Originally from the Atlanta suburbs and now based in Nashville, Pruitt has been building to a career breakthrough over the past few years following the release of her OurVinyl Live Session EP in March 2018. Since the release, Pruitt has been highlighted as one of NPR Music's "Slingshot: 20 Artists To Watch In 2019," Rolling Stone's "10 New Country Artists You Need To Know" and Southwest Magazine's "Artists on the Rise." She released her debut album Expectations to critical acclaim in February 2020, and will be embarking on a US headline tour this fall.
The Prince Memorial Chapel, a one-room, wood-sided building, has stood in Peguis First Nation in Manitoba, Canada since 1929. The chapel, no longer in use, holds in its name a story of family, identity and history that began a century before the chapel was built, and will continue long after it falls apart. On Gospel First Nation, William Prince tells us this story through the music of his childhood, songs of faith, struggle and grace. These are songs he learned and sang with his father in that chapel named for his great grandfathers, all preachers. William’s family home, the community of Peguis First Nation, is named for Prince’s ancestor, Chief Peguis, one of the highest regarded leaders of his time. When Chief Peguis was baptized, he took the name William King; in keeping with royal protocol, as an expression of pride and with the unknown weight of the consequences of all of the decisions he made with the arrival of colonizers on the land, named his children Princes. Like names, the songs of Gospel First Nation link generations, from son to father to grandfather and back even further. Before we even listen, the song selection on Gospel First Nation tells us much about who and where this album comes from. There are three originals, including “When Jesus Needs an Angel,” a song Prince wrote at age 14. The other new songs, including the title track, were written shortly after Prince’s sophomore album Reliever was released in early 2020. These songs emerged as a natural response to the worry and disruption of the time. “We are living through an age of grief; grieving our lives, routines and families at the hand of a pandemic. I found myself wishing to return to this place of comfort amidst all the chaos.” “Higher Power,” was written by Bob Norman, a First Nations man from the Meadow Lake region of Saskatchewan. The song grapples with alcohol addiction and places its trust in those powers greater than us. “Higher Power” sits alongside the album’s other traditional gospel selections as part of a songbook of guidance and comfort learned from Prince’s father and community. “All His Children,” is a tune made unforgettable by Charley Pride, one of country music’s most important stars. “This One I Know,” was written by Edward Prince, William’s father, who recorded and released his own records, sold out the trunk of his car across Northern Manitoba, one with the very same photo of the Prince Memorial Chapel on the cover. As a collection, Gospel First Nation is as much about physical place as spiritual direction. The album’s country gospel sound is a distinct musical imprint of a part of the world where “You could sit for hours and only hear the sound of the trees keepin' the lake and sky apart.” Prince’s sonic touchstones grew in a remote rural network of towns and families, the Interlake Region, where live music was usually in the service of healing. This “21st Century Northern-Interlake Country Gospel Sound” is also the product of Prince’s childhood home, where the classic American country canon provided a constant soundtrack. With the addition of ‘Manitoba fiddle,’ gentle guitar strums, swaying steel and unhurried tempo travel alongside Prince’s deep, soothing voice. For Prince, the making of Gospel First Nation was an act of building a bridge between worlds at-odds, as a way to find harmony in conflicting, complex truths. “As a young person, I never fully understood why the divide between cultural and Christian First Nations people existed,” says Prince. “In actuality, the very singing of these songs and belief in a Lord and Saviour is the success of a plan to extinguish Indian identity. This album is an amalgamation of two realms.” In its humble and extraordinarily personal way, Gospel First Nation honours this story while making a statement of startling, radical magnitude. William Prince says this album is 100 years in the making. Look inside the derelict chapel: it’s also 100 years in the unmaking.
Singer/songwriter Jess Nolan is an old soul continuously channeling a palate of creative forces. A skilled poet, painter, and keyboardist, she gained quick momentum in 2016 when she moved to Nashville and won Lightning 100 and BMI’s fan-voted Music City Big Break competition. An EP, 3 singles, and 4 years of extensive touring later, Nolan presents her debut album, From Blue to Gold, as her most honest and reflective piece of work yet. “Most of these songs started as poems or free writes. I was in the thick of reading a lot of Maya Angelou and Joni Mitchell’s writings. The lyrical concepts were born from that blend of influence,” she says. Back in 2018, Jess was roommates with promising new producer, Ian Miller. The two of them began demoing her songs, organically and unknowingly creating the seeds of the project. After successfully funding a Kickstarter campaign, Jess assembled an all-star team of players to start recording at Smoakstack and Ian’s home studio, Roasted Bean. The team consisted of Derek Wells (guitar), Calvin Knowles (bass), Ross McReynolds (drums), Mike Hicks (organ), Adrian Taylor (bass), RJ Bracchitta (string arrangements), Maureen Murphy (bgvs), and Nickie Conley (bgvs). The result of the collaboration is a classically nostalgic collection of songs that bridges the gaps between pop production, soulful delivery, and jazz-inflected harmony. Mixed by Joe Costa (Ben Folds), there is a wide range of sounds featured on the album; from layered anthems like “Doesn’t Matter” and “Balance” to stripped down emotional tracks like “Circle” and “I Am”. Jess’s background as an Italian-American from New Jersey contributes to her strong sense of family. She sees her music community as her chosen tribe here in Tennessee and jumps at the chance to bring people together. For “Shame”, a choir of women artists, including Jasmine Mullen (The New Respects), Georgia English (co-founder of Girls Write Nashville), Hadley Kennary, Rochelle Feldkamp, and Becca Richardson, can be heard speaking Jess’s poetry at the end, affirming solidarity with each other. Jess sings, “Tiny steps / repeat the worthy cause forever / ‘Cause they’ll forget if you don’t speak your mind and say it proud / I still believe in freedom / I trust that freedom is on it’s way.” “We need each other. I’ve always felt that community is at the heart of successful movements and meaningful music. I want to build and share with the people who inspire me,” she says. While Jess wrote half of the songs on this record alone, she also called on a collection of local songwriters and musicians to cowrite with. Mary Bragg, Hadley Kennary, Brittany Kennell, Ryan Connors, and Josh Blaylock all contributed to penning for the album. While working on this record, Nolan has also found her way into collaborating on a number of other projects. She is an integral part of Katie Pruitt’s touring and recording band as well as co writing “My Mind’s a Ship (That’s Going Down)” off of Pruitt’s debut record. She can be found singing background vocals for some of Nashville favorite artists like Joy Oladokun, Gabe Dixon, Lydia Luce, R.LUM.R, and more. Her writing credits include tracks by Emma Hern, Juan Solorzano, and Logan Johnson. As a visual artist versed in watercolors and oil, Jess enlisted the help of photographers Lindsey Patkos and Libby Danforth, graphic designer, Grant Prettyman (Belhum Design), and videographer, Emerson Kyle, to bring her painting and floral visions to life. “I wanted all of the visual aspects of this album to match the story of the songs. Lots of colors and hues found in nature to reflect the many different emotional shades of the human experience,” she says. Jess Nolan’s work on From Blue to Gold chronicles an overarching shift in perspective through the lens of romantic love, the realities of stepping into womanhood unapologetically, and ultimately, finding radical self-love. The record is a timeless reminder that through the convergence of individual intuition and strong community, there is undeniable beauty.