The Mechanics of Music: Millwright and Musician Jade Turner Finds A Way to Make Things Work
“I think I've always known that I was going to do music somehow or some way,” shares Jade Turner. She is a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation who lives in Selkirk, Manitoba, and commutes to Winnipeg every day for work. She’s also a millwright, an Indigenous country artist and a mom. It wasn’t until five years ago she realized that music could be her career.
She works full-time as a millwright and as a musician, all while raising her son. Being an independent artist takes a lot of financial investment so she’s not ready to give up her day job. Turner works in a machine shop so she can pick up her three year old son every day and she wouldn’t change how she’s living her life.
Becoming a millwright wasn’t her first plan, she started off in nursing school, struggling and working three jobs, while her millwright friends worked ten months of the year and were paid to go to school the other two. Turner applied to Manitoba Hydro’s pre-placement program and chose the mechanical path. As someone with ADHD who couldn’t sit still and needed to be interested to learn, she loved learning about hydraulics, pneumatics and welding. It was a great fit. 14 years later, she’s working a job that lets her support her family and live her music dreams.
“With our culture, music is just part of who we are as an Indigenous people.”
She’s a lot happier now than she was growing up. Moving almost every year, she was bullied, always the new kid and struggled to build relationships knowing she would be moving again. These days, Turner has no desire to move but music was with her wherever she went and spending a lot of time alone, it was always in her head. She would skip school and spend time singing in the bush. She’s always found ways to make music, even if she had no business doing so.
“When you live in remote places, you just have to be very creative on how to figure things out.”
That’s how she felt recording her first album, when she knew nothing about the music business. She has never learned an instrument and she makes music by singing into her phone and creating the music behind it afterwards. Turner was nominated for an award for her first album at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards and was invited to perform on stage at the event. That’s when she played her first show ever: at MTS Centre, broadcast across the country.
“I've always been a performer since I can remember. I think everybody has their path laid out for them.”
When she was younger, she would sing along with Celine Dion, Faith Hill and Martina McBride. “I just love that feeling of singing even to this day,” she beams. Her writing is improving and she started co-writing, loving the collaboration. At first, Turner was unsure of her writing talent but people said her work was good. After five years, she’s finally accepted that she’s a singer-songwriter. While she excels at writing songs, she doesn’t always remember them, thanks to her ADHD, but she plays it off with a joke when it happens.
“This is who I am and somebody needs to hear my song.”
Something else she had to adjust to was moving away from her home community. “That first year I came to university, to Winnipeg, I was like, ‘Oh, I'll be fine. I'll be fine.’ I came here and I was not fine,” she recalls. Turner was homesick and missed being in a small town.
Her advice for youth leaving their home community is about what she thinks is important, “finding your community and surrounding yourself with really good people out here. I always look at it as an opportunity to meet new people. I love meeting new people.” Turner’s serious about the advice, but doesn’t take herself too seriously most of the time.
She’s recorded a more humorous music video and likes making fun of herself. She’s working to get a bit more serious as she starts making more music geared towards her Indigenous community. Making music videos is something Turner loves because she enjoys being creative and coming up with the visuals to go with a song.
For her next project, she’s considering releasing it under a different name because it will be so different from her previous work, something much more rooted in culture. Her head is always spinning with ideas and she is looking for solid input before she invests funding into it. Turner wants to differentiate between musical personas so people booking her know whether they will get country music or more cultural music. To come up with all this great music, she’s inspired by the things happening in her life and is excited about this new direction.
If she could give her younger self advice it would be, “I am worthy of being able to do whatever the heck I want.” She was self-conscious and she didn’t think she deserved where she ended up. Turner wishes she could tell herself to have faith and know that her path is already set out. “Just take a breath and live in the moment,” she would say. She also wants to tell Indigenous youth, “Learn to love yourself. It's totally okay to be proud of yourself. Be kind with your words and be kind to yourself as well.”
Jade Turner always knew she was going to do music somehow or some way, and she was right. Now, she does it her way, while working a job she enjoys that lets her support her family and live her dreams. She moved a lot growing up but these days she’s firmly rooted in her career, her faith in who she is and what she can do. She’s making music and a life for herself, and while she might forget the words sometimes, she never forgets to share the joy she has inside.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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