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Making a Name for Himself

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Two years ago, in August 2017, Indigenous musician and singer Jesse Genaille sat down with the Star and Times to talk about mental health, PTSD and how music was saving his life.
Genaille, who performs classic country music, was having a hard time following the death of his son-in-law and found solace behind a microphone stand with a guitar in his hands.
First performing for the public in 2014, Genaille has evolved from performing in local personal care homes to performing on provincial stages – all while still holding on to his musical roots.
“I’ve been playing all over the place – southern Manitoba, northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan – taking part in talent contests and festivals wherever I can.
“I was a finalist for GX94 Star Search twice – in 2018 and 2019 – and on the Swan Valley Credit Union Talent Stage. And, I was a semi-finalist in a new contest for Countryfest last year where I was picked out of hundreds and got to perform at McPhillips Street Station Casino in Winnipeg.”
While Genaille predominantly plays covers of the classics, he has a few of his own tunes that he puts into rotation once in a while.
“I wrote a couple of songs and I’ve sang them at a couple events but I want to record them before I start performing them too often,” he said.
“What I write isn’t the same as what I perform though. It still has a bit of a classic sound but more up-to-date.
“I probably shouldn’t confess this but a lot of what I sing is not on my iPod playlist,” laughed Genaille. “My voice is the right fit for classic country and I enjoy the stories that are told as you sing the songs so that’s why I perform what I do.”
Five years ago Genaille never thought that music would take him to the places it has today.
“In addition to playing by myself, I’m now playing with a band – The Gambler Boys out of Camperville – and we are playing as many gigs as we can,” said Genaille, noting that he is still spending a good amount of time in the community.
“I volunteer with Youth Matters in Camperville. We are trying to steer youth in the right direction. Rather than just hanging around and getting into trouble we are trying to teach them music, getting up on stage and learning self-esteem and confidence.
“I also lead a karaoke night at the local Legion most months,” he continued. “It’s amazing to see the people of all ages stepping on the stage for the first time to sing in front of people. It feels great to be a part of giving them that experience.
“And, I still play the senior homes. That’s where I started playing and I can’t just stop because I feel I’m bigger than that. I don’t – I still enjoy watching them sing along to my music and see their faces light up.”
Playing many gigs in small-town Saskatchewan as of late, Genaille noted that he has made the best fans in both there and Manitoba throughout the years.
“At the rodeo I was given a gift from someone in the stands that I didn’t really even know,” said Genaille, noting how amazing these occurrences are to him. “And, I just received a message from a Facebook friend whose grandma is a big fan and wants to meet me.
“It’s the greatest feeling when people start paying attention, and maybe start clapping for you, and you see them tapping their feet and the smiles. Your confidence just goes right up and it drives you to do the best you can when you're on stage.
“As soon as I go on stage it’s like I become somebody different,” he continued. “I have a lot of confidence and I’m really getting used to being up in front of people and performing. It’s an amazing feeling to be appreciated and recognized for what you are doing.
“Locally, it’s exciting to be the home town guy on the talent stages and the community supports me.”
Mental health wise, Genaille has also come a long way in the last two years.
“I’m still in counselling and I’m still learning from what they have taught me – how to spot triggers and how to manage myself,” he said.
“Things are getting way better. Time has helped me out and learning how to handle my mental state has made all the difference. I get a little manic still – where my mind is racing and I don’t know how to get it out – but each time it happens I learn how to handle it better.
“I keep so busy all summer and I know I’m going to start dreading the leaves changing colour but it helps to talk about it,” Genaille continued. “I’m not afraid to tell my story on stage and let people know what I’ve been through and how far I have come with the help of music.
“I want people to know they aren’t alone and it’s OK to ask for help.”
As for his future in music, Genaille is just taking it day by day.
“I don’t know what I’m looking for with this,” he said. “I just hope to keep going.
“When people think of singers from Swan River I want to be one of the names that comes to mind. And, I hope to record some of the songs I wrote some day.
“My goal is to win Star Search,” he continued. “Next year is my final year. I'm going to do it.”
At 49 years old Genaille is just getting started and sees a lot of potential still ahead.
“Sometimes people think that, because of my age, I've been around a long time,” he said. But, this is like the first chapter in the new book for me. I haven’t even gotten to second chapter yet. And, things are just getting going.
“People ask me what I want out of it. What does anybody who does this want? You want to entertain people!
“I also want for youth to see me and realize that I’m First Nation – maybe like they are – and they too could pick up a guitar and change the direction that their life is going in,” Genaille continued.
“I want to be a role model and I want to make a difference in the lives of the people I perform for.”