“Raw Rez-n-Roll”: An Interview with Jim Boyd

Posted By PowWows.com July 22nd, 2013 Last Updated on: July 22nd, 2013

Tribal Leader. Popular Musical Artist. Father. Grandfather. All of these words describe Jim Boyd, a vibrant Colville recording artist.  Recently, Jim Boyd shared his perspective on his music, his family and his role in his community in a transparent, soul-searching interview.

Q: How would you describe your music? What distinguishes your sound?


I would describe my music as mostly Native American Contemporary, or sometimes as I describe it as “Raw Rez-N-Roll”.  I love so many genres and have always had a very hard time sticking to just one.  I've utilized various forms of folk, rock, blues, country, jazz, traditional, old R&B, and everything in between.  My recordings are so mixed with genres at times that it's hard to categorize, but no matter what genre, it still keeps a rez story, topic, or music to it.

Q: With an awesome career like yours, there should be a good story behind it. Can we hear it?

I've been fortunate in that my music career has lasted a very long time, and honestly I've tried many times to leave the business throughout the years.  When I was younger, I would try to find other careers mainly because it's what “society” tells you to do.  “get a real job.”  In fact, my first college degree was in Commercial Music & Jazz Studies, and my second was a Small Business Management degree to basically get out of the music business, but it got me more focused to promote and develop goals, objectives, strategies, and manage myself with some direction.

It became fun to promote and manage my own career, and you find that if you don't market yourself, then you need someone else to do this for you.  Being in the music business sometimes allows you to forget that it is a business and not just art.

But what became difficult was that through time, I made the business about 95%, and the music only about 5%, and that took its toll.  I had to take a break from the music business because the business side and all the contracts would consume me.  Although I liked it, it still became overwhelming.

I still love writing, producing, recording, and marketing my music, but I don't have as much time as I used to to do this.

I am an elected leader of the Colville Confederated Tribes nowadays, which takes up most of my time, so the performances I still do are for the most part political in nature.  But this work, although important, definitely makes me miss the music, so I am booking here and there.  I'm back to being a weekend musician, and having some fun with it again.

Q:Who do you hope to influence through your music? Who influences you musically these days?

Most of the time I just write what inspires me, or I'll write something for my own therapy.  But there are the times I write to move people politically, like “Where's Your Honor Mr. Gorton,” which was a song to help motivate people to vote against Senator Slade Gorton, who was against so many Indian issues in those days.  Another song fitting political influences was “Bush Fires,” a goofy song set in a specific time that was about George Bush.

Various people throughout the country tell me they were influenced by my music, and that is great, but I normally don't think about that in advance while writing or recording the songs.

I have had many influences throughout my life.  I started off as a rocker loving The Beatles, Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Eric Clapton, then through the Van Halen years.  So as a guitar player during most of the early years I was influenced by guitar players.  When I started writing lyrics for my own songs, I picked up acoustic guitars instead of electric and focused on lyrics.  I love Bob Dylan and so many folk artists with their songs about historic events.  One of my biggest music and political influences was Bob Marley.  I was listening to Marley around the rez when nobody else knew who he was.  His songs are timeless.  My son Jim had me listening to Tupac at one time, I thought he was great.

The strongest influences became family, our people, and our history and culture.

I've actually had so many musical influences that it's hard to try to list them all right now.  Again, I have so many types of music and interests.

Q:Do you have a personal favorite among your CDs? Why?

I have fourteen full-length cds out and many other recorded songs, and I favor each at different times depending on my mood.  I actually have many songs that I haven't released or recorded, but I'll play them around the house, and I would consider those songs my favorites to play.  I have many goofy songs, and fun songs that I have bumped from albums because they just didn't fit, but I'll play them at home, and sometimes I'll do one live here and there.  I guess I do list to the last two in my car more than the others, Harley High & Living for the Sunny Days, but it's probably because the most recent.

I have grandchildren who listen to my songs.  Sometimes that influences which songs I listen to, or play.  That is awesome!

Q: When you dream about the next phase of your musical career, what do you see?

I've been fortunate enough to achieve many goals throughout my music career.  I've made a decent living writing, recording, performing, and marketing many releases throughout the years that weren't in the commercial or mainstream vein.  That's a tough accomplishment.  I am a little more selective on my performances these days because of time constraints.

