There’s no false advertising behind William Prince’s name. Royalty truly runs in his veins.
The Canadian vocalist is related to Chief Peguis, a Saulteaux chief who moved from the Great Lakes area to Red Lake (now in Minnesota) and then settled what is now southern Manitoba in the 1790s.
“Peguis signed the first treaty with Lord Selkirk, granting land along the Red River to the Selkirk settlers,” Prince tells CMT. “In 1840, he was one of the early western First Nations converts to Christianity and was given the baptized name William King; his children adopted the surname ‘Prince.’ He has a remarkable history that finds its way to me being his grandson.”
Prince’s newest video for his breakout hit, “Breathless” was filmed in Hamilton, Ontario over 18 hours in a freezing warehouse, and he claims it was colder indoors that it was outside. “Film people are tough and have no trouble working,” he says. “It was a blast.”
Prince’s remastered 2015 debut Earthly Days was released on May 11. Learn more about the Juno award-winning artist that has captivated audiences around the world below.
I felt music would always be a part of my life from a young age. I played music with my family, and we all sang. I moved to Winnipeg and began playing my songs in different venues when I could. I’ve spent most of my life writing quietly in apartments. One day there weren’t any differences between the way I sang at home and onstage. People gave me a lot of supportive feedback that my lower range and song style reminded them of singers from the era I most admire: Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and all the stuff my folks liked. All of that allowed me to embrace what I sound like and make my first album, Earthly Days. That record made me believe I can do this for the rest of my life.
“Breathless” has been with me such a long time. It’s one of the first songs I ever wrote. It was exercise and a way to express feelings for someone I’d hope to meet — a love song for no one. I met someone that helped reveal its full form and people liked the way I explained things that have no comparison. “I’ve never heard a song sung quite like Elvis,” sparked the idea and I worked backward.
My debut album Earthly Days has given me the life I’ve dreamt of for some time; stability to take care of my family and those I love. It’s sparked a belief in so many people that have in turn helped me believe in myself. The opportunities feel endless at the moment. I’ve traveled the world to share songs I wrote during times I was so unsure of myself. Now I get to make more music and continue on with new believers and supporters every day. I’ve shared stages with some of the finest songwriters in the world, played some of the most beautiful festivals, inducted Bruce Cockburn into the Songwriting Hall of Fame, hugged Neil Young, worked with Dave Cobb, spent days in Nashville, New York and so many cities I used to just sit and wonder about. It’s hard for me to put in on paper but I’m so thankful for it all. I used to watch CMT in the restaurant my mom worked in all the time. It’s all they played. I’ve had so many full-circle moments because of this record, and it continues to give back.
I’ve never shied away from [writing about difficult subjects]. I’ve done a lot of healing and growing through my music. I like to stick to what I have some sense about. My contribution is based around some difficult subjects that I balance with joy in recognition of the joy itself. I live a pretty blessed life, and I feel strong enough to share what I’m hurting or happy about. I’m proud of the song subject, and I haven’t held back yet.
The best advice I’ve ever received came from Scott Nolan who said, “It ain’t the singer, it’s the song.” This allowed me to accept my voice and use the strength it has rather than be something else. My songs have allowed me the opportunity to be a creator and discusser of ideas. I get to work with passionate, talented people all the time. Songs did that; my song with the ordinary, everyday voice I questioned so frequently. I’m excited to keep creating.