An Oji-Cree artist from Garden Hill First Nation in northern Manitoba who is making waves across the country is now being recognized as one of Canada’s best young musicians.
Matthew Monias, also known by his stage name Mattmac, is the grand prize winner of Canada’s Walk of Fame RBC Emerging Musician Program.
“Receiving this award has been absolutely great,” Monias said in an interview on CBC Manitoba’s Up To Speed on Thursday.
“It presents itself with many opportunities to network and grow and take this music career to a whole different level.”
Born blind, Monias started out rapping in his home in Garden Hill First Nation, about 475 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and recently taught himself to play guitar and piano.
Mattmac uses assistive technology to make music. Without it, he says it would be much more difficult for artists with disabilities like himself. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)
Since launching his music career in 2016, Monias has worked with Grammy and Juno Award-winning artist Nelly Furtado. His music has been streamed more than 800,000 times across platforms.
He believes accessibility in music for people with disabilities has come a long way.
Monias uses assisted technology to convert text to speech, which helps him navigate all of his social media platforms and apps that he uses to produce music.
“What you hear if you go to my Spotify profile or wherever you listen to your music, a lot of what you hear is done by me. Without the technology and without the added accessibility features, I wouldn’t be able to make music like I am today,” he said.
As the grand prize winner, Mattmac will receive a cash prize of $20,000, performance opportunities at Canada’s Walk of Fame events and private studio recording time at the renowned Metalworks Studios.
“I’m still blown away,” Monias said. “My friends and family, they were all ecstatic. They were just bursting with joy.”
Advice to young artists
He says time, effort and patience are key for young artists wanting to follow in his footsteps.
“Without neither of them, it’s going to be a bit difficult and it’s going to make it seem like you’re not moving. But if you maintain all three, you’ll get where you want to be,” he said.
“Keep at it and achieve that dream.”
The second place winner is pop singer Jordan Hart of Toronto, whose debut EP, Only Pieces of the Truth, is out now.
The three other finalists were Mindflip from Gatineau, Cassie Dasilva from Orillia, Ont., and Benjamin Dakota Rogers from Brantford, Ont.