Celeigh Cardinal: 2020 Juno winning Indigenous Artist of the Year

Celeigh Cardinal: 2020 Juno winning Indigenous Artist of the Year

Early last December, Celeigh Cardinal poured a glass of wine, built a mile-high cocoon of blankets, and settled into her couch with a contented sigh.  

The past two years had been busy—a non-stop, gasping for breath, every-hour-of-the-day kind of busy—and taking a break never felt so sweet.

“After I won the Juno [in June 2020, for Indigenous Artist of the Year], everyone was hearing my name,” Cardinal says. “I rode the momentum and kept doing shows, just pushed and pushed.” Her jam-packed schedule took her around the world, in the midst of a global pandemic and while dealing with the loss of a close friend.

“I worked so hard, during a lot of grief, and it burned me out,” Cardinal admits. “But I’m glad that I did it.  This was my time, and I felt like I needed to do it. Now I get to enjoy the fruits of the past two years’ labour.”

After taking the winter to recharge and regroup, Cardinal is emerging, readying herself for a summer filled with festivals and shows. “I’m feeling myself slowly coming out of hibernation mode, reaching out socially again, seeing my band again. It’s been really nice,” she says.

When she hits the road this summer, Cardinal will be debuting new tunes written over the winter (even when at rest, she’s still creating), songs headed for an album she plans to start recording soon. With a projected release date late in the year, she recognizes she’s moving into another jam-packed period of her professional life. “I never feel totally balanced as an artist, I feel like it’s nothing or everything,” she says. 

This summer, Cardinal’s everything includes the one-night only Tomson Highway: Kisaageetin* *(I love you/Je t’aime), an Ottawa celebration of the world-renowned artist’s 70th birthday. The ensemble production, with musical and literary contributions from Indigenous artists across the country, has been more than three years in the making, after pandemic-related rescheduling.

Knowing what’s on the horizon, she’s enjoying the past few moments of peace. “I’ve been making fancy cocktails, repotting plants, spending time with my son and my dog,” she smiles. “I’m just enjoying the nothing before everything happens.”