Indigenous musician Celeigh Cardinal on her journey to the JUNOs

Hailing from Alberta's Peace Country, Métis singer and songwriter Celeigh Cardinal recently picked up her first-ever JUNO Award nomination in the Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year category.

Recognized for her powerful voice and confessional-style songwriting, Cardinal has worked in the music industry for several decades and has performed across North America and Europe. But it wasn’t until her recent participation in Canada's Music Incubator (CMI), a national not-for-profit program, that her career was really catapulted.

Financially supported by TD through the TD Ready Commitment, the bank's corporate citizenship platform, CMI aims to help artists and managers of all musical genres evolve from start-ups into sustainable businesses through ongoing mentorship, industry connectivity and community collaboration.

As an advocate for investing in initiatives and organizations that amplify diversity in arts and culture, TD is helping empower emerging artists and diverse voices with some of the tools and resources required to make it in the music industry.  

For new and emerging artists in Canada, Cardinal believes it's important to belong to a community of people who support each other, something the CMI program helped make possible. “That's what kind of changed my world: having a group of people who share the same values and beliefs, and have the same purpose, the same goal, as me," says Cardinal.

Filling the void for independent Canadian artists

According to CMI, the business of being a professional musician in Canada is not an easy one, especially for indigenous artists and musicians trying to make it in remote or underserved communities. One of the biggest challenges Cardinal mentions, is simply managing finances and learning how to succeed as a self-employed artist. CMI is one of the few resources out there available to help musicians develop their businesses.

“I found myself feeling empowered and more confident when I completed the program,” says Cardinal. “I think every artist needs that kind of support.” Through the support of CMI, Cardinal said she found the professional guidance and mentorship she needed to make her dreams of becoming a professional musician a reality.

Cardinal says that participating in CMI programming was an incredible experience and an important part of her journey. Guided by industry professionals from across the country, she was able to learn about all aspects of the business, from accounting basics to royalties and managing social media.

A passion for bringing people together

Cardinal's connection to music started early. She says that as early as age four, she was performing solo at her family church with her mother drawing cartoon cue cards to help her remember the lyrics.

Following her passion and true calling, Cardinal says she has worked hard to establish herself as a professional musician who inspires and connects with her fellow artists and audience. Her songwriting is described as heartfelt and honest, with an emphasis on themes of sorrow, spirit and humour, while her performances centre around her soulful voice and her ability to own the stage and connect with her audience on a personal level.

“Writing songs is really about getting your feelings out,” says Cardinal. “And when I share music and people relate to it, that's really cathartic to have that shared experience – it's a way to connect with people.”

The JUNOs and a year of much more

Cardinal's year has gotten off to a great start with her first JUNO nomination. She acknowledges that it's a big milestone for her and with the awards just around the corner, it's currently her biggest priority.

Following the awards, Cardinal says she has plans to work on a new album later this fall to follow her two previously released albums: Everything and Nothing at All and Stories from a Downtown Apartment. Between now and the fall, Cardinal has a European tour in the works, a new music video and the busy summer festival season ahead.

TD is proud to be a long-standing supporter of Canadian music and artists and is excited to return to the JUNO Awards as a Lead Sponsor, and as the Presenting Sponsor of the JUNO Fan Choice Award.