I guess my dream about the next phase would be performing a big band, big show type of thing.  I've actually written productions for stage that would include the stick games and Pow Wows.  I've done the same with the biker side of me, but can't seem to find the time or resources to initiate a project that I would feel comfortable initiating.  I would only want to do it if it could be done right.

I also work on documentaries, and would like to continue producing works that focus on who we are as Native People.  Our people are very strong culturally, and we need to continue to tell our stories and maintain our identities through all media formats that become available to us, to help us remember our history, and as tools to help teach our children to remember who they are.

Q:Your music is very enduring. Why do you think you enjoy such longevity with your listeners?

I am so grateful for my listeners who have stuck around for so many years, and for the new listeners.  It amazes me when a young boy or girl even has a clue of who I am, with the saturation of commercial music out there at this time.

When I started writing my own music, it was more for dealing with my own issues, and it took me a long time to share my songs, because I didn't think anyone else could relate, or would even want to listen for that matter.  This was that low self-esteem issue that was apparent throughout my life.

As a musician, I started by playing commercial music by rockers, and I would sing these songs but didn't know all the words.  Those days were all about the guitar for me, and I always said if you had something to say write a book.  Then I started writing my own very personal songs that I never intended to record, but later did.  Since they definitely weren't main-stream oriented, I didn't think anyone would listen to them.  The big surprise was that many people would relate to these songs, and many are still listening.

I guess I'm just not sure why I've maintained a good listener base, but I'm sure glad that I have, and I am very grateful for these listeners.

Q: Do you have particular songs that have special meaning to you and for you? Tell us about some of those?

In 2006, my son Jim Junior committed suicide at the age of twenty four.  This crushed me, and I've probably written at least fifteen songs about Jim.  One of them is on the Living for the Sunny Days release, called “Please,” and that is at the top of the list as special meaning songs.

I've written many songs about people in my life, one is my good friend Franco, who passed away from cancer earlier this year.  He was a man with such a great heart, and awesome athlete throughout his life.  The song “Legend of Franco” came out, I think it was 2005.  When I played the song throughout the country, people would actually ask me if Franco was a real person.  He was a very real person and he'll be missed now that he passed away in February.

The song “Them old Guitars” was about bass player Jerry Stensgar who passed away at the age of 50.  We had started learning music together as young kids, and continued playing throughout so many years, that's another very special song for me.

I have many songs like “We Are Sinixt,” which is a song about who we are as Arrow Lakes People, now on the Colville Indian Reservation.  There are other Sinixt People with many different tribes in the US and throughout British Columbia, which was our original territory.  My great grand father's family was basically run out of this territory in the early 1900's, then later the only reserve that was set aside for Arrow Lakes (Sinixt) People was declared extinct by the  Canadian Government.  The song “We Are Sinixt” is a song saying we're still here.  The Canadian Government continues to divide our people their politics of aboriginal title rights, and I hope that one day we can unite our people again as Arrow Lakes People throughout.

Wow, I could go on all day regarding songs that have special meaning about our people and issues.  I've also got the songs about grandkids, my mom, and so many people close to me.

Q:Do you have any special memories of your musical career that you can share ?

There are so many memories in my music career that I can share, as well as memories I can't share (haaa).

I've had the opportunity to perform with people that I admire like Bonnie Raitt, and heroes like Joe Cocker, and many more.  I've performed at awesome places like The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Europe, many casinos, and festivals throughout the country.

But the best memories have more to do with the family support that I've gotten throughout the years from my wife, mom, kids, siblings, and grand kids.  That's why I was able to be around for so long, that's what kept me going.

Q: What's the greatest moment you ever enjoyed in your life? What experience did you learn the most from?

I have actually been fortunate enough to have many great moments in my life.  All my kids are grown and I have ten grand children, so with them I have “Greatest Moments” almost every day I'm around them.  That is what keeps me almost sane nowadays.

And what I learn from them is to enjoy life, and be grateful.  I am a very lucky man to have all the family I have, and live where I live.

I have worked very hard as a singer/songwriter all over, and enjoyed my career.  Now I am able to focus more locally as a tribal leader on our people and the issues around our Colville Reservation.  Traveling around the States and Europe has allowed me to see how fortunate we are in comparison to some other tribes.  I am very grateful and hope our people can recognize this also.  These are tough times, and we need to stand together or we may see even harder times as Indian people.

