"When you're a teenager, it always feels like the end of the world when something bad happens," says Mann. "But I think that's why sometimes young artists have great music."

A Conversation With 16-year-old Metis Folk-Rocker Cassidy Mann

Vincent Schilling
5/17/12

Cassidy Mann is barely old enough to have a driver's license, but that hasn’t prevented her from becoming an Aboriginal People's Choice Music Award-nominated Folk/Rock musician. Mann began performing at age 6, was strumming tunes on her own electric guitar at age 8, and released her self-titled debut, an EP, at just 15 years of age. She has graced the stage of such venues as the Winnipeg and Manitoba Dragon Boat Folk Festivals and Aboriginal Music week.

Mann took a break from her busy schedule as a high school student and professional musician to to speak with ICTMN about pursuing her dreams.

You must have known from a young age that you wanted to be a musician.

I have known for a while this is what I wanted to do, and in this past year I have been taking it seriously.

I got an electric guitar when I was eight years old, and my parents got me my first acoustic guitar when I was 13. My friends were the first was to hear my original songs they really encouraged me to do it. I started playing coffeehouses and talent shows a couple years back. Everyone has been really great to me and has been supportive and encouraging of my music. It's awesome.

Who are some of your influences? You share similarities to Leela Gilday and Lisa Loeb.

Both of those women, and actually I opened for Leela Gilday for a show in aboriginal music week, and I did a radio interview with her in Winnipeg. That show was awesome one of my favorites I have played so far. I had never seen Leela perform live before, and I was super impressed and inspired her. When Ali Fontaine and I walked in, Leela was performing live, and we were blown away by how good she was. And she gave us good advice as young performers. She was really a wonderful and supportive person.

Who else do you like to listen to?

I love a lot of American artists. Taylor Swift is cool. And in Winnipeg there are a couple of young native artists around here that are really great and it is awesome to see people in the native community that are really stepping up and doing amazing things. We knew all along that we could do this but it is especially great seeing young people.

Are you afraid to ask if you can perform at certain venues because you are so young?

I am sometimes. Last year especially because I was 15 years old there were a lot of places where I could not perform. Though I'm 16 now, it's still basically the same. In Manitoba, if you're 18 you can drink and play as a musician. I did play in a sports bar once -- the main artist had to call the owner for me and they let me play -- but I don't know if it will happen again.

It's nerve-racking, you call up everyone you can think of and you ask. But, if you want to be on stage that's what you have to do. You've got to want to be on stage, you've got to want to perform and share stories with people. That's what it's about.

At 15 years old, people might say you can’t know much about life. How do you respond to that?

I get that all the time. But I think everyone feels things no matter how old you are. We all go through things, especially when you are a teenager. When you are a teenager anything that happens bad or good tends to make a big impact. It is kind of a big deal all the time and maybe we are a little bit dramatic sometimes. But, all I can do is write about my life and how I experience things and hope that other people can understand it.

And that feeling, like it's the end of the world when something bad happens -- I think that's why sometimes young artists have great music. The thing is just getting people to take us seriously. It means a lot that I can share my music with people and share my stories and things that have happened to me. You feel a little bit less alone in the world sometimes.

What is your process of writing?

I been writing since I was very young; it's always been a little sporadic. I write when things are going on in my life. It's never really planned. I've written songs when I was swimming at the beach or in the middle of math class or two o'clock in the morning. That's how it works for me, just this past year I have been really intrigued with the whole process of songwriting and I am curious about how other people go about it -- it's different for everybody.

I have been attending workshops in the city and I have been trying to get involved in co-writing because I think that would be really cool to try out because you can get such different views on things and different music styles. It's nice to write with other writers and see what's going on in their heads too.

You have a great track called “Say You'll Miss Me,” can you tell us what it's about?

It's about someone who has to leave and move away, and you are hoping at the end they will miss you, and you're hoping maybe you made the same impact on their life that they made on yours. It's a little sad; it is a true story but it’s okay now. The song helped me work through it. It's just one of those things you have to go through.

What's in the future for Cassidy Mann?

This year I'm hoping to get on the road to some festivals, and tour in Canada at least. I am waiting to hear back from some festivals, so I haven't announced a tour yet. I'm excited that I was accepted to perform Winnipeg folk festival, and I am looking forward to to get into the recording studio tomorrow because there is a lot of new material I want to record to get out there for people.

For more information on Cassidy, visit www.CassidyMann.com. This is a portion of an interview Native Trailblazers, a weekly radio show hosted by ICTMN contributor Vincent Schilling. Visit blogtalkradio.com/NativeTrailblazers to listen to more. You can also follow the show at @Nativetrailblaz on Twitter

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