Ray Villebrun, Nehiyaw/Cree, was born in Green Lake, Saskatchewan. He lived in Green Lake until he was eight years old. His family then moved to Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. His love for music and the desire to play started at the age of six. His father taught him fiddle at the age of eight. Later, Ray Villebrun turned more towards the guitar. His mother, possibly more to humour him than invest in him made him a guitar from an old cardboard box. He played this till he wore it out.
Villebrun has played in various bands for almost four decades. His earliest influences included Hank Williams, Johnny Horton, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, and the great fiddler, John Arcand. He was introduced to rock at about 12-13 years old. Since the age of 13, his dream was to record and release his own original music.
Villebrun formed the Red Blaze Band in 1994 and commenced to tour throughout the western regions of Canada. In 1997 he released an all-original CD called Memories and Daydreams. Produced by Turtle Island Music of Saskatchewan, the album includes eleven songs, all but two being written by Villebrun. He does the lead vocal work and plays guitar. All the songs were written from the heart based on the living experiences that Villebrun has had. In 1998, Memories and Daydreams was nominated for a “North American Aboriginal Music Award” in Albuquerque, NM.
His next CD was titled, Sound of Thunder. Villebrun wrote, arranged, and produced the eleven-song album. The album was nominated and won two awards at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in November of 2001. He won “Best Country Album” and “Song of the Year” for the song, “I Found Her Tonight.” The music is original and will keep your feet tapping. To date a number of his songs have reached No. 1 hit level on various radio stations and many have been in the top ten. Turtle Island Music released their next album in 2006.
Villebrun has continued to apply the skills he has learned to continue growth in the Canadian Indigenous music scene and industry. He has also been finding the time to pass on the knowledge he has acquired in the field of music and art. The Red Blaze Band currently consists of Ray Villebrun, Cris Villebrun Tootoosis, Lance Campeau, Greg E. Edmonds, and Robin Turner. Performing original music, classic country, and a dash of fiddle music, the band located at Poundmaker Cree Nation continues to appear regularly at events.
Memories and Daydreams, Turtle Island Records TIM 30020, 1997
Sound of Thunder, Independent, 2001.
Ray Villebrun & Red Blaze – Been Awhile, Turtle Island Music, TIM 30086, 2006.
In His Own Words
When I incorporate traditional sounds into my music, I am to a degree familiar with both Pow Wow and Round-dance. I’ll take some of the sounds associated with that music and put it in beside or underneath my original music to lend it flavour. Usually when the storyline in the song is descriptive of either our way of life or some historic element of our lives, sounds such as drum or actual Pow Wow or round dance vocables are being sung. In the future I would like to take the time to write a project totally in Cree which is my first and preferred language. It would take some time because I would want to get as close with the timing and syllables sung as I possibly can. Not an easy task as our languages are spoken using a very different rhythm from the English language. Therefore [it is] harder to balance for 4/4 music.
When my time in the musical picture of life is done, I hope I can lay claim to a fact that I was one of those instrumental in the world realizing that, “Music is Music” given to us as a gift meant for use and applicable to life in a good way. Not to be owned or defended, nor restricted to capital and financial gain [but] to be shared openly and unconditionally. Only then will it pay its dividends by way of blessings and eye-opening experiences that will give us the necessary teachings enabling us to advance in the overall picture of life.
Contact Information & Links
13 videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtxJmqHQ5MmDW-bO5cTgpFrfQw_ybcsIi [Last accessed 23/01/2019]