Five Questions With ... Celeigh Cardinal

FYI News - Jul 05, 2020 by Jason Schneider

The 2020 Juno Award winners were finally announced last week, and along with the usual suspects being recognized, there were several relatively new names honoured that Canadians should get to know. 

One is Edmonton-based singer-songwriter Celeigh Cardinal whose sophomore album Stories From A Downtown Apartment was named Indigenous Music Album of the Year. An unflinching collection of soulful songs that describe the end of a relationship, Cardinal’s writing process was also aided in no small measure by the time she spent at a Manitoba Music-sponsored Indigenous Music residency where she was inspired by other artists finding ways to speak their truth. 

Pure, honest expression is something that Cardinal has been pursuing since she released her debut album Everything And Nothing At All in 2017. Since then, she has also become a tireless supporter of other artists doing the same as an arts columnist on CBC Radio Edmonton and as host of her own show, Full Circle, on CKUA. 

Now with her Juno win, Cardinal appears poised to raise her national profile significantly. We were fortunate to catch up with her on the day after the broadcast, and for more information, go to 

Congratulations on winning your first Juno! What was your reaction, and how did you celebrate? 

I watched the awards with my family and a few of my closest friends, and when my name was announced, the reaction was a sudden uproar of screaming and crying—so much so, that we had to calm three very terrified dogs. Then we popped some champagne and spent the night laughing, crying and basking in that great feeling. Though I didn’t get to have the award show experience, being surrounded by the people who love and support me through thick and thin was actually perfect. It was a win for all of us. 

Did you feel you were creating something special when you were making Stories From A Downtown Apartment? 

The album is a pretty raw and very authentic compilation of the true stories of my life. Every song has a deep meaning for me. Once the album was finished, I stepped back and saw that the album was exactly what I wanted it to be and it felt genuine, it felt right. That’s what felt special about it. 

Are there any songs on it that you feel are specifically relevant to the moment we're living in now? 

This album, if it were to be summarized kind of generically, is a break-up album. The songs talk about love, grief, loving the wrong person, desire, and letting go. These are the stories of humans. I think the songs are relevant in an intrinsic way. Folks are feeling anxious and scared. Yet, while we are experiencing a global pandemic and uncertain times, life has just continued on. People have passed, babies have been born, hearts have been broken, love has blossomed. We may have had to slow down, but we are still living that human experience. 

You've also become a powerful Indigenous voice on Alberta radio. Are you hopeful that Canadian media will begin embracing more diversity? 

Yes! I love having the opportunity to showcase the vast diversity of music from Indigenous artists. On a larger scale, music has a way of connecting people, and when you feel yourself in someone’s music, you feel a connection with them. The more music I can share with non-Indigenous audiences, the more connection they will feel with Indigenous people. On a smaller scale, I travel and meet extraordinary Indigenous artists all the time, and I’m so happy to have a platform to show off my incredibly talented community. 

What are your plans for when things start returning to normal and do you have any live-streaming events coming up? 

Well, luckily my next move is to record another album, so right now I’m grateful to slow down and focus on writing. I have started doing some bookings; I’ll be performing for the Canmore Folk Festival, Hillside Festival, and a few more here and there, which I’ll announce on my social media platforms as they are scheduled. My next show will go live on July 9 for the Alberta Spotlight Video Series at 4:30 pm MDT at

Celeigh Cardinal wins 2020 Juno for Indigenous Artist of the Year

 CBC News · Posted: Jul 01, 2020 9:55 AM MT | Last Updated: July 1

Edmonton-based Métis singer-songwriter Celeigh Cardinal has earned one of the highest honours in Canadian music. 

Cardinal earned a 2020 Juno Award for Indigenous Artist of the Year on Monday during a special virtual ceremony after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled in-person ceremonies that were set to take place in Saskatoon in March. 

Instead of walking the red carpet, Cardinal watched the announcement from home. 

"Has it sunk in yet? I don't think so," Cardinal said in an interview Wednesday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. 

"But there is a silver lining to not being able to walk across the stage and receive the award and it's that I got to sit with my family. My son was there and my two best friends. 

"To find out I won the award with them, that was pretty incredible and I don't know if I would want to trade that for anything." 

Junos 2020: the complete list of winners 

The recognition follows the 2019 release of Cardinal's critically-acclaimed independent album Stories From A Downtown Apartment. 

After more than two decades in the industry, splitting her time between music and motherhood, the award feels like validation, Cardinal said. 

"You write these songs and you're telling stories about your life," she said. "And you just hope that it's interesting enough for people to like it and relate to it in some way, and I feel like that's happened. 

"That makes me feel like maybe I'm on the right path." 

Cardinal — originally from Grande Prairie — has lived in Edmonton for years and her critically-acclaimed album drew inspiration from the city. 

