William Prince stays grounded as his star goes into orbit

Since releasing his debut album Earthly Days in 2015, William Prince has been on a trajectory that has seen him reach new heights.

Singer set to play 3 shows at West End Cultural Centre this weekend

William Prince talks about touring, fatherhood and his sophomore album, Reliever, on CBC Manitoba's Information Radio Tuesday. (Warren Kay/CBC)

William Prince is living more like a king these days, though he's too self-effacing to say so.

Since releasing his debut album Earthly Days in 2015, the baritone singer-songwriter has been on a trajectory that has seen him move to new heights in the music world.

That album, which included the hit Breathless, won the 2017 Juno for contemporary roots album of the year, and sparked a big record deal and subsequent tours — including opening for legend Neil Young.

"It's everything you ask for when you're writing in small apartments by yourself and working on the craft for years and years," Prince said about the whirlwind of the past five years.

"I'm blessed to be busy. I'm the strongest I'm ever going to be right now."

Watch: William Prince performs The Spark on New Year's Eve:

William Prince | The Spark | CBC Countdown to 2020

4 years ago
Duration 4:58
Watch William Prince perform “The Spark” live from Winnipeg, Man. during Canada’s New Year’s Eve: Countdown to 2020. #CBCNYE2020 Hosted by Rick Mercer from Mallard Cottage in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada's New Year's Eve: Countdown to 2020 features Canadian music performances from across the country including Walk Off the Earth, Bryan Adams, Alan Doyle, William Prince and more.

Born in Selkirk, Man., Prince grew up in Peguis First Nation in the province's Interlake region and is now based in Winnipeg, though the road has been home more often than not.

Late last year he was on a European tour through Germany and the United Kingdom before shifting over to the United States.

"Getting to play these new places with a few hundred people in a brand new territory, that's — that's everything you ask for," he said.

He is currently featured in an article in Rolling Stone magazine and earlier this month, he made his U.S. television debut when he was featured on CBS's live show This Morning, playing Breathless as well as a pair of songs from his sophomore album, Reliever, which was released last week.

Despite the rapid orbit of his career, which has thrust him into new places and in front of new audiences, Prince said his nerves never rattle. He always finds grounding in his music and its foundation in peace, faith and love.

"I'm comfortable everywhere, you know. It's the same show, it's the same songs. It's the same intention, no matter the building, whether it was Le Garage café [in St. Boniface] all those years on Wednesday nights, or playing Centennial [Concert Hall] or playing any of these shows that I've had the opportunity to play over the past few years," he said.

"The thing that's easiest to remember is the truth and just the presentation of what I do the same each time."

Watch: William Prince performs Breathless at the CBC Music Festival:

William Prince | Breathless | CBC Music Festival

6 years ago
Duration 4:22
William Prince performs 'Breathless' from the CBC Music Festival.

He's back in Winnipeg, but that doesn't mean he gets to put up his feet — Prince has a three-year-old son, who is discovering drums and the hard rock band AC/DC.

"There's a whole world of things changing for him and yeah, he's very inspiring. It's a fascinating TV show: What's going to happen to this character next, you know? And I love that, I really do."

Prince's own father died shortly before his debut record was released, so the value of that father-son bond is playing heavily with him these days.

He described Reliever as "a transitional piece" that deals with grief and dissolution of a relationship as well as being a dad.

Prince is also set to promote the new album — which he views as the next piece in a career that is a never-ending, evolving creation —.and reconnect with his hometown community by playing three shows this weekend at the West End Cultural Centre.

"This is a huge, huge art project that's going to last me as long as I'm living, and Reliever is a chapter in that story," he said.

He's a passenger as much as a driver on this journey, he said.

"Being immersed in this right now, taking in all these sites and the ever-changing landscape of my life, presents me an opportunity every day to stay engaged with my humility."


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.

With files from Marcy Markusa