The two Jeremys of Whitehorse
Two major events coincided in the Dawson City area from July 20 to 29. First, Dawson City’s 40th music festival, which was then followed by the Moosehide Gathering, a celebration of Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in (Hän) culture that occurs every two years. With both events having music and performances at their centre, Dawson City was filled with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous performers of all musical styles.
Two of the performers happen to share the same first name, although that isn't where the similarities end.
There are many intersections in the lives of Jeremy Linville and Jeremy Parkin. They were born and raised in Whitehorse, come from Indigenous backgrounds and are in their 20s — Linville is 24 and Parkin is 21.
They are colleagues in their work and friends in life. The two shared their stories from Dawson City, where they performed at the 2018 Dawson City Music Festival and were preparing to mentor aspiring artists at hip-hop workshops.
Meet Jeremy Linville
Linville says music connects people. It’s a two-step process: the first is finding a beat that stirs up feelings; next is using the lyrics to emphasize what the beat is already saying.
“A beat alone can tell a story, that’s how I hear my lyrics — it’s because I hear a beat and I can practically just put the lyrics that are already there in a way,” says Linville.
It’s also important to have Indigenous artists, he says, “mainly because we’re a broken people.” There are songs for the best and worst times in people’s life, he adds, but no matter what, “music is a healer.”
Linville says that he’d like to see more Indigenous people turning towards music as opposed to alcohol and drugs.
“When people find something that they love doing, they will put down alcohol for it because they love making that music. That’s kinda what happened to me.”
Linville started off writing spoken word poetry, before moving to rap. His music reflects his own life experiences growing up in Whitehorse:
Linville says his lyrics resonate with many listeners: “Mainly because I guess a lot of people feel like that’s their only freedom to get away, is music.”
Besides composing, Linville also works to support other artists by helping to run the recording studio at Youth of Today Society, a hub of activities and programs in downtown Whitehorse that provides cultural and wellness programs for youth. It’s free so younger artists have a space to produce their music.
“In Whitehorse, in all of the Yukon actually, we have a lot of young talent out there that isn’t really being noticed,” Linville says. “They do need to be noticed so they have something to be proud of.”
While at Moosehide, Linville led a second youth workshop with the Snotty Nose Rez Kids.
This summer marked Linville’s first performances at the Dawson City Music Festival and at Moosehide Gathering. Currently, Linville has 28 music tracks on his SoundCloud and his album “Land of the Midnight Sun” is set to be released in August.
Meet Jeremy Parkin
While Parkin also draws inspiration from his own life when writing music, he says his approach is more improvisational.
“I never really have a set idea until I sit down at my computer or I’m going to write something on my guitar,” says Parkin.
He says he will also think about specific times in his life to draw from, capturing those emotions in his songs.
Parkin was introduced to hip hop music through a friend.
When it comes to working with other artists, Parkin says that the best part is getting to watch everyone’s creative process, something that he finds inspiring.
“To a certain degree you get to see these guys grow too, and get better at their craft,” he says.
Parkin would like to work with artists such as Shlohmo and the Wedidit Collective, a group of artists based in Los Angeles. Parkin says he’s reached out to them in the past and has met Shlohmo a few times in person.
“I know he knows who I am, but I’m kind of, just like, continually planting the seed and watering it, to kind of let that working relationship grow, hopefully,” says Parkin.
Another aspect of working with other artists is finding people who have similar interests and mindsets as you, he adds.
Having artists from different Indigenous backgrounds helps to demonstrate that Indigenous music isn’t confined to a certain genre or style, says Parkin. People often have certain ideas about how it sounds when, in reality, the possibilities are limitless.
“There’s a very large diversity of First Nations music and I want it to be kind of recognized in the music industry – not just a something in a box,” says Parkin.
Parkin’s album “Black Dog” was released in October 2017.
The Whitehorse network
Both Linville and Parkin became involved in the Dawson Hip-Hop Showcase through Jona Barr. Barr is the former program co-ordinator at Splintered Craft, an art and music studio in Whitehorse, and is the vice-president of the board of directors at Music Yukon, an organization that promotes the arts scene in Yukon.
Splintered Craft opened in January 2015. Yukon artist Joseph Tisiga helped start the program a year earlier when he applied for funding from the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre. The requirement was that the program had to bring social engagement to urban spaces, as well as increase employability with young people by nurturing soft skills.
Tisiga says that he originally envisioned the program to be centred around visual arts but that over time the space began to change after Barr took over and started drop-in music sessions.
