Singer-songwriter and Native American Music Award winner Annie Humphrey celebrated the release of her first record (The Heron Smiled, Makoche’ Recording Company) at the Cedar Cultural Center in 2001. She is closing a circle by returning to The Cedar to release her newest album “The Beast in the Garden” this Sunday. In advance of her show on September 24th, we spoke with Annie about activism, the new album, her openers The Long Hairs Collective, and her inspirations. Read the interview below, and get tickets for the show here.
Q: You celebrated the release of your first record The Heron Smiled at The Cedar in 2000, which earned you the title of “Best Folk Recording” and “Female Artist of the Year” at the Native American Music Awards. Now you’re coming full circle by returning for the release of The Beast in the Garden. How do you feel you’ve evolved and changed as an artist in that time?
A: Actually, it goes further back than The Heron Smiled release in 2000. When I was 19 years old, I performed at an AIM (American Indian Movement) anniversary at the Cedar. The late Chuck Robertson was the emcee. I’m turning 51 next month, so it was a long time ago. I’ve changed so much, I don’t know where to begin. I guess I’ve just gotten older, climbing my 4th hill of life. When I get to the top I’ll be able to see much further than I did at age 19 and age 32.
Q: You have championed many environmental and social causes over the years. How do you find the balance between being an artist and an activist?
A: I think, being an artist IS being an activist. John Trudell used to say “artists are going to be the high priests.”
Q: Is there anything you wish people would know about The Beast in the Garden before hearing the new album?
A: This record was written during my time in North Dakota and during my active resistance/organizing against the Enbridge Oil Company’s Line 3 reroute proposal, the Line 3 abandonment, and other expansion projects. I want people to feel empowered when they listen to this record. I feel empowered by inspiring words.
Q: The Long Hairz Collective are joining you on tour and at your show at The Cedar, and you’re being backed by a great live band. How did you choose your band and your openers?
A: I am sharing the stage with The Long Hairz collective. I met them in Detroit in 2001 They are Joe Reilly, Brian Babb, and Will Copeland. They empowered and inspired me. They are magic. People gotta come hear what they have to say.
In my band is Mark Shark, who played with John Trudell for many years. He is talented and I am so honored that he has agreed to do this show with me. Thomas X is a young man from Red Lake, MN, I met him was 13 years old. He grew up and is spreading powerful words
Q: What’s inspiring you lately?
A: I’m inspired by life and by my family. Protecting our beautiful way of life from corporate greed is even more important because of my grandsons. I want them to grow up and say “Look what Gramma helped save for us.” I come from an old school Indian Dad. I really do skin deer and net and clean my own fish, harvest wild rice, have my own sugar bush, and pick medicine. I am very fortunate to have the knowledge to do these things and I thank my mother and father for it.