Nelson Little was travelling Northern Manitoba in support of his latest album, Ain’t Afraid of the Truth released on Oct. 22. Little came in to the Nickel Belt News office to talk roots, community-building and music.
Though today he lives in Portage la Prairie, Nelson is native to Thompson and the north, and with tracks like the “Diamond Driller Song,” it’s clear that the north is deeply rooted in his music. Nights spent playing country classics with his uncle blended with the hard-rock sound that resonates with many in our small community, bringing a distinctly modern country character to a time where flannel shirts and fitted caps come hand in hand.
In speaking with Little, it’s clear that community among artists stands prominently in his priorities as an artist. Little’s first recording was a live album he recorded with his first band – 100 Years Rising – whom he played with for two years before they went their separate ways. Yet when askedwhether he preferred life as a solo artist, Little pointed out that the distinction is finer than one might think: “It’s my name on the album, but really, every recording is a team effort. I’ve even thought about just changing my artist name to just Nelson, something more abstract, that sounds less like an individual.”
And what a team it is: for Ain’t Afriad of the Truth, Nelson recruited the likes of producer Dale Penner, who produced Loverboy’s “Heaven In Your Eyes”, featured on the soundtrack for the 1986 film Top Gun. Penner was also produced Nickelback’s second studio album, The State, which would help earn them their first Juno Award for Best New Group. Also featured on the album are Joey Landreth and Ryan Voth, frontman and drummer, respectively, of the Juno Award-winning country-folk band The Bros. Landreth.
Unity in the arts extends beyond the artist community, of course, and bringing dedicated opportunities for artists to perform in the North. Last year, Little was pivotal in organizing Shake at the Lake at Setting Lake, in collaboration with Wabowden town council: “It got such a conversation going that we actually brought in seven bands, a full production team, full stage, while the town brought in a bunch of food vendors. We came under budget last year, but just by a few hundred dollars, so it inspired us to do it again for 2016. It also struck interest in other communities, so we’re ready as a group to go ahead, and make sure bands get a chance to play at an all-out venue that’s strictly for music, rather than a town event where the entertainment is a side note. This is a music venue, and that’s why you’re there.”
Returning to Thompson, Little is rarely disappointed with the arts scene he sees developing here, from country, hip-hop and punk to everything in between. For more information, visit www.nelsonlittle.com, or find his music on iTunes and CDBaby.