20 Questions With: Jade Turner

Between her day job as a millwright, her side gig as a motivational speaker and her involvement in community initiatives like the Misipawistik Youth Mentorship in the Arts Program, Jade Turner somehow managed to complete another album. And if the first single is any indication, it was time well spent.

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Since winning the 2009 NCI Jam, Turner has been a mainstay in Manitoba’s indigenous music scene. In addition to earning a pair of nominations (Best New Artist and Best Country CD) and winning the award for Most Outstanding Aboriginal Manitoban at the 2013 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, she has been a regular on NCI’s National Aboriginal Music Countdown and performed during Aboriginal Music Week.

Now, more than four years removed from her debut EP, she’s back in a big way with Maybe It’s You, the first single from her forthcoming album. Co-written with Manitoba’s Murray Pulver, it’s exactly the type of catchy, upbeat country tune her fans have come to expect – and love.

We recently caught up with Jade, who’s busy preparing for her January 2017 release party. Here’s what she had to say about the new album, her life outside of music and more.

How did you get in to music?

According to my family, I’ve been singing since I could talk. I would dance and sing to them. I started singing on stage at 17, when I finally had enough guts to do so.

Who are some of your musical influences?

When I was young I would listen to a wide range of artists. Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Celine Dion and Tina Turner are still my favourites though, so I would say that they’ve all played a huge part in my music.

Do you remember the first song you wrote? If so, tell us about it?

Hahaha!!! My sister is going to kill me! I got upset with her for some reason and I wrote a song about it. I don’t know if she remembers it, but I did sing it to her. It was a super funny song, as I was probably only eight when I wrote it.

Favourite song of all time?

Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light. It reminds me of being a teenager cruising with my Meathead friends.

You moved around a lot growing up. What effect did that have on you, musically and personally?

Because I moved around a lot I was always the new girl in school and therefore I was bullied most of my younger years. In order to clear my head after school I would sing (very loudly – sorry Mom!) until I felt happy again. It was my release.

Tell us a bit about your experience winning the NCI Jam competition in 2009.

This competition pretty much started my career in the music business. It got my name out there. I was a contestant in 2007 as well, but 2009 worked out perfectly for me. I didn’t feel nervous and I was given permission to use a beautiful song called Possibility by Sierra Noble. After that competition I met an amazing person named Lawrence “Spatch” Mulhall, who helped me by introducing me to a producer by the name of Chris Burke-Gaffney. All of a sudden I was finished my album, and thanks to the attention I received from the NCI Jam, I had my first single out on NCI radio. It was a great feeling of accomplishment. (Watch Jade’s reaction to winning the NCI Jam and a performance of her winning song below, courtesy of APTN).

 

There aren’t too many mainstream aboriginal country artists out there. Why do you think that is, and how did you end up pursuing country?

This probably goes back to the whole Cowboys vs. Indians thing, where aboriginal artists have a lesser chance at making it in the country genre because we don’t necessarily fit the perception of what a country artist should look like. I never chose to be a country artist, it’s just part of who I am as a songwriter. I can try to write in other genres but I will most likely never finish a song or know where to start, and the song would probably turn out horribly, if at all.

What role do your Indigenous roots play in your music?

Huge role. When you’re an artist you write about your own experiences, and so on the new album I sing about those experiences. I have songs about a sweat lodge, fishing, love. All the things that tie into who I am as a person. I think a lot of people will relate to this album.

Do you currently have a job outside of music?

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“When I’m not making music I’m thinking about making music.”

I have a red seal in industrial mechanics (millwright), which allows me to work anywhere in Canada, but I’m fine with staying in Manitoba. It’s home. I’m now working on getting my station operating ticket with Manitoba Hydro so I can run a generating station. I also try and do a lot of motivational speaking.

Tell us a bit about your motivational speaking. Who do you speak to, and what is the main point you try to get across?

I tell my story. Unfortunately, like many other aboriginal people, I’ve been through a lot of hardships in my life. I try to focus on youth and people who work with youth that are struggling to find themselves. I think that when people hear my story and how I was able to overcome the obstacles, it helps them feel like they can overcome anything to get to a healthy state of mind and to accomplish anything they put their minds to.

What do you do when you’re not working or making music?

It sounds cliché, but when I’m not making music I’m thinking about making music. If I’m on a boat someplace or just sitting alone with my thoughts, I write lyrics and try to find a way to explain the feelings that I have, whether it’s peaceful, happy or angry. Other than that, I work, go to ceremonies and watch HGTV and dream of renovating the house.

Describe a typical day in the life of Jade Turner.

I am a very busy person with a very boring life (laughs). I work eight days on, six days off, so when I’m not working I have a lot of house stuff to catch up on, yard work to do, an album to finish and all the fun stuff that goes along with trying to be a self-managed artist.

Describe yourself in three words.

Caring. Sarcastic. Short (laughs).

As a musician, how do you define success?

When you are someone’s hero.

What’s the highlight of your career so far?

Meeting other musicians.

Tell us a bit about your new single and forthcoming album. 

Maybe It’s You is about that first time you realize you have feelings for someone, the beginning stages of a new relationship. The fun, the butterflies in your belly, the exciting stage. The album is so much fun! I really let loose with this album when it came to songwriting and wanted the listeners to have fun listening to it. Of course there will be the more serious songs, but those songs are not sad in any way. I honestly can’t wait for everyone to hear it!

Walk us through your songwriting process. 

I don’t have a process. Once in a while I get an idea or a lyric in my head and I roll with it. Then I take it to Murray (Pulver, her producer) and sing it to him, and we figure out the rest.

How do you know when a song is finished?

When it feels right.

Do you prefer writing or performing? Why?

Writing. It’s my favourite! Being able to create something and to give the audience a piece of me is an amazing feeling.

This spring you had the opportunity to attend AMP Camp. What’s the best piece of advice you picked up?

Stop swallowing your words when you sing, during my vocal lessons with Leela Gilday.

What do you hope to accomplish through your music? What do you hope people take from it?

All I ever want when it comes to my music is that the audience can relate to it. And also to inspire others to chase their dreams.

To connect with Jade Turner, check out his social media channels below:

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