"Stories from a Downtown Apartment" is a breakup record, but it also revolves around Cardinal's experiences living in downtown Edmonton. (Megan Kemshead) 

The artwork for the album was shot from her downtown apartment, with many of the songs written on the piano right beside the couch on the cover art. 

The album revolves around her experiences living in the city's downtown but at its core, it's a break up record. 

"There are love songs and there are also heartbreak songs," Cardinal said. 

"My most popular song is The Devil is a Blue-Eyed Man which is basically about the fact that I have a pattern of falling in love with men with blue eyes and it has never worked out for me yet. 

"We all have these patterns and human experiences like falling in love can be heartbreaking, and people see themselves there." 

 How an Indigenous music residency 'changed everything' for Celeigh Cardinal 

Cardinal said she was in Saskatoon when the Juno ceremonies were initially cancelled and the pandemic began sending Canadians into isolation. She had just returned from a festival gig in Germany. She rented a car and drove home. 

'The world just stopped' 

She's taken the weeks of isolation to reconnect with her music. After a short reprieve from writing, she plans to record an album this winter. 

"Initially, it just felt like the world just stopped," she said. "I came home to my apartment and life had completely changed. I've really taken some time to slow down because things were pretty crazy for me. 

"Initially, the songwriting wasn't happening. I let the music go to the side for a while but now I sort of feel a wave of songwriting coming." 

Of the five nominees for Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year, Edmonton-based Cree band nêhiyawak was also nominated, recognized for their debut album Nipiy. 

Cardinal said she hopes to use her Juno win to help promote other Indigenous artists across Canada. 

"We have a pretty narrow idea of what Indigenous artists do ... And there is just so much more than that."

Celeigh Cardinal: singer, songwriter, storyteller, artist

The Source - Curtis Seufert // Culture, Music // Volume 21, Issue 14 - August 18–September 1, 2020

Drawing from rock, blues, soul and folk influences, Celeigh Cardinal’s commanding voice and detailed personal lyricism centre her varied – and often arduous – experiences in her music. Cardinal champions Indigenous musical representation by way of her own presence and by uplifting fellow Indigenous artists. The Edmonton-based singer-songwriter has been awarded the 2020 Juno for Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year. 

Cardinal has loved to sing for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Grand Prairie, Alberta, she would sing every week at church service, and ended up performing her first solo there at the age of four. And for the past six years, after putting music on hold to focus on working and raising her son, Cardinal has continued to grow as a singer, storyteller and artist. 

Music continues to speak to Cardinal’s soul like nothing else. In fact, she says it has always been that way for her. 

“I think what probably drew me to it was as I performed, I could see that I was having an effect on the people who are watching me,” she says. “I don’t think I knew then what it meant to me, but as I’ve gotten older what I’ve really recognized is that I am somebody who’s a very much a feeling person. It’s really important for me to connect with people on an emotional level and to help people to express [themselves].” 

Another important part of becoming an artist for Cardinal was Indigenous representation. Because she wanted to be a singer growing up, she followed artists, celebrities and awards shows, but didn’t see many people that looked like her. For her, winning a major Canadian music award herself marks a huge step in becoming the very representation she had sought out. 

“I always felt like my nose was too big or my hair was too dark or my eyes were too small. And I don’t want people to have to live through that,” says Cardinal. “I want to be that representation on stage in music that people can see themselves and feel like they can do this too. I want to be this version of myself that’s very ‘me’ and that allows people to feel okay with being themselves. That was really important to me.” 

Cathartic connection 

Her role as an Indigenous artist, and as someone who makes space for those whose stories are outside of the spotlight, has extended into her own music as well. Cardinal feels it’s important to speak truthfully and earnestly about her life experiences, and for others to feel seen and know they are not alone. 

“One of my songs has a line that mentions a miscarriage that I had. It’s very subtle and you wouldn’t know unless you were really hearing it. And I think that that’s touched a lot of people, but only people who are in the know. I think that kind of stuff is important to continue to do because it makes people feel seen. It may be a little tricky for me, but I feel like I need to keep doing it,” says Cardinal. 

Cardinal says her relationship with her music must always be meaningful and personal, whether it’s complicated or cathartic. 

“I’m not necessarily sure that’s the healthiest way to do it, but at the same time, as time is passing, I certainly feel like these things are healing. And so, talking about these things becomes a little bit easier,” says Cardinal. “My music is always gonna come in a very authentic way as an experience that I’m living, as opposed to me trying to tell someone else’s story.” 

Moving forward, she hopes to get back into performing live when possible. After all, it’s sharing her music and connecting with others that makes it all worthwhile. 

“I’m hoping to do more than just live streaming performances or pre-recorded videos and get back to my favourite thing about performing, which is, you know, having an audience in front of me and making them laugh, seeing them cry and sharing this experience,” says Cardinal. “That’s the thing that I just can’t wait to do again.”

Celeigh Cardinal, nêhiyawak among Edmonton Juno-nominated artists

Celeigh Cardinal and nêhiyawak are among Edmonton's local nominees for the 2020 Juno Awards. 

Both are nominated in the Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year category and heard the news via text from their manager, Alan Greyeyes. 

Cardinal said she was shocked to learn she was nominated. 

"I didn't think it was going to happen," she said Friday in an interview with CBC's Radio Active. 

The Métis singer-songwriter, who is originally from Grande Prairie, earned the nod for her 2019 album, Stories from a Downtown Apartment. 

Of the five nominees for Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year at the upcoming Juno Awards, two are from right here in Edmonton, Nehiyawak and Celeigh Cardinal. 

Edmonton-based Cree band nêhiyawak is recognized for their debut album, nipiy. "Nipiy" is a Cree word for water. 

"It's a good moment to acknowledge all of the work that has happened to get us to this point, by our friends, by our family and by our community," said Marek Tyler, the band's drummer. 

Singer and guitarist Kris Harper and bassist Matthew Cardinal form the rest of the trio. 

Cardinal said she hopes to use the nomination as a tool to help grow her career and make room for the young artists coming up behind her. 

Neither musician would offer a guess as to who will take home the award in March. 

"Any of us winning is a win for all of us," Cardinal said. 

Other nominees with Edmonton connections include Mac DeMarco, John Stetch, Tanika Charles, Nuela Charles and Striker. 

Grande Prairie's Tenille Townes and Spirit River's Aaron Goodvin also earned nominations. 

The Junos run March 15 in Saskatoon and will be broadcast live on CBC.

Edmonton musicians score 2020 Juno Awards nominations

Hard work and determination has paid off for some Edmonton musicians who have been nominated for the 2020 Juno Awards. 

Celeigh Cardinal received her first Juno nod this year, in the category of Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year. 

“I truly didn’t believe I was going to get [the nomination]. There were so many amazing artists that released albums last year,” Cardinal said. 

Just before the nominations were revealed, Cardinal was nervous. 

“So, I listened to my album and I decided that I loved the album and I loved everything I had done with it and I was OK if I didn’t win because the album was everything I wanted it to be.” 

Music has been Cardinal’s full-time job for the past five years, but that wasn’t always the case. 

“I have been in the music industry for 20 years. It’s been a slow, slow process. I was a single mother for a lot of years, so I couldn’t put in as much time and energy.” 

Now that her son is older, she is able to focus on her passion full-time. 

“As an Indigenous woman, I feel like I’ve always had to work twice as hard,” Cardinal said. “Putting in this much time has given me the opportunity to hone my craft and understand who I am and what I want to present. Building an amazing foundation of family, friends, fans from all over Alberta. That’s going to be there forever.” 

The Metis singer-songwriter’s Stories from a Downtown Apartment bares it all to the audience. 

“When I perform, I tell my life story. I tell jokes. We laugh, we cry.  And… it’s [genuinely] me. Having an audience with people who respect who you are is everything to me and that’s all I care about.” 

Other Edmonton nominees include Nuela Charles, nominated for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year and NÊHIYAWAK, nominated for Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year. 

Heavy metal band Striker is heading to the Juno Awards for the second time in the Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year category for the album Play to Win. 

 Striker strikes a pose at the Juno Awards Tim Brown/Striker 

“You’re nominated alongside the names of Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, all these big famous stars. And then, you have us,” guitarist Tim Brown laughed. 

“Everyone who is nominated is getting that nomination because they are the best in their craft,” Brown said. “You instantly get dismissed if you say you’re a guitarist in a rock band. But, if you say you’ve been nominated for a Juno… people [are impressed]. 

Like the rest of the band, Brown works a couple of day jobs, which include consulting for the City of Edmonton. 

“I assume most people see my glorious mullet and assume [I’m not just working a day job],” Brown laughed. “At work, I put on my button-up shirt. I can’t wear high tops. You have to actually wear normal human clothes. Then I got to the metal show and basically just wear scraps of cloth now.” 

The band has even had a few brushes with big-name nominees. 

“We were shopping [for the Junos] at West Edmonton Mall and Alessia Cara was also there, shopping right beside us,” Brown said. “We kind of looked at each other like, ‘Do I know you from somewhere?’ and we kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Oh wait! You’re Juno nominated too.'” 

The Juno Awards will take place on March 15 in Saskatoon, Sask.


St. Albert Gazette May 1, 2018

CBC News - April 19, 2018

Edmonton Journal- June 10, 2017

Daily Herald Tribune - May 8, 2017

Edmonton Metro - June 20, 2017