Indigenous Artist Spotlight: Cale Crowe

Started in 2018, the Indigenous Artist Spotlight series is intended to foster greater awareness and understanding of the strength and diversity of Indigenous art available in Ontario and beyond. Find all of our past Spotlight interviews here. This month, we spoke with Cale Crowe.

Born and raised on the Alderville First Nation territory in central Ontario, Canada, Cale Crowe was fueled by music from the time he had a heartbeat. That love of music & sense of “life soundtrack” would lead him to picking up his father’s guitar for the first time at age 12 and performing live for his first audience at 14. Cale himself says that “[at the time] music was [his] way of connecting & communicating with an outside world [he] longed to be a part of.”

Today, performing using an acoustic guitar, an electronic drum pad, and a loop station pedal, Cale has performed at bars, theatres, and festivals from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Albuquerque, New Mexico. His blend of campfire-style folk and modern pop/rock reflects & builds upon the taste he developed all those years ago.

Cale is finishing a third EP: 2024’s “Burn Blue”, an eight-song journey spanning multiple genres and themed around loss, regret, hope, and resilience. As for the future, Cale only hopes to continue to connect with people and uplift them with his music. Wherever life takes him, Cale will keep telling his story – and the stories of others – behind an acoustic guitar and a microphone.

Watch the interview here.

Transcript of Interview:

Kiera: Hello everyone my name is Kiera, my pronouns are she/her and I am the Communications Coordinator at Ontario Presents. I am a white woman with long brown hair and I’m currently wearing a black knit sweater. For this month’s Indigenous Artists Spotlight, I am joined by the incredibly talented Cale Crowe. Before I begin the interview, I just want to remind everyone that captions are available for the interview and you can find the transcript of this interview in the description box below. Cale, welcome, and thank you so much for joining us for our Indigenous Artists Spotlight.

Cale Crowe: Yeah, thanks for having me. This is exciting.

Kiera: Yeah, we’re so happy to have you join us. So just to start us off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your work?

Cale Crowe: Yeah, sure. So I am a singer/songwriter, solo performer from Alderville First Nation in Ontario. And I perform, I have been performing for about almost 11 years now. I perform using an acoustic guitar with a loop pedal and an electronic drum pad. And I kind of create my own backings and that helps with my songwriting as well. I’ve been performing pretty much anywhere I can from all over Ontario, and from Nova Scotia to New Mexico, and as many places like I can hit in between.

Kiera: Very cool. Well, your website teases that you’ve got some new music coming out this year, could you give our audience any sort of like hint as to what they can expect from your upcoming projects?

Cale Crowe: Yeah, so um, I started creating new music or what, you know, the new music that will eventually become a full body of work in 2020. Sort of between lockdowns I linked up with a friend who runs his own studio. And we had never worked together before and it just kind of clicked and I had all of these ideas, and we came together to create a song. And that was four years ago now, geez. And as soon as that song came out, and I got the reaction to it, I thought to myself, this, you know, this is going to be the direction that I go in. And so I actually just got the full package of songs for this next project two days ago actually, and basically, the thing that I’ve been telling people is that this is probably the most in tune that I’ve been with my vision as to what I want my music to sound like, even since the beginning, and like I said, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now. And what it is, to me is just like, I just I don’t see my music as like, obviously, every job or every music creator has genres that they derive inspiration from, but for me, it’s just the sounds that I’m putting into these works is just the the deepest, closest thing that I have to how I feel internally about what I’m trying to convey. So I’m incredibly excited to get those songs out and to get people to hear them and just sort of to be seen in a new light. And, you know, kind of hopefully not contrary to what people are expecting from me, but just, you know, different.

Kiera: Yeah, you sort of referenced this a little bit already. But your first EP Stars and Promises recently celebrated, I believe, it’s nine year anniversary. So could you talk to me a little bit about maybe how your music has developed since that EP? Or maybe how it stayed the same in some ways?

Cale Crowe: Yeah, I mean, so I put out that EP, gosh, like you said nine years ago, and it was the first time I’d ever been in a studio setting. And the producer that I work with is a fantastic Canadian performer by the name of Aiden McGill. He’s a close friend. And, you know, we work together on a couple different things. And I have to admit that at the time, I wasn’t fully like I said before, in tune with with what I wanted to convey in the songs sonically and so a lot of those songs ended up sounding sort of from genres that I wasn’t anticipating and genres that I wasn’t really intending to derive from but and also just the songwriting itself, I think has matured greatly. And I’m not as concerned with, you know, whether or not the song is going to be that catchy sort of phrasing, but rather just that the song is honest, and the song is expressing what it is that I’m, like I said, truly feeling and with the music on this new, on these new tracks that I’m putting out, all the songs or all the sorry, all the music pieces, all the instrumentation is done by me mostly with a few exceptions. Whereas that time we were hiring session performers who were, you know, I didn’t get the chance to connect with them as deeply as I would have liked. And so they, they kind of put down their parts, and it was a matter of saying, Okay, thank you and moving on. Whereas with this one I knew, and had time, thankfully, but you know, the upside of the pandemic, being that I had the time to really think about what each individual part of the song, what each instrument, what each section of the song needed to sound like. And with that, you know, with that record, love all of the songs on that record, but a lot of it does feel kind of full, like kind of thrown together, just to get something to, for people to hear, because I was just, I was so eager to have something to show people. To the extent that, and my family gives me grief for this all the time now, but I didn’t have any sort of marketing plan for that record. I was in college at the time, and I just said “you know what, forget it, just here you go have it” and people do still appreciate those songs like I have a lot of, I have a lot of friends and audience members who will still approach me to this day and say that they love certain songs off of that record or certain songs made them feel a certain type of way and things like that. But it’s definitely the case that when the time comes, I would love to do like a “Taylor’s Version” so to speak of those songs, where I get to go back and really, really do them sort of sonic justice, where I’ve had, you know, 10 years to think about what I wanted them to sound like and be able to put those versions out separate from the original.