“Inadvertently out of that, kids interested in spoken word and hip hop and rap and all that stuff just started showing up. Really quickly it was like there was a [music] scene,” says Tisiga.
Before Splintered Craft, there were a few local groups in the mid-2000s who were producing hip hop music, says Tisiga, “and then all those youth, grew up and moved away.”
While with Splintered Craft, Barr met Linville during the rapper’s performance at one of the studio’s showcases. He later met Parkin through Kelvin Smoler, a mutual friend.
Even before their official meeting, Barr says that he was aware of Parkin’s work through his work as program co-ordinator.
Then as much as now, “I tend to keep an eye on different musicians around town and people that are doing things around town,” says Barr.
This includes seeing how serious musicians are about their music and how much they’ve developed their style and presence in the music scene. Both Parkin and Linville demonstrated this, says Barr, as well as being passionate and driven when it came to their music.
As board vice-president, Barr’s responsibilities include giving advice to the executive director and keeping in touch with the music community in the Yukon. This includes nurturing relationships he’d formed with artists from his days at Splintered Craft.
“Everybody that I’m working with and brought up to Dawson and Moosehide and everything – it’s mainly like a working relationship with them and I feel like I trust them and they trust me,” Barr says.
When it comes to promoting artists, Barr says he tends to avoid classifying them based on their heritage.
“I don’t like to be like, ‘well, you’re an Indigenous artist or a French artist.’ I’ve never really thought in those terms. I just try to help people who need it.”
At the same time, Parkin and Linville’s prominence reflects the rising profile of Indigenous artists in the music industry. “I’m seeing a resurgence in youth taking an interest in taking back their culture and being proud of themselves,” says Barr.
Besides the Hip-Hop Showcase, Barr also worked with Andrea Stratis, the executive director of Music Yukon, to organize and fund a hip-hop workshop in Dawson. For Stratis, the increasing visibility of Indigenous artists in the music industry reflects a larger cultural shift.
“A lot of people are really starting to realize the need for supporting youth especially, but also Indigenous peoples regardless of whether they’re youth or older,” says Stratis.
In the past, Stratis says, you needed to make an argument for marginalized groups to be included, but that has started to happen less and less. This opens up the possibility for music shows and festivals to include a more diverse lineup of performers.
Stratis met Linville and Parkin through Barr, but was already aware of the artists’ reputations as performers.
Parkin, Stratis says, is serious and dedicated to his craft and people shouldn’t dismiss this kind of music.
“They would be wise to take a close look at how hard these kids are working at this stuff and how seriously they take it and how much of their own energy and soul they’re sort of putting into it,” says Stratis.
Youth, particularly those in the hip-hop community, tend to create their own groups on their own as a support system for one another, says Stratis.
Splintered Craft’s hip-hop showcases, which began in May 2017, are an example of this. Parkin says several performers from these showcases have collaborated as music writers and producers.
“We all, kind of, are a little bit different with our craft, but what comes out is the same genre,” says Parkin.
Besides Linville and Parkin, the group also includes Tanner Coyne, current program co-ordinator at Splintered Craft, Corey Alexie, John Stosh and Paddy Jim. Parkin has also teamed up with Whitehorse MC Kelvin Smoler to form the duo Local Boy.
Stratis says Local Boy is set to perform at this year’s Break Out West symposium, organized by the Canadian Music Alliance. The duo was chosen to replace another artist who dropped out of the event, a substitution Stratis argued for.
“I said, you know, this is what we should start highlighting because the rest of the country actually wants this stuff – they want Indigenous music of all kinds,” says Stratis.
Besides benefitting audiences, Stratis indicates that Indigenous performers will motivate artists following in their footsteps.
“It’s a different experience seeing them perform, seeing how that works, being able to go up and talk to them if they want to and be able to interact with it at a totally different level,” says Stratis. “That’s how any artist builds themselves, is by looking at someone and saying, ‘that’s where I want to be.’”
In terms of their own funding, Music Yukon works with the Yukon government and other funding organizations to help present various events and opportunities for artists. Their website also lists different funding opportunities and application procedures.
“It’s huge to be able to provide [funding], or at least be able to provide access to and say, ‘here’s these avenues that you can go to,’” says Stratis.
Linville is an example of an artist who uses their craft as a means to support themselves. The studio is vital for Linville to keep up his performing activities. He says the bulk of his income comes from running the space for Youth of Today Society and assisting youth with their music tracks when they drop in.
“It’s really my only other way of making money besides stage shows and doing workshops events,” he says.