An Indigenous musician based in the Cowichan Valley has been awarded the recipient of SOCAN Foundation’s TD Indigenous Songwriter Award.
Logan Staats is originally from Ontario, of Six Nations of the Grand River, just outside of Brantford. He attended a pipeline protest in Northern BC, where he met his now-wife who’s from Vancouver Island and now he calls Duncan home.
It’s the next in several awards for Staats who has been given the Indigenous Song of the Year and had a song hit number one on the Canadian iTunes Charts. However, this one is an award he takes pride in.
“This one for me was a big deal,” says Staats. “I’m so proud of my craft of songwriting. I’ve gotten a lot of awards, like radio single and best song, but this one was specifically for writing, which is truly my passion.”
The award was for his song “Deadman,” which is a single off his latest album A Light in the Attic. He says some people think it’s a song about a love interest, but it’s a story about finding his love for himself again while connecting with his roots.
“‘Deadman’ is that process of reclamation and me connecting with my roots and finding out who I actually am because my family had that taken from them,” says Staats.
Like most in Indigenous communities, Staats has a personal connection to Canada’s residential school system. His, through his great-aunt who attended the Mohawk Institute residential school in Brantford. It affected him in ways he didn’t understand until he was older.
“It’s not something that was really talked about a lot in our household,” says Staats. “It’s not something that I even really knew anything about until I became a young man and was able to do my own research.”
Staats says he uses that cultural connection as a recurring theme in his music.
“When you’re separated from your culture, you start searching for where you belong and sometimes you search in the wrong places and it sent me down a dark road for a long time,” says Staats. “Regaining that, reclaiming that, and understanding my identity has been such an important part of my healing process and my music.”
He gives credit to his father for always having music playing around the house. Among his influences are The Band’s Robbie Robertson, who also comes from the Six Nations reservation, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Buffy Sainte-Marie, who has become a mentor to Staats.
Staats says his latest album is a return to his roots after winning a competition on CTV’s The Launch for his song “The Lucky Ones.” That lead to a period of trying to make music that might not have been authentic to who he was.
“Coming off The Launch and working with Big Machine [Record Label], I was kind of stuck in that mode of trying to make radio singles for a couple years.” says Staats. “It was actually creating this separation between me and what I loved about music. With this album, I’ve found a belief in my own writing and my own style. I’m not concerned so much about writing a hit song.”
As he continues his journey of cultural self-discovery, he has words for anyone who might be going through the same thing.
“When you are on that walk of finding yourself, you’re going to hit walls. The only thing that you can do is put your best foot forward and keep pushing until you break through because there is always something monumental on the other side,” says Staats.
“Healing doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, but it’s something that’s so worth it. It’s given me so much joy and pride in my life. Reconnecting with my culture and understanding the power that lies in my blood has given me a reason to play and to keep going.”