Logan Staats: Becoming a Voice for Indigenous Peoples
by Robert Flis / February 24, 2021
The Sincop8ed Noize Foundation continues its second edition of Music Industry Talks with an Indigenous artist who has broken out of his local scene and garnered widespread attention and acclaim. Logan Saats is a Mohawk, Turtle Clan singer-songwriter and musician from Six Nations of the Grand River. He reached mainstream notoriety in 2018 and 2019 coming off a win on the first season of CTV’s The Launch. Since then, Logan has continued to tell his stories and spread his message, with his single “The Lucky Ones” hitting number one on Canada’s iTunes charts. We were honoured to have him join us for an interview to talk about his musical journey as an Indigenous artist.
How It All Began
Logan’s primary influence when it came to music growing up was his father. “I remember just being young and lots of kids were buying Blink-182 and Sum 41 records,” he recalls. “My dad sat me down and he was like ‘no no no, this is what you need to be listening to.' This is The Band. This is Leonard Cohen. This is Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson. "So I think the biggest testament to my influence is my old man, the music that he had playing in the house.”His father’s influence drew Logan towards artists with powerful messages in their music. “The people that I look up to just tell stories and have that ability to kind of just pull you in with the lyrics,” he continues. “And also Robbie Robertson because he was the guitar player from my Nation, so I always looked up to him.”In the spirit of these artists, Logan’s start as a songwriter was not inspired by dreams of fame and fortune, but by a need to express himself to deal with hardships in his life. “I started writing music quite simply just because of love, loss and desperation,” explains Logan. “I got my heart broken when I was a young man and I picked up the guitar and I was like ‘oh my god, this is making me feel better.’ So above anything, it’s been this thing that’s just medicine for me. And once I started sharing my medicine with people, I realized it was providing the same sort of feelings and relief for listeners, and peers, and my friends. So that’s how my music career started.”
His Genre and Themes
Although it’s not easy for most artists to categorize their music, Logan does describe his sound as a mix of blues, folk and soul, with stories that are often carried more by his voice than by his guitar. These stories are packed with messages about self-discovery, inspired by his upbringing and ancestral heritage. “Many people don’t know this about me, but I’m a 4th generation residential school survivor,” Logan explains. “So growing up, as a young man I wasn’t really in touch with my culture and my heritage. It was literally ripped from my ancestors’ hands. So a lot of my music, a lot of the process is just about slowly, at my own pace, reclaiming all of those teaching and discovering who I am. Because when your grandparents go through something like that and you carry this inter-generational trauma, it’s like you have no idea who you are. So I think the biggest theme of my music is just me slowly figuring out who I am and finding peace and solace in that.”
His Career Since The Launch
Logan describes his experience on The Launch as being one of the most challenging things he’s ever done, both as a musician and as a person. “The show itself was very challenging, just because for myself I’m a very feely, organic musician and I don’t really like to be told what to do when it comes to my music or what to sing about,” says Logan. “So to fit into their mold was very difficult for me. But it also pushed me and helped me grow which I’m very grateful for.” For Logan, some of the biggest challenges came after the show, including a number of responsibilities that he was not prepared for. “Overnight I became a voice for my people and I was put in the place of people wanting me to be a role model,” he explains. “At the time of the show I just wasn’t there yet. I was struggling a lot with my own personal demons, with a lot of mental health issues and things like that. I was by no means famous, but coming from a small town, you walk into the grocery store and everybody’s eyes are on you. It was a bit of a struggle at first, but it really did force me to take the first steps in my healing journey – which I’m still on today.”One of the largest positives that Logan was able to take away from his success on The Launch, was the opportunity to spread his reach outside of his community and into the mainstream. Having already been very successful in the indigenous music scene, the show allowed him to find a much broader audience with his music.
His Advice for Young Indigenous Artists
Logan is no stranger to facing challenges and barriers in the music industry, but his message to young artists who may be concerned about having to face those same barriers is simple. “To be honest, there are a lot of different forms of racism that you encounter being an Indigenous musician or a musician of colour, but I think my biggest piece of advice and the only thing that I feel comfortable saying to people with my full heart is: just don’t give up,” he says. “Because it’s a struggle, but no matter how dark it gets there’s always a light.”
“Another thing is, if you are an Indigenous musician, I think there are a lot of mentors out there,” Logan continues. “I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without all these people who have taken me under their wing for no reason. And I think that’s one thing that I really love about the Indigenous music industry, is that instead of it being competition all the time, I’ve personally felt that my mentors have just gone out of their way to help me. So my biggest piece of advice is just don’t give up, and also don’t be scared to reach out to people like myself, because we’re here to work together and all build each other up.”
His Plans and Projects
As with the entire music industry since the beginning of the pandemic, Logan’s plans have been altered dramatically and he’s needed to make some big adjustments. “This last year has been so crazy,” Logan recalls. “My agents had a whole tour booked, which got cancelled. Then they re-booked it with smaller rooms of like 50 people, and that got cancelled. So as far as performing and stuff it’s kind of still all up in the air. But one thing that has been good is it’s given me a lot of time to write and to just get inspired.” With a brand new record deal recently signed, Logan is planning to put out a new record in 2021, full of songs he’s written during this past year of isolation. One of those songs, “A Light In the Attic”, talks about his struggles with addiction and being able to find a light, meaning and purpose in it. “It’s about the ongoing battle that it is every single day,” says Logan. “I was able to take some really dark times and turn them into medicine, not only for me but for my fans, listeners and everyone.”
You can listen to Logan’s music on all the major streaming platforms and follow him on social media – particularly Instagram where he often communicates with fans and posts snippets of new music.
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