving thanks and showing that whilst I’m capable of interpreting and feeling grief, loss and all these things, there is also this side of me that very much wants to lean into the joy and goodness now that it is more prevalent in my life and now that it is a normal thing when you’re not struggling. You’re no longer trying to survive in life but it’s thriving. “Stand in the Joy” is a choice because my mind can often go dark, angry and frustrated, that’s because of the trauma that I lived through growing up, my father’s influence on my life, his own trauma and the effects of colonisation on First Nations. I don’t blame him, I understand him now more than I ever did. It’s me setting up a boundary between the things that I have that are current and real, that can’t be plucked away from me out of my control and the things that held me in place at one time like that grief. Rather than sit in hardship of what I’ve lost, I’m choosing to be brave and vulnerable where I stand in the joy of what I have, which is a beautiful life.”
You do definitely pick up that from the album, it feels like the story of someone that is now in a good place and wants to share this positivity but the journey to get there has had quite a few bumps in the road along the way. “Yeah, and the challenge of coming from a new territory of wanting to write a happy album that isn’t a big ball of cheese. That’s a challenge too because I’m happy but I still treat everything with the same seriousness that I always treat everything with. I see love as a very grandiose that I love to talk about and give it’s flowers so to say, the love of my life is the most important thing, so this is my ode and tribute to my wife to be and the life that I have. She chooses joy so regularly, her influence is being heard on this record. She has been producing my life behind the scenes, look at what you have, it’s pretty great here so let’s enjoy it together. You don’t have to be fearful, shameful, doubtful or regretful and all of those things where we said we’re not going to let a day go wasted and this is a continuation of that.”
So, it sounds like your partner was the inspiration for you to want to be able to express this joy musically? “She is “Goldie Hawn”, “Tanqueray” and “Easier and Harder”, she inspired these things. Our story is in there and it is not far from exactly how we lived it, I really like that, it’s an honest representation of what I’m seeing and feeling. I think that is what all great artists try to do, show their following what they’re living through and mine is very meta, you know. You know you’re living this guys life who is happy and got a family. That might not break everything wide open but it’s my honest take on life which is all that I can ever do. This is a real dabble into that first-hand account and maybe it is one of the last before I depart into the realm of fiction, fantasy or whatever kind of writing that might come later. I’m excited about that too but right now I’m so excited to have the whole record in the world because it feels like ten new songs get put into the set and I’m ready for it.”
You said about the messages all the way through the record which really are heard and holistically as a piece of art they all come through. You mentioned “Tanqueray” earlier and that to me is the song that stands out more on it’s own which I thought straight away from when I saw you play it live. I guess the question about it would be, is Tanqueray your tipple at the moment? “Tipple? What does that mean?”
It’s sort of older English term that we use to describe your drink of choice, so we would say your favourite drink is your tipple of choice. “Tipple, I like it. It’s so funny I have switched to clear alcohol, for the longest time whiskey and bourbon was always my thing. Nobody could beat the whiskey and bourbon, Hank Williams couldn’t beat it, it really can take you into a darker place. When I made this record, I kid you not I made the switch to tequila, Dave Cobb’s “tipple” was Casamigos Blanco and I learnt that Canadians don’t know good tequila so once I got into sipping tequila, it really was a part of the chemistry of this record. Before that, I had made the switch over to gin and Tanqueray was the first drinks together for my partner and I, it was red wine and Tanqueray. That’s why the chorus describes the first moments of sitting in a candlelit basement where you’re confessing all of your secrets, just wanting to give yourself to them, first physical touches and all of that love being born. It’s like being drunk and the drink that pushes you over the edge and you realise, holy cow, I’m at the party now! That’s how it felt, it’s such an intoxicating feeling that beginning bit of love and we choose each other, we have chosen each other everyday since and that’s why we’re still together so the party is still going I guess in a good healthy way. I’ll take a gin, soda and lime or a good tequila on the rocks now and my vision is clear like the alcohol.” The alcohol is clear, and the vision stays clear until you have too much of it.
So, you’re coming back to see us in July and playing Cambridge Folk Festival, are you hoping to put a couple of other shows of your own in whilst you are here? “We always try to pad the trip over, but it might just be that festival because I do have some summer Canadian commitments. It is so important for us to go and be seen there, I get to play with my friend Katie Pruitt on the round that I’m in, so just getting to see her is worth the trip. Any small step that I can make, if I can make forty fans this trip, it is always worth it to me so thankfully we are able to do these on-offs as I’m always eager for some fresh fish and chips. I love London culture, being there and in the UK with have a kinship with the sensitivity of Canadians and the British folks, it’s right there. That’s why I love that audience, I’m never worried when the house is packed for my show in the UK, I know it’s going to be a very similar, meaningful audience.”
If it is only a short trip in the summer, you know we love having you here and we know you’ll keep coming back to see us when you can. “You know I’m going to get to that beautiful church in London, The Union Chapel. I’m working my way up to that building, that’s where I’m going to get to and I’m going to keep coming back until I get in that building. You have my word!”
I really hope so! That place is stunning and so special. Just to finish up with somewhere else that is special, since you last were over, you played The Opry for the first time which must have so incredible. It always seems to be one of the really big things to tick as it feels like a real notion of acceptance in that music community. “You know, I was just asked was it always something that I had thought of? That just felt so far off, and it wasn’t even meant for somebody like me. To be amongst only a handful of First Nations performers that have ever played on that stage, like not even Buffy Sainte-Marie has been formally invited there to play, it was a really great moment for someone that is trying to belong in the folk/country music world and leans a little more country, I couldn’t think of a better stamp to get in my journey or my passport of this thing we’re doing. It’s very special because everybody was saying that I meant the world to my dad and that means the world to me, to just be amongst it.”
Amazing! I appreciate your time as always, really enjoy chatting with you, best of luck with the record and catch up soon man. “Thanks, be well and speak again soon.”
Stand in the Joy When You Miss Someone Only Thing We Need Tanqueray Young Broken Heart Of Mine Pasadena Goldie Hawn Easier and Harder Peace Of Mind Take a Look Around The new album “Stand in the Joy” from William Prince will be released through Six Shooter Records on April 14th and available to pre-save/pre-add HERE. You can find full details of any future dates on his WEBSITE whilst you can keep up to date with William socially through INSTAGRAMTWITTER & FACEBOOK.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks