The first words on William Prince’s new album Reliever could speak to his status as a folk-country troubadour on the cusp. “So am I dreaming, or is this just how we’re living now?” the ascendant Manitoban croons, soft and low. “Refuse to wake cause I have never been this close.” The album is Prince’s second, following up his Juno-winning debut Earthly Days, co-produced by Nashville’s Dave Cobb and Winnipeg’s Scott Nolan.
Prince answered questions from his home in Winnipeg.
Easiest song on the album to write: That’s All I’ll Ever Become kind of fell out of me. I was thinking about my son. All these great things are happening in my career, but I think of my son’s future happiness. That’s what matters – children, family. That’s all I’ll ever become, someone to see my son prosper. I could have gone another four or five verses.
The outlaw country artist, living or dead, you’d want to shoot a game pool with: Johnny Cash, because of his wisdom and big personality. He was an advocate of First Nations people, and he’s one of the keepers of the history of country music. I idolized him. My dad idolized him.
Belief in reincarnation: I live life as a scientist, and I know the rules of physics. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. The idea of my song Old Souls is that we are repeating patterns of our ancestors. You never know what your luck of the draw will be. The way you’re living today will determine that next cycle on Earth as a physical being, whatever it is.
The difference to a songwriter between plagiarism and homage: The legal fees.
Your three desert island albums: I would take my dad’s album, On Christmas Day. I’d want to hear his voice on that island. Winnipeg songwriter Scott Nolan put out a live record with Joanna Miller called North/South. Not only is Scott my collaborator and producer and one of my best friends, he’s also one of my favourite songwriters ever. I think I’d take Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, and maybe try to slip Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks into the sleeve.
Best thing about Winnipeg: Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club is one of the best honky-tonks in North America.
Worst thing about Winnipeg: The murders, I suppose. Yeah, the murders. We have, like any other place, our issues.
Brush with greatness: It was at Folk Alliance, in Kansas City. Kris Kristofferson was sitting in front of me in this big conference hall. No one was bothering him until I came around. As I was talking with him, my song came over the loudspeaker. He listened to it for 20 seconds and said, “Nice. That’s real nice.” That’s what he said.
Your baritone voice: It comes from my grandfather and my dad. They were husky-voiced big men. I fought my voice for a long time, trying to figure out how my music would belong, listening to sopranos and alto singers on the radio. But I listened to my father and Johnny Cash, and, later, Leonard Cohen. I listened to their clarity and how they used their power in the lower register. It’s not a space often occupied, and maybe that’s why I’m in sitting where I am now. I’m owning the talent I was given, rather than trying to change it into something it’s not.
William Prince plays Guelph, Ont., Feb. 7; Tamworth, Ont., Feb. 8; and Winnipeg’s West End Cultural Centre, Feb. 14-16.
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