By Jason Schneider.
When Kelly Fraser released the song “Rebound Girl” in the summer of 2019, it marked a major creative step forward for the JUNO-nominated, Nunavut-born singer and Inuit rights activist who first gained national attention through her Inuktitut-language interpretations of such hits as Rhiannon’s “Diamonds.” “Rebound Girl” found her coming into her own as a pop artist, and was intended to lay the groundwork for a full album she planned to record in early 2020.
Tragically, Fraser took her own life on Christmas Eve, 2019, the result of years coping with PTSD, racism and cyber-bullying. Fraser’s passing dealt a devastating blow to the Indigenous music community, and especially her Toronto-based producer Marc Meriläinen, aka Nadjiwan. To acknowledge the one-year anniversary of Kelly’s death, Marc decided to re-record “Rebound Girl” with several of the musicians who played on the original version, along with his sons Fox and Cole serving as the rhythm section. In re-imagining the song in an elegiac fashion, Marc not only offers a moving tribute to Kelly, but brings the song back to her original vision.
Nadjiwan's "Rebound Girl" will be released Friday, Dec. 25 via Heading North Music, and on all digital platforms.
For Marc, recording a new version of “Rebound Girl” also became an important way for him and others close to Kelly to deal with the void she left behind. “Kelly was a role model not only to people in her home community but for young and emerging Indigenous musicians everywhere,” he says.
In his own way, the ever-prolific Meriläinen has become a role model for young Indigenous artists as well, having released six albums and four EPs as Nadjiwan since 1995 that have earned numerous Indigenous music awards and nominations, and led to many high-profile live appearances, such as the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the 2015 Pan-Am Games in Toronto. The early 2020 Nadjiwan album The Dog Lake Sessions was described by Exclaim! in its 9/10 review as “a vibrant narrative told through the movement of intense feelings.” It was followed later in the year by the Nadjiwan “lockdown” EP Anomalous, featuring live versions of previously released tracks, along with a new song written specifically for the project.
In 2021 Nadjiwan will release Star Nation — described as a “space-rock opera”—along with an album of cover songs that he plans to start working on in the summer. But with "Rebound Girl," he has fulfilled a promise to Kelly Fraser that he would record the song in the way they originally wrote it.