No Regrets: Chester Knight
By Frank Kusch
with permission from
Chester Knight sits comfortably in his office chair where he serves as an academic councillor for the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, and thinks about the past and the road that has led to this moment in his life.
He smiles a lot and has a good reason to do so.
With two albums and a JUNO award under his belt, his music career is doing well. But while he enjoys the success of recent months just being able to play music has usually been rewarding enough. It was something that came early in his life.
" I grew up with three older brothers who were really into music: they had a band when they were kids, and they would play when my father had people over to the house," recalls Knight. "He encouraged it and I noticed that they would get lots of attention- good positive-strokes and it was something that I knew I wanted to do."
Born on Muskoday First Nation, Knight grew up in the town of Duck Lake, Sk., and admitted that there was little for him to do as a kid. To keep himself occupied he picked up the guitar and without any lessons, learned to play.
"It was really exciting. I was about thirteen or fourteen, and there must have been this idea in the back of my mind that I was going to make something out of music someday - almost like a premonition, because I would draw pictures of myself on stage under the stage lights, and even with a pose I use now, which at one point in the show, I stretch out my arms really wide- I used to draw myself doing that."
Knight said that despite that glimpse into the future he never thought that he had any particular talent.
"I just loved to be able to write music and put out words to the melodies I was creating, and loved that simple process."
Knight soon began to play in the band his older brothers Harvey, Peter and Orville had, playing top 40 music for dances and clubs. He would sometimes slip in a tune that he had written. The first time he realized that some of his material was actually pretty good is when someone told him that he could not have written that song because it was too good.
"I realized then that I might have some talent as a song writter when someone believes that the song was too good for me to have wrote it. That's when I thought I had something."
Knight, along with his band The Wind, find themselves on the road more and more these days, and they are also hearing themselves over the airwaves.
"Yes, I'm getting more radio play, especially in the States, where there are several big Indigenous stations from Montana all the way down to Navaho country down in Arizona. There are lots of crossover stations that play my stuff, especially from the first album."
His music is also getting more air play in European countries such as Italy, and Germany and there are plans in the works for a trip to Europe and Australia.
Knight, however, is not concerned that he lacks the backing of a major record label.
"The independant labels these days are much better off than when they once were," says Knight. "Things are much more connected, and with the internet it is much easier to keep track of the business."
Knight believes that nothing is to be gained by seeking out large labels as they come to artists when they are ready.
"We are doing well on our own with Falcon's Dream Records. We are meeting our short term and long term objectives and I'm happy with what I've been able to accomplish."
Today the 43 year old singer and song writer finds inspiration for his music in the people he meets each day and for the particular struggles Aboriginal people face in society.
"I meet a lot of young people on the street; they recognize me and tell me that they look up to me and respect what I do, and that's important," says Knight. "We don't have enough role models that people can identify with and want to aspire to do better things. I want to reach out to people - people who are plagued with alcohol and drugs."
Knight says that he wants to draw some attention to the problems that Aboriginal people experience through his music, and educate the public on some of the things that have happened to Native people in the past in this country and thereby making them more aware of issues today. He is quick to point out, however, that he likes to remain positive and not to become preachy.
"At the end of my songs there is always a feeling of hope- you always want to give people hope."
One of the things that gives Knight hope and inspiration, is his role at SIFC.
"I see lots of single mothers here finishing their education, studying - making themselves better people - that gives me satisfaction seeing them graduate, learn, succeed. That influences what I write."
Knight admits that he has received a lot more attention since he won the JUNO award, but still can't quite believed it happened.
"It took a few months for it to sink in that I had won," says Knight. "And still today, I have a hard time believing it."
Knight says he is gratified that he was given the honor, but just playing his music and having the chance to record the albums were reward enough.
"I wanted to publish what I had written. What I really did not want to do was get to the end of my life and never taken the chance at getting my songs out there - I didn't want to have any regrets in my life."
Two additional articles that appeared in the Eagle Feather News:
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