Entertainment Beat: Shades of Dawn

By Trevor Greyeyes

A few years ago, I showed up with my banjo at Joe Meconse’s birthday celebration where I first met Dawn Chartrand.

We, of course, jammed and, wow, she’s got a great voice.
Lately, I’ve noticed the band,where she’s been featured as the lead singer, has been playing more gigs around Winnipeg with her husband Jevno Chartrand, a guitar player.

So, let’s learn more about this up and coming band.

Who is Shades of Dawn?

Dawn: Shades of Dawn is a classic rock, country rock and blues band based in Winnipeg. The “Shades of Dawn” was originally a rock band in the 70’s, formed by Jevon’s late father Peter Chartrand. We chose the Shades of Dawn band name in honor and in memory of Peter.

Lead vocals/rhythm guitar – Dawn Chartrand (Rolling River FN)

Lead guitar – Jevon Chartrand (Duck Bay)

Lead guitar/harmonica/vocals – Calvin Nepinak (Pine Creek)

Bass guitar – Jeff McKenzie (OCN)

Drummer/vocals – Dean Savinkoff (Winnipeg)

Our members have been playing in bands for several years. Calvin, Jeff and Dean (along with their lead guitarist Joe Campbell) also have their own band, “Joe Maxim” – which coincidentally, is also named in honor of the founding members’ (Calvin and Curtis Nepinak) late father. Previous to The Shades of Dawn and Joe Maxim, Dawn sang with an all-female rock band,“Gurlz Gurlz Gurlz” and Jevon was a lead guitarist for Aaron Peters. Calvin also formed a band,“Slowhand” and in 2000, they earned a name for themselves as “Best Aboriginal Band in Canada” by the Canadian Arts Council in Ottawa. Jeff played bass for “Heritage”, and Dean (who has played freelance for several local musicians) was also a drummer for “Against The Grain”.

Though acquaintances through Winnipeg’s music scene, the 5 of us played together unexpectedly at a gig at the Westbrook Inn in the Fall, 2018. Since that time, we have played in several venues throughout Winnipeg and Thompson, as well as a few festivals, namely, Muddy Waters (Sandy Lake, ON), Sakihiwe Festival (Winnipeg) and Freedom Road Celebration (Shoal Lake ON).

Tell me a little about yourselves? Where are you from? Home community?

Dawn: My dad Don Genaille is a minister and me, along with my 4 siblings, were raised singing in church. I taught myself to play guitar, and played piano and guitar in church until age 16. My musical inspirations are my uncle Morris Shannacappo, and my aunt Lou Ella Shannacappo. I thought they were super stars when I was young.

Jevon: My dad was the lead singer for Shades of Dawn who inspired and encouraged me. I was very close to my dad and I wanted to be like him in every way. I taught myself to play guitar at 17.

Have you been playing around town before?

Dawn: I quit playing guitar and singing for several years & didn’t think I would again. After Jevon and I met, I was blown away by his talent. Once he learned that I used to sing, he encouraged me to pick it up again and became my biggest supporter. It wasn’t an easy road and there was a lot of rejection along the way. Jevon never let me give up. He never let me get down on myself.

We are very happy with the results of combining forces with the Joe Maxim members. It’s a great mix. We can offer a variety of musical genres and all the guys are seasoned, lifelong musicians. We have had some great opportunities come our way, and we are absolutely grateful for each. I feel that having a female lead may be a part of our attraction, but definitely not in whole. I am only as good as the musicians that back me. I definitely have some of the best.

Do you have plans to record original songs?

Dawn: Dean and Calvin are seasoned song writers. Jevon and Dawn have wrote only a handful of songs, and our goal is to have them produced as soon as we can.

Jevon: … finding a balance between being in a band, being a father, and owning a business has been a challenge. One that I need to work on all the time. It seems we are always busy. It can be difficult at times.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Dawn: I didn’t think I could be a lead singer of a band. I always knew I could sing, but my stage presence was lacking. I felt out of place in what I considered a “man’s world”. My legs shook. I forgot lyrics and by the time I was finished a song I was a sweaty, shaky mess. It took several years to learn to perform and not feel nervous. If there’s something I would like to share with other women who are interested in singing on stage and/or playing an instrument, it’s to get out there and just do it. There’s many venues that host open jams where people can go and sing or play with other musicians. There’s You Tube for free lessons in almost anything. We need more Indigenous women in this industry.

Jevno and Dawn Chartrand

For bookings, you can contact Dawn Chartrand at 204-951-2732 or via email at shadesofdawn@outlook.com. You can also “like” our FB page for more info on upcoming gigs.