Logan Staats could be Canada’s newest country prodigy

Logan Staats is well on his way to becoming Canada’s newest country star — after first breaking through as a folkie.

Who: Logan Staats
What: Indigenous Music Summit
Where: TD Music Hall, 178 Victoria St.
When: Thurs., June 14

THE RICH VOICED singer-songwriter, born on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and raised in nearby Brantford, has been nominated for a slate of honours throughout his folk career, including a JUNO nom and several Native American Music Awards for his heartfelt tracks. In a few weeks, he’ll be featured in the International Indigenous Music Summit in Toronto alongside singer-songwriters from across Canada.

As he dives headfirst into a country career, Staats is fine-tuning his sound and the people around him — he’s recently signed with a new manager, and as he works on his next album, he’s dividing his time between Ontario and Nashville, a must for any country artist.

“The writing process for my new record has been a really incredible journey,” says Staats over a crackling phone line, boisterous and passionate as he speaks. “It’s a crazy time but also a time for me to redefine myself.”

Although Staats says his first two albums, A Light in the Attic and Goodbye Goldia, did “really, really well,” he’s interested in pivoting away from folk music (or what he calls “a Lumineers vibe”) and playing more squarely within the confines of the country genre.

“I want to grow a little bit and evolve as an artist,” he says. “I’m listening to a lot of Americana, country, soul, artists like Tyler Childers. The best way to get the country feel is to immerse yourself in it, so I jumped in with both feet in Nashville.” An artist he says he looks to for inspiration is Chris Stapleton, who he says has mastered imbuing country music with “a little bit more substance than what’s going on in the pop-country crossover world.” He adds that he’s learning new ways of playing guitar and piano, including finger-picking techniques specific to the country genre.

Although Staats says he seldom gets nervous playing gigs, Nashville is a different beast. “When I got here, it was like I was restarting everything,” he says. “I had to find my footing. These are Nashville musicians and songwriters. They are so good. It forces you to elevate your game, and it’s really brought excitement for the music back to me. I’m learning again.”

It’s not easy being far from home — “I’m halfway across the world and still embodying Six Nations and my Mohawk roots,” he shares. “I’m so vulnerable and in such a different landscape. But it’s still so important to me — I still want to honour my community and myself.”

When in Ontario, Staats records at Jukasa Media Group, a recording studio in Six Nations of the Grand River. “It’s a world-class studio,” says Staats, “and it’s right here in my backyard.” Jukasa is the home of one of Staats’s most popular tracks, a haunting folk tune called Deadman.

“I wrote Deadman when I was in a really dark, fragile, vulnerable place,” he divulges. “As I finished it, I was going through this medicine process, this medicine journey for myself. When I finished it, I became a healthier person. That was really special for me. I walked into the studio with my sister, played the song and built it around live performance. It’s just raw and as it is. We recorded it in the first take and said, ‘There it is.’ It worked out perfectly.”

While Staats has big plans for the future — a change in genre, as well as the constant change in scenery between Six Nations and Nashville — his priorities as an artist have stayed consistent.

“It’s all about the music,” he says. “I’m really, really focused on writing and making this next record. I’m learning these new guitar licks and chord progressions. It’s a different process than I’m used to. and it’s been really eye-opening and amazing … I’m soaking up as much of this country stuff as I can and still, always, hoping to honour my community.”