Q:What are you interested in besides music these days?

I am now a tribal leader for the Colville Confederated Tribes.  This is very challenging as well as fulfilling.  With the economy being what it is today, especially on Indian reservations, there is so much less hope, and people really are suffering.  There are extremely high unemployment rates and it is a challenge finding the resources necessary for positive change, but you work at it everyday.  Our people are rightfully frustrated, and our fourteen member tribal council has a tough responsibility to find a path that will impact our people and land in a positive manner.  Trying to work responsibly isn't always the most popular position for a tribal leader.

Q:What do you think people see when they first see you? What will they miss if they just go by first impressions?

That's a tough question.  I mentioned that I've had bouts with low self-esteem throughout my life, so In my mind, more times than not I think they are a little more negative as a first impression, but I've actually conditioned myself to not be concerned with “what I think others think.”  It's just not healthy.

Q:Okay, then what do you think listeners hear when they first hear your music? What will they miss if they don't take a second listen?

My music is so far from commercial or mainstream that it's less important to me if they listen to my music as a “hit.”  Throughout my original music career, there are people that come up and say “you're going to make it,” or “you're going to be a star someday.”  These people don't realize that when you have dedicated yourself to NOT play or write commercial or mainstream music, you aren't looking to become a star.  But I do hope they hear a message that they may need to hear, and I think that is what they will miss if they don't take a second listen

Dr. Dawn Karima Pettigrew with Jim Boyd. (Photo by Marina Robbins)

Dr. Dawn Karima Pettigrew with Jim Boyd. (Photo by Marina Robbins)

Q:Who's your “dream team” band musically? You can create a band of past&present performers…who's in it?

That would depend on the project, but I always thought it would be cool to get a Native group together with friends like Derek Miller, Keith Secola, Bill Miller, Alfonso Kolb, and guys like that to go out and do a tour.  I'm sure that would be fun as we've all worked together at various times, but it would be awesome to get them all together.

Q: How can we find your music or connect with you?

Right now you can find my music mostly through CD Baby.  and many digital download sites li iTunes.  I am hoping to get the cds back in stores, but it's slow going right now until I can find more time to focus on the distribution.  I started dissolving Thunderwolf Records, but am now in the process of bringing it back.

Probably the best way to find my music and connect with me is through thunderwolfrecords.com.

Q:What do you wish we knew about you and about your music right now that we don't?
Tell us, please.

I guess I wish people new how passionate I am about the music and issues that I write about.  It is such a contradiction for me asI grew up being an introvert and kind of a shy guy, and it is still hard for me to get on stage at times.  But my love for music would always force me on stage, and I don't think that will never change.

Nowadays, I can handle it much better, and go into a zone that brings me to another place on stage.  But I am still terrified at times.  But the smaller or more intimate the crowd is, the harder it is for me.  Huge crowds are very easy to play.  Wow, on the other hand I guess I'm not sure that I want people to know this.

Thank you so much for sharing with us. We look forward to more great music from you.

Dr. Dawn Karima Pettigrew (Creek/Cherokee) is a NAMMY winning recording artist, who hosts A CONVERSATION WITH DAWN KARIMA, a Native American radio program that airs on TalktainmentRadio.com and its affiliates. Her home is the Qualla Boundary Reservation in North Carolina.

Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia.
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Arnie Marchand

I knew Jim through his father, whom I worked with and his mom who was a Tribal COuncilperson. Both were very good and kind people and have a sense of commitment. Jim is the result of their parenting and he has proven, through hard work, that you can be what you want to be if you work at it! Those of us who know Jim are very proud of him and his success both in the musical industry and in Tribal Government. His music is worth listening too and his judgement in Tribal affairs proves that he listens very well to all aspects of every issue. He is a good man, a good Indian Man.

Brandi Desautel

I’m sorry but he tries to call himself a tribal leader? I have known Jim my whole life, we use to sit and have breakfast with him and my grandfather all the time. Jim says being on the council takes up most of his time but yet he went on tour instead of being here for council after he was voted in. Also, I have read posts on our council page and people in the tribe ask all the time who is Jim Boyd? We didnt know he was on the council. He has no voice with the tribe considering half of them dont know who he is.

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