Kiera: Yeah, that’s super cool. That’s a very cool idea. I would love to hear that. I love hearing people, you know, go back to their old work and make it feel more like themselves, especially with like a first album. You kind of talked about this, but is there anything that you would cite as a musical influence? A person, theme, any other type of inspiration that you feel you’re like drawing from when you write music?

Cale Crowe: Yeah. So in terms of my performance of my music, I mean, the obvious one that people jump to immediately is Ed Sheeran. For people that don’t know, when Ed Sheeran performs his music, it is all acoustic guitar and loop pedal. And, of course, no one believes me when I tell them that a college professor got me into that style of music before I had ever heard of anybody from the UK who did loops. But in terms of songwriting, I mean, I’m pulling from, I recently heard it said that you should write what you like, not what you know. And so I usually start my songwriting with how I think a certain band would perform or write a certain song. So a lot of my inspiration comes from Dermot Kennedy, Coheed and Cambria. More recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sleep Token. And I’ve just, I start out the skeletons of the songs with what I think those acts and other acts would write like, or would sound like and, and then I sort of use my own, use my own sensibilities to kind of flush them out and make them more like me. Because, you know, I think every good artist is the sum of all of their artistic parts and all of their artistic parts are other artists. And so yeah, for me it’s always just been what I think these people would sound like and hope that I’m doing them proud in a way, but yeah. I think it’s just a matter of, like, if you went through my Spotify or my iTunes back in the day, and then listened to some of my songwriting, the hope is that you would look at that playlist and go oh okay, that makes sense. But yeah, maybe maybe not.

Kiera: Yeah, like an Apple Music influences playlist, you know?

Cale Crowe: Exactly, yes. 100%.

Kiera: This is a, you know, fun question we like to ask, but um, is there a song that you would recommend that, you know, first time listeners to your music, go to, to sort of, you know, really get into your music?

Cale Crowe: Yeah, so, I put out a song, not to be to pluggy or anything, but I put out a song back in January called Only, which is, I think, the direction that I’m hoping my music goes in going forward, it’s a lot more electronic. It has elements of a lot of my more recent inspirations. It’s a bit of a sort of hip hop and R&B influenced track. And it’s, I think, I’ll probably end up putting another single out from this, this new record. But I think this, that one is the one that I’m most proud of currently. I think in terms of like, overall, what people can expect from a performance of mine, the song that immediately comes to mind is called Closer, it’s off of my second record that I put it back in 2017. It was the main single off of that one as well. But it’s definitely that upbeat, sort of that pop influence that I’m really going for, in terms of the kind of shows that I want to put on. And so I think that between the two of them, and maybe If You’d Let Me off of that same record, I think those are the ones that I definitely think encompass the vibe that I’m trying to bring to the table when, when I’m included on bills, like festivals.

Kiera: Amazing, very cool. Everyone should go check those out. Is there anything else that you would like to share, or any like upcoming work besides your album, or in addition to your album that we can look out for?

Cale Crowe: Yeah, I mean, I can’t say too much outside of the record, which is called Burn Blue. Right now I’m slating to put it out near the end of the summer and sort of have it to carry listeners out of the Canadian party vibe of the summer and into feeling feelings in the fall and this sort of thing. But outside of that there’s only so much that I can talk about in terms of upcoming projects. I mean, I’m starting to collaborate a lot more with other artists. And so I’m really excited to finally start dipping my toes into sort of more group work because I haven’t been in a, I haven’t been in a real band since I was in high school. But other than that, I have some theatrical stuff that I’m working on. In like, in terms of live performance, and that is probably just outside of the extent to which I can fully talk about it. But that is all set to be announced at the beginning of next year. And I’m really really excited about that sort of thing. Some people who see and hear this might know that I was working on a theatrical piece at the end of last year and so I didn’t think that this was in my wheelhouse, but it’s something that I’m really proud of and really excited to get out there and like I said, I can’t really fully talk about it just yet, but definitely if there’s anybody out there that’s into theater and Indigenous arts, I’ve got something up my sleeve that I can’t wait to be able to share.

Kiera: Well, very exciting. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out. Well, thank you so much Cale for taking the time to sit down with us and participating in our Indigenous Artists Spotlight. You can find Cale’s social media channels in the description box below and at the bottom of the transcript for this video. Thank you so much for watching this video and we look forward to seeing you in our next Indigenous Artist Spotlight.

Keep up with Cale Crowe: