Nelson Little creating space to ‘ignore every negative thing in life’ on new single

Tuesday, April 16th, 2024 9:39am


Image Caption

From the recently released video for the single Just Make it Happen with singer/songwriter Nelson Little.
By Brett McKay
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


For his new single “Just Make it Happen”, Indigenous roots-rock artist Nelson Little said he deliberately went looking for a carefree sound to match the inspirational tone of his storytelling.

Little found that sound in memories of movie soundtracks from his youth that were peppered with upbeat, 1950s rock and roll.

“It's been a few generations since we've heard a feel-good song like on the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  “Twist and Shout” or “Great Balls of Fire”, some of these old movies we used to watch, the soundtracks on them, I remember being a kid and them grabbing me,” Little told

In the movies that became his favourites, the live performance scenes, like when Michael J. Fox steps up to the mic at his parent’s prom in Back to the Future, were the parts that really stuck with him.

“They always use this rock and roll sound, and I thought maybe it's time for even my kids, I have three kids, that they were introduced to a sound like “Johnny B. Goode”,” said Little, who was born north of Thompson, Man. and raised just outside Riding Mountain National Park farther south.

The message of “Just Make it Happen” is “100 per cent positive,” Little said: “If I could just ignore every negative thing in life. For you, for me, for the people to the left and right of me, behind me, in front of me, above me, below me. Wherever it is. For everybody.”

To find a sound that was going to work with the positive and energetic story, Little said he started to feel “maybe we need to skip out on a standard country lick and just kind of bend the rules” and blend in some of that rock influence.

For Little, getting to this worry-free mentality captured in “Just Make it Happen” hasn’t been a straight and easy road. At 13, Little was shot in an accident with a shotgun, and four years later survived a tragic car wreck.

“That put fear into me, and I was unsettled as a youth,” he said.

“It's like all it did was prolong those hardships. And I always was looking for healing and a way to just feel good. Because it was always sorrow and mourning. I found a way through my song writing, even through some of the sad stories, to bring a positive vibe to the table.”

“Just Make I Happen” was produced by Dave Wasyliw of Manitoba country band Doc Walker, and features lead guitar from the Crash Test Dummies’ Murray Pulver.

The song was co-written by Little and fellow Portage la Prairie, Man. songwriter, Dave Rodgers, one of the few times in his career Little has shared the writing process with someone else.

Normally content to keep the writing process private, mixed with a bit of apprehension that having too many people involved will pull the songs away from the life experiences at their core, the collaboration with Rodgers came about naturally, Little said, and helped expand his creative bubble.

“Whether it's a musician or new producer, I’ve always had this thing, like if it's not broken, don't fix it,” Little said.

“But with that being said, if your team runs out of steam with the ideas and the creativity and the ambition and all those good things…I guess I'm starting to finally believe that if I go to someone else that's on the same path, when we collaborate, like that energy starts right from scratch. You're starting with a full battery.”

With Little’s responsibilities as a single dad and the numerous projects he and Rodgers have their hand in, finding uninterrupted time to write together proved difficult.

“Whenever him and I started talking about the song, someone's phone was ringing. Something was going on or we are distracted. So, we finally said let's just go for a drive,” Little said.

That drive became a regular Sunday getaway, with the two brainstorming stories and lyrics on their way to Wawanesa, or Riding Mountain National Park, or Winnipeg Beach.

“We would never plan it. We would just jump in the car,” he said. Eventually, the duo planned a trip to Exchange District Studios in Winnipeg to finally record the song they’d worked out over months on Manitoba backroads.

Little will be taking the stage at music festivals throughout Manitoba this summer, and recently collaborated with social media dance duo, The Bégin Sisters, whose choreographed routine set to “Just Make it Happen” has already racked up hundreds of views online. View a sample on Insta:

“I find the industry has really changed over the last 10 or 15 years,” Little said, and that there are more paths open for artists to record and perform their music.

“It's a tricky market, but I just find there's a lot more needles in a bigger haystack these days.”

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.