SPOTLIGHT SERIES | Brandi Vezina on Empowerment, Heritage, and Refusing to Settle
Welcome to Spotlight Series, a monthly feature shining a light on emerging local music makers in the stellar music community in Manitoba. Come back every month for a new interview!
By Graeme Houssin
No matter the medium, Brandi Vezina knows her purpose: empowering others to stand up for themselves in all aspects of their life.
It’s a value that Vezina embodies well. The country-blues artist, through a string of singles ahead of her upcoming EP, has woven a narrative encouraging women to know and respect their worth through her autobiographical songwriting.
“It is my honour to be able to help other women through their struggles,” said Vezina. “I’ve been given gifts in this world that I have to share from an honest, genuine place, and with humility.”
She hails from a line of prolific musicians, including her mother Holly Vee, uncle Norman Vezina, grandmother Marcella Vezina, and younger brother Jesse Bandura – a lineage that she attributes her inspiration and love of music to.
“It just naturally has always been there,” said Vezina. “We didn’t play board games – we sang. There was always singing in the kitchen and parties and whatnot. The guitar I play today is my granny’s guitar that has seen many, many parties in the country.”
A proud citizen of the Manitoba Metis Federation and board member of the Infinity Women Secretariat, Vezina’s connection to her Métis culture runs deep, reflected in the distinct fiddle in much of her music.
“It’s in my blood,” Vezina said. “I always think of Louis Riel, and that he said that his people would sleep for one hundred years and it would be the artists that give them back their spirit, so I really take that seriously.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Vezina buckled down to hone her skills and learn more about the industry. She took part in AE West, a Canada’s Music Incubator program, to learn more about artist entrepreneurship, and Manitoba Music’s EMBARK program to learn more about touring and performing overseas.
She still found time to share her music as well, making the jump to digital performances with sets at the Metis Jig & Jam Variety Show, the sākihiwē festival, and the Invisible Man Show.
Now, Vezina is preparing to share her upcoming EP: #dontsettle, slated for release in September 2021. She worked closely with a number of collaborators to bring the album together, including producers Murray Pulver and Terence “TEE” Lam, who has worked with the likes of Drake, Alessia Cara, and JRDN.
“Danger”, the EP’s fourth and most recent single, features Winnipeg-based DJ and producer Boogey The Beat. The chorus, Vezina said, came to her a dream; it is both a warning call to those in dangerous relationships, and an homage to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“This song is genuinely from my heart and spirit, and if some young person in a situation like that [listens to “Danger” and] can use their intuition and question whether or not something is comfortable and it helps get them out of a bad situation or potentially save their life, then I’ve done my job,” says Vezina. “That song channelled through me; that was me and my higher power, the Great Spirit, bona fide the both of us.”
Vezina most looks forward to the potential of touring post-pandemic, hoping to share her music, stories, and inspiration with new audiences in Europe.
“I miss playing,” said Vezina. “I really look forward to getting on the road and playing festivals and continuing on recording my follow-up album, because four of the songs are already ready to go.”
Listen to Brandi Vezina’s latest single “Danger” on all major streaming services and keep an ear out for #dontsettle, releasing September 2021.
Graeme Houssin is a freelance music journalist, beadwork artist, and dabbler in many creative arenas, as well as a proud citizen of the Métis Nation. They are the founder of Drag in the Peg, a podcast series celebrating Winnipeg's drag community.