If you didn’t know Jeremy Dutcher’s name before this weekend, he’s making sure you know it now. The classically trained Canadian Indigenous tenor, composer, musicologist, performer, and activist took home the Indigenous Music Album Juno Award for Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa on Saturday during the Junos Gala Dinner, delivering an impassioned two-part speech. Then, at the live broadcast on Sunday, from Budweiser Gardens in London, ON, he stunned the crowd with a gorgeous performance, complete with a show-stopping floral cape with an inscribed lining worn over a sheer black bodysuit.
“This is my first Junos and I really wanted to make a statement,” Dutcher, 28, says over the phone while on a bus back to Toronto from London. He’s celebrating the morning after his big night in true rock-star fashion: by drinking coffee and eating “good pastries.” Dutcher excitedly rattles off his inspiration for his red-carpet look between sips.
“I wanted to have a conversation between the land and the language,” says Dutcher, who was inspired by the fact that 2019 was declared the year of Indigenous languages by the UN. “I’m an Indigenous musician. Those two things — land and language — are very closely tied together. On the lining of the cape is Cree alphabet. When I opened the cape up, you can see all the writing on the inside.” It reads: We will succeed.
“For a long time, our music, identity, and our culture haven’t been valued in this country. We’re in a really big moment right now where Indigenous voices are coming forward and telling truths,” says Dutcher.
“Succeeding is just a matter of continuing to show how amazing our cultures are, how beautiful our languages are and how nice our songs are,” Dutcher explains. “It’s about unashamedly sharing who we are and walking forward in beauty.”
Dutcher purposely hid the cape lining as he walked the red carpet, saving the big reveal for his performance. “I’m fortunate to have a lot of drag queens as friends,” he laughs. “They taught me a lot about reveals.” Sitting at a piano, Dutcher threw open his cape mid-performance and, as he puts it, “the liner of the cape cascaded down the back of the bench.” As for the bodysuit, Dutcher says he’s done with having insecurities about his body and his goal was to “show it all off.”
Dutcher worked closely with two designers to bring the dramatic look together. ZOFF (Mississauga’s Michael Zoffranieri) made the cape and bodysuit and LUXX (by Cree designer Derek Jagodzinsky, who's based in Edmonton) handled the inside inscription. “I am inspired by Jeremy’s love of queer, femme, and powerful iconography, so I referenced pop diva sexy bodysuits of the ’80s and ’90s, finished with the ‘colonial’ cuffs,” Zoffranieri said in an e-mail.
Dutcher summed up his look in a way that is fitting for his entire Juno weekend: “It’s a whole f-cking moment.”
Dutcher was unapologetic when he accepted his award for Indigenous Music Album Saturday and was cut off abruptly during remarks directed at Justin Trudeau about reconciliation. Later in the gala, Arkells gave up their acceptance speech time to let Dutcher finish his. He delivered powerful words in English and Wolastoqey. Translated by the CBC, he said, “Nihkaniyayonktpitahatomonen, ciw weckuwapasihtit — Nit leyic (When you lead us, think of all of us, for the ones yet born — may that be the truth).” Watch Dutcher’s two-part speech in its entirety or read the transcript here.
Other big winners at last night’s show were Shawn Mendes, taking home five Juno Awards including Album of the Year, Arkells winning Group of the Year and Rock Album of the Year, Avril Lavigne for the Juno Fan Choice Award, and Jessie Reyez for Best R&B/Soul Recording. The rest of the 2019 Juno Award winners can be found here.