Celebration of Nations Presents Lee Harvey Osmond
Canada’s music and entertainment industry has taken one of the hardest hits during the global Covid-19 pandemic given the cancellation of almost all live performance. For one the busiest artists in the industry, however, the time off from touring has only increased time to take on more projects.
“I’m embarrassed to say it’s actually picked up for me,” says singer/songwriter/author and recent Juno Award winner, TOM WILSON. “I had an art exhibit in August. I have another in October. I’m writing a second book and also working on new music projects too. I’m so busy, it’s crazy.”
While Wilson has always been a multi-tasker – juggling musical duties as singer/songwriter/guitarist for Junkhouse, Blackie and The Rodeo Kings and Lee Harvey Osmond between painting and writing – it’s been a midlife discovery that has truly put his artistic production into hyperdrive. As age 53, Wilson discovered that the parents who raised him were not his birth parents; he learned he had been adopted, and that his biological mother and father were Mohawk from the Kahnawake Reserve just outside of Montreal. That revelation has helped unleash a tsunami of creativity that, at its core, is all about self-discovery according to the Hamilton-raised performer.
“I find it inspiring,” said Wilson, who scored the 2020 Juno Award with Lee Harvey Osmond for Best Contemporary Roots Album for their latest release, MOHAWK. “It’s a new drive. It’s a gift. I feel so rejuvenated. That’s what I needed. It’s been during Covid that I’ve really discovered that this whole journey has been about identity. Without identity we have nothing to offer this world. At 53 I found out what my identity was. So my job now is with intent. I’ve always written songs, always painted. Now everything has come into clear view on what my path is. The identity is bringing my Mohawk culture to light through my art and my music and my writing. Everything now has a purpose.”
That purpose includes being part of Indigenous cultural events like the upcoming CELEBRATION OF NATIONS 2020 event scheduled September 11th through 13th at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines, which includes a performance by Lee Harvey Osmond Friday night in Partridge Hall
“To be embraced by the Indigenous community in every way is important to me. I talk about it on stage. I didn’t become a Mohawk. I wasn’t born into like my brothers and sisters were. What I say is I’m shaking hands with the culture. I’ve just been introduced to it. My job is to honour, shine a light and bring respect to the culture.”
Given the ongoing realities of Covid social distancing measures, the concert – like much of the Celebration of Nations activities – will be virtual and live streamed. That doesn’t phase a veteran performer like Wilson, who’s looking forward to performing at the PAC.
“The band will be a little bit more insulated, a little bit more into playing. I’ve done probably four or five online performances, including one for NAC, one for the CBC, one for the JUNO Awards and one for the Hamilton Arts Council. I’ve love doing them. At this point I’m not like Bruce Springsteen, going out into the audience and bringing somebody back on stage. It’s much more about presenting something that can resonate with people longer than the thrill of live performance.”
With his path clearly focused on discovering more about his Mohawk heritage, Wilson is pouring himself into more new projects, including writing a TV script with Martin Short’s brother Mike, developing a documentary, and producing a play he’s written. However, the project of which he’s most proud is one meant to inspire other Indigenous artists.
“You have to be a moving target. I have to be creative in coming up with ways to help the Indigenous communities across this country, so I started the Tom Wilson Indigenous Scholarship at McMaster in honour of Bunnie Wilson, my mother who raised me. We’re going to try to raise a half million dollars over the next while to help bring Indigenous students to start studying at Mac. I think Indigenous lawyers and engineers and doctors and educated Indigenous people are going to bring great things to the world. They’re going to help change the planet.”
For more information on this year’s CELEBRATION OF NATIONS event, visit celebrationofnations.ca.
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