Country musician Matt James has called Sudbury home for more than a decade now, but he grew up in Mattagami First Nation, 45 minutes outside of Timmins.
Last year, James — whose real last name is Naveau, but has chosen Matt James as his stage name — released his first album, “A Miner's Prayer,” featuring all-original material written by the singer-songwriter.
That's also the name of the single on the album, which he penned in memory of his late father, who was a miner.
“A Miner's Prayer” and the two other singles on the album received quite a bit of air play, and reached the top 20 on the Indigenous Music Countdown.
After the album's release, James and his management submitted his name for the Native American Music Awards. He was up for three nominations — Best Video Concept of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Country Americana Album of the Year.
“I ended up bringing home the 2019 Best Country Americana Album of the Year,” said James in a recent chat with Sudbury.com about his November win.
“It was a pretty incredible experience. To be from here in Northern Ontario, and bring home such a big award is such a prestigious thing and to have my whole career validated in that moment has been unbelievable.
“I believe there's over 1,000 artists who were eligible to receive the nomination. To make top four out of 1,000 artists three times was pretty incredible, let alone to actually win.”
James played for many years in a Sudbury bluegrass group called The Canucky Bluegrass Boys with friend Lee D. Roy.
“It's always been a dream of mine to pursue country music and bluegrass music,” said James, adding he's now doing music as a full-time gig.
“It runs deep into my family bloodline … I took a leap of faith and decided to break out as a solo country artist.
“It's a scary thing, because coming from a pretty successful band, you never really know if it's going to pay off or not. It basically turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
James said he's heading to Winnipeg in February — we're interjecting right here to say “Brr!” — to record his second album with a producer who has worked with the likes of Canadian band Nickelback.
“I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of spin he's going to put on my music,” he said.
If you'd like to check out James live in concert, he's performing at Little Montreal on Elgin Street in downtown Sudbury Dec. 27. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the show starting at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available through Little Montreal. Phone 705-675-8562.