“Warrior Heart.” “This is Me.” These are just two of Indigenous singer-songwriter Shawnee’s powerful songs. Her heritage is Mohawk, from the Six Nations of the Grand River in Southwestern Ontario.
We caught up with Shawnee in Edmonton where she’s hunkered down during the coronavirus pandemic.
How are you dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Some days are better than others, but I’m staying focused on setting goals, staying consistent, and keeping a schedule. I go out in the backyard for some sun and vitamin D.
What’s happening with your music?
Normally I hibernate and write during the winter months so I’m used to that, and in the spring and summer I’m on the road doing live shows and interacting with musicians and music lovers. So I’ve shifted gears. I have my equipment and guitars with me and I’m working on an album.
You are the winner of CBC’s Searchlight 2020. How has that changed things?
I’ve known about the CBC Searchlight competition for years and I’ve always just let it pass by. I built up enough courage to submit this year and I was proud and excited to learn I made the top 10 because thousands of songwriters submit. Then I was at a lunch doing a meet and greet and got a call from CBC and they said, “You’re the first Indigenous Searchlight winner for my song, Building a Wall.” I was like, what? It’s going to support the making of an album so I’m being really creative at this time.
Are you involved in any livestream events?
I just did one last week and it went really well. It’s such a different vibe but it’s a lot of fun, and I’ve been talking to Kid’s Help Phone about doing a social media event to support youth in this time. We all feel a struggle, but for youth things like depression can be really high. Being able to talk to them and perform, and let them know we’re in this together and they’re supported and loved. Music is a powerful tool and I hope to keep doing that. And I will share “Warrior Heart,” which is dedicated to Indigenous youth.
Have you heard from festivals where you were supposed to perform?
Some say they’re going to do them livestream. Other festivals say they’re planning for a live show in September. It depends on the venue. No one knows what to expect but we’re hoping everything is okay by then.
What is something that you’ve learned as a result of the coronavirus pandemic? A positive takeaway?
A lot, and everyday is something different. The main takeaway from all of this is the individual power we have over our everyday peace. Every day I wake up with a choice and I can give in to the negatives, but I’ve learned just how important it is to find the positives and feel the sun. I plan to hold on to those positive concepts as I write my album.