If you are into music and you live in Ontario you will be treated to a lot of great music this summer. One performer in particular is shining these days and he is none other than Matt James (Naveau) of Mattagami First Nation near Gogama, Ont.
Matt is part of the very large and well-known Naveau family in Mattagami First Nation and many members of his family have been playing music in Northern Ontario for decades.
Matt has been performing for years and as a song writer he has composed hundreds of songs. Some of his tunes have been recorded by U.S.-based groups, like the Wells Family and Circa Blue. At only 31 years of age he really has paid his dues and primarily with his involvement with Sudbury’s Canucky Bluegrass Boys as an award-winning bass player and song writer for the last 10 years.
He decided, with the assistance and support of his best friend Lee D. Roy, also a member of Canucky Bluegrass Boys, to move forward with plans to record an eight-song album in Nashville, Tennessee this year. They made it happen with a lot of effort through fundraising and with the support of family, friends and fans.
This past May he released his first single, ‘A Miner’s Prayer’ on iTunes. His self-titled album, Matt James, was released at a CD launch party in Sudbury at the Caruso Club on June 1. His music has been very well received and he is quickly establishing a fan base from far and wide. None of this happened over night as Matt has had to keep plugging away as a singer songwriter, bass player, guitarist and performer in bars, clubs and at events over the past decade. Hard work in this case is really paying off.
I am well acquainted with Matt’s family and friends back on the Rez in Mattagami First Nation and I can tell you they all love him dearly. They are his biggest fans. I was saddened to hear of the passing of his father James, who was a leader in the community. He passed away last summer and I know that was a very difficult time for Matt. However, he had a dream one night in a sort of visit from his dad who told him about what the life of a miner was like. Incredibly, when Matt awoke he went right to work and penned his first single, ‘A Miner’s Prayer’ in a tribute to his father. This song is a big favourite with his fans and it is growing in popularity.
Lucky for Matt he has also been discovered by Juno-award winner and popular performer Wapistan, Lawrence Martin, who hails from Moose Cree First Nation on the James Bay coast. I am also well-acquainted with the work of Wapistan and he is the perfect person to be managing Matt at this point in his career. Wapistan has a background also in politics and was the Grand Chief of Muskekowuk Council and mayor of Sioux Lookout and Cochrane where he now resides. Wapistan is very well connected and respected in both the political and creative worlds and has been a strong and positive voice for First Nation people.
I am very impressed with Matt’s new single. He has a great voice and his song stayed with me and lingered on my mind. You can find out where Matt is performing this summer by going to his website at http://www.mattjamesmusic.ca or friend him on Facebook at Matt James Fanpage. For more information or to book him for a performance you can contact Lawrence Martin Wapistan at email http://www.mattjamesmusic.ca and for bookings and interviews call Lee D. Roy at 705-207-2945.
Matt’s dedication to his career is an inspiration to young Aboriginal people in his home community and across northern Ontario. I grew up as a teenager in the ‘90s and when you come from a place like Attawapiskat, a remote fly in Native community on the James Bay coast, there are very few personalities and characters to look up to. Wapistan served to fill that void for us and made us feel proud of our place in the north.
However, there has always been a lack of individuals that could step out of our communities to do something in music, performance or the creative arts. We need more individuals such as Matt, working hard to perform to become noticed and to share their Native roots and their heritage to as many people in the world as possible. He makes First Nation youth feel proud about themselves. That’s a big deal.