'The work is not done yet': Pierre Kwenders on life after his 2022 Polaris Music Prize win

The Montreal musician opened up about his recent tour, inspiration for new music and more.

The Montreal musician opened up about his recent tour, inspiration for new music and more

Pierre wears bright sunglasses and a white shirt.
Pierre Kwenders discusses how the last year has shaped his new projects. (Daniele Fummo)

It's been a year since Pierre Kwenders won the 2022 Polaris Music Prize for his album José Louis and the Paradox of Love, and he says taking home the award affirmed that he has been on the right track. 

"To me, winning the Polaris was someone telling me, 'You're doing a good job, keep going, don't give up,'" he says.

Since receiving the $50,000 prize money, the Montreal-based musician has stayed busy over the last 12 months by releasing a short film, performing around the globe, putting out a deluxe version of his winning album and more.

WATCH | Pierre Kwenders performs at the 2022 Polaris Music Prize gala

"For me, winning the Polaris has been a blessing," he says. "I believe some people know me today because of that, but it's not enough. You know, the work is not done yet. I still have to work hard to get where I see myself, where I want people to see me. And I want as many people as possible to have access to my music, and that takes work and discipline."

We caught up with Kwenders to discuss how his life has changed since his win.

On his new short film

Kwenders explains that he and his team filmed Liberté, Égalité, Sagacité the month following Polaris. 

"We flew to Argentina and Patagonia and shot the short film that just came out recently," he says. "That was always just a dream of mine to be able to make a film," he says, explaining that while in high school, he would make little shorts with his friends. "So this love [of] film was just something that was always there," he adds.

"I like really to express my music visually as well. And also, because I sing in many languages, people tend to not really understand what is the message behind it," he says. "I believe through these images, through these shorts that I'm doing, and even music videos, they can get a sense of the message that come out of my music."

On touring

"People [are] actually coming to see me and they're really interested in my performances and my art. So I was really happy about [that]," he says.

He performed in the United States for the very first time in late 2022, when his tour kicked off in Philadelphia. He notes that of all the shows, his February performance in Seattle was "really, really beautiful" for him because his 2017 album, Makanda at the End of Space the Beginning of Time, was recorded in the city. 

WATCH | Pierre Kwenders's music video for 'Niata,' from the deluxe version of his Polaris-winning album 

On grieving his family members

During his acceptance speech last year, Kwenders acknowledged the passing of several of his family members. Reflecting on the time since, he says they're watching over him.

"They want me to succeed and keep working," he says. "And the best way for me to pay homage to them is by doing my music. My music is mostly about my culture. It's mostly about where I'm from and also where I'm going, and all these people who were part of my life have been part of that journey."

On new music

Describing himself as a workaholic, Kwenders explains he is always writing: "I'm also working on my next project already, so I've been doing a little bit of everything," he says, adding that being in love has also sparked his creativity.

"Love is always something very inspiring. I met my partner about a year ago and I'm in a very full relationship right now," he says. "So that has been very inspiring."

Follow CBC Music's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok feeds on Tuesday, Sept.19, for live updates on the Polaris Music Prize and 2023 winner. Highlights from the Polaris Music Prize will air on CBC Music Live on Friday, Sept. 22, at 2 p.m. (2:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Radio One and CBC Listen, and Monday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. (6:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Music and CBC Listen.

Text that reads 'CBC Music Presents Polaris Music Prize 2023' over a textured, charcoal background with red lava-like lines.
The 2023 Polaris Music Prize winner will be announced on Sept. 19. (CBC Music, Polaris Music Prize)