Meet the Artist: William Prince

Meet the Artist: William Prince

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The Mariposa Folk Festival 2024 headliner is a rising star in the Canadian music industry.

In 2017, a singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, Manitoba sent ripples through the folk world, winning the Contemporary Roots Album of the Year JUNO Award for his debut, Earthly Days.

Since then, William Prince has become a fixture in the Canadian folks scene, thanks to his distinctive soulful baritone and compelling storytelling. That JUNO winning album sent his life on a new trajectory; in the years that followed, he released the critically acclaimed albums Reliever (2020) and Stand In The Joy (2023), opened for Neil Young, and collaborated with Serena Ryder on the singles “Sing Me A Song” and “River Of Tears.”  He’s played Massey Hall, the Grand Ole Opry and an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. And this summer, he’ll be  headlining the Mariposa Folk Festival. 

Despite a seemingly quick rise, Prince’s musical journey was a decade in the making. Prince told CBC News that it took him 10 years to complete that first album. At first, he tried to emulate other artists, but eventually he embraced his calm, introspective sound. “I’ve always had a lot to say,” he said about his songwriting. “A bad day becomes a song, but good days become songs, too.”   

The Anishinabe artist hails from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba’s the Interlake region. He learned a love of music from his father, who died shortly before Earthly Days’ release. 

“I would have spent a lot of time playing music with my dad,” Prince told The String. “He was raised on Johnny Cash gospel and Charley Pride and stuff. And it was always around our house. And so I learned from him to sing those kinds of classic songs—Hank Williams, Willie Nelson songs. As well as on Sunday, you know, he’d be preaching, he’d be leading the country band that we had there. And I was 14 or 15 when I would have started out on guitar playing music with him.”

That classic country influence is clear in songs like “Breathless” and “The Spark,” which combine catchy hooks and a lonesome drawl with thoughtful, relatable lyrics. Yet, through it all is a note of optimism—and a whole lot of love.        

Prince’s latest album, Stand In The Joy, won the JUNO for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year and the Canadian Folk Music Award for Contemporary Album of the Year. This is Prince’s most life-affirming release yet, unapologetically joyful without losing the qualities fans have come to expect.  

“That’s what I can do for this northern sound,” Prince told The Toronto Star. “I grew up on a reservation, you know, and lived a life that maybe people aren’t familiar with. The best thing I can do is to keep singing about the truth and things I’ve seen in my life.”

YouTube Links:

The Spark: