Patience is a virtue
Singer puts hunting skills to use writing music

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Apr 21/00) - Many people may not see a connection between hunting and songwriting, but they are intrinsically linked in Johnny Landry's mind.

"Hunting is good because it teaches you to be patient," Landry said in his Fort Providence home. "That's the hardest thing to learn, to be patient."

Patience is truly a virtue when writing a song can take up to three months. Landry said he constantly revises his tunes until he has them perfected.

"The music behind it has to be just right so the words will be clear," he said.

He has been in the recording studio twice before and is working on another 10 ditties he hopes to record in a Yellowknife studio before summer.

Many of his songs are based on legends and stories told by elders. Hunting, performing ceremonies and praying help him better understand the stories and inspire his creativity, he added.

Landry got his musical start at about 10 years old when his uncle, Leon Sanderson, showed him how to play the guitar. He went on to learn more while attending residential school in Fort Smith and played frequently in his spare time. Throughout his life others have offered assistance such as Albert Canadien, who taught him to sing, and Bill Carpenter, who helped him write songs. Michel Landry's tea dance songs were also an influence, he added.

He's a fan of aboriginal singers like Ernest Monias and Kashtin. He also likes country and western tunes, particularly older ones, like those by Hank Williams. He says he tries to re-work them into a more lively, two-stepping style.

It's all added up to a demand for Landry's talent. He plays roughly 10 gigs each year in the NWT from weddings to dances to spiritual gatherings.

Throughout the year, he remains committed to his music, getting up early in the morning to practice, he said.

"With music you have to practice. That's the only way to keep on top of it. There's nothing free ... you only get out of it what you put into it," he said, adding that he will perform at functions for four hours but only take one break between sets to keep his audience contented.

"You've got to look at it like a job, but you're having fun at the same time."

Landry has been instilling those sentiments into his teenaged sons Harry Joe and William, who are part of a local band, Fubar, along with Rodney Bonnetrouge, Kevin McLeod and James Bonnetrouge. They often come to the Landry home to rehearse and Johnny joins them at times.

"It's good for those kids. Music makes you listen. If you don't listen you can't learn."