Two area musicians, both part of the Lac du Flambeau Band, recently took part in the prestigious Indian Summer Music Awards in Milwaukee. Contemporary singer/songwriter Paco Fralick and singer/songwriter Kelly Jackson made the trip to Milwaukee on Sept. 7-9.

Paco Fralick

For Fralick, Rhinelander, this was his second year attending the three-day festival. The event earned him three awards in the country, folk and spiritual categories. While there, he gave seven solo performances, at times sharing the stage with fellow Lac du Flambeau tribal member and award-winning artist Kelly Jackson. He also performed with Wade Fernandez, Jan Michael Looking Wolf, Victoria Shoemaker and Melissa Horner.

Fralick blends country, folk, pop and Native Americana. He plays guitar, fiddle, piano and harmonica. He released his first album, “Letting Go,” in 2017.

Fralick had a total of nine songs nominated in blues, country, folk and spiritual categories. Those he was awarded included Best Folk Song — “Women and Water” (featuring friend Michael Bucher), Best Country Song — “I’m Moving On” and Best Spiritual Song  — “In Seven Generations.”

Fralick is currently preparing for his next big event, his first-ever visit to the 18th annual Native American Music Awards (NAMA) on Oct. 12 at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino in Niagara Falls, New York. The NAMA is the most prestigious award show for Native American music. 

“The song that is getting the most traction is ‘Women and Water,’ which I co-wrote with Michael Bucher,” Fralick noted. Bucher, Cherokee, lives in Birchwood and is a three-time NAMA winner, Fralick said. The friends share a unique bond. 

“I saw Michael play at Indian Summer about 15 years ago and thought someday I’d like to meet him and be able to perform on the Miller Stage in Milwaukee,” Fralick recalled. “About three years ago, I met him when we were both performing for a Women and Water Symposium in Lac Courte Oreilles. We became instant friends, but I lost track of him. I found out he had a tragic accident and lost three fingers on a table saw and wasn’t playing music. I called him and said, ‘Mike we should write a song together.’ About nine months went by, and one day he sent me half of this song.”

Bucher and Fralick performed that song live at Nicolet College in Rhinelander as part of Fralick’s debut CD release party. They’d also play together on Milwaukee’s Miller Stage this summer — a dream come true for Fralick. 

“It was really a great moment,” Fralick said. “This song is so special to me not only because of the message it carries, but also because of the back story and all of the healing it has brought to both Mike and me.”

Fralick was about five years old when he first started playing piano, but his love of music began well before that. 

“My dad (Len Fralick) played four to five nights out a week,” he said. “He was always playing around the house, so I was surrounded by music, even when in Mom’s belly.” 

Fralick took piano and violin lessons as a child, and, as a teenager, picked up the bass guitar and started playing with a band. He’d seen his father play for a crowd when he was 16 and “… that’s when I decided I wanted to play in a band … I have a lot of great memories with my dad.” Fralick said his band wouldn’t make a lot of money, but they did have a lot of fun.  

In college, Fralick began writing music. As a freshman, he penned, “Daddy, When Are You Coming Home?” as a tribute to his grandfather, honoring him for overcoming alcoholism. 

Fralick graduated from dental school, got married and had children but always kept music close to his heart. 

“All along the way, I wrote songs,” he said. “I feel like it kept me grounded. The stress of college and of living in the city … (music) was always around in some fashion.”

Fralick said he was inspired by spiritual dreams to begin a dental clinic in Lac du Flambeau when he was 37. 

“That Native side of me just woke up,” he recalled. “It changed my focus and my priorities. It’s been a blessing for me.”

When Fralick stepped away from that clinic, he said he had a lot of energy that needed to be refocused. That focus would go back towards one of his first loves, music, even though it had been awhile since he’d been writing or performing. 

“I felt a void, music filled that void,” Fralick said. “I was like, ‘Wow, it’s still there.’”

Fralick recorded at Clear Blue Studios in Tomahawk and later recorded at Whitehouse Productions in Wausau.

“I really do enjoy the production side,” Fralick observed. “I record all the parts of myself. It was also nice to incorporate other musicians … all the songs are quite different. Relationships, things I’ve witnessed or seen, emotions. When I write, I sit down and get my mind out of the way … I never know what’s going to come out. It’s an adventure.”

When not performing or writing, Fralick still enjoys working as a dentist at his private practice in Rhinelander or as a dentist at Mole Lake. Fralick was instrumental in creating and establishing the dental practice still thriving in Lac du Flambeau. 

At the upcoming NAMAs, Fralick is nominated in five categories: Best Folk, Best Americana, Album of the Year, Best Male Artist and Best Narrative Video of the Year. Voting is open to the public, and they may vote by visiting www.nativeamericanmusicawards.com/vote-now. 

Of earning the recent awards, Fralick observed it is both humbling and a validation of his hard work. 

“The award is also given to all those who recorded with me,” Fralick said. “Every single song brings up different emotions and memories. All those emotions come to life in music. All the struggles, all life’s little challenges. Every song is special and different, just like the awards.”

More information about Fralick can be found at www.pacofralick.

com.



Kelly Jackson

International award-winning artist Kelly Jackson, Lac du Flambeau, currently has two albums to her name, “Spirit of a Woman” and “Renditions of the Soul.” She performed onstage at the Indian Summer Music Awards with Fralick this year, where she attended to support him and celebrate the event.

“Music has always been medicine for me,” Jackson said. “You can listen to a song and it takes you back to a memory or a thought … I liked that you can leave a legacy behind through music. There’s still that legacy, that’s something that’s really important to me.”

Jackson performs folk, jazz, country, hip hop and rock, all infused with native influences including drums, shakers, bells and the native flute. Through her music, Jackson aims to promote healing, self-empowerment, environmental protection and cultural reflection, she noted.

“It’s about lifting ourselves as a community,” Jackson said of her passion for music. “To be more uplifting, aspiring … it’s a huge part of my message, to mindfully lift as we climb.”

Jackson has been nominated for NAMAs in prior years. She was nominated for her debut album, “Spirit of a Woman” in five separate categories. In 2012, she earned the prestigious “Best Americana Album of the Year.” In 2017, she was nominated for “Song/Single of the Year” and “Best Music Video Performance” for her song, “Wake Up,” a song focused on being environmentally-conscious. 

Jackson has taken a breather this year, spending time on her music but also on her family and continuing to be an active tribal advocate and philanthropist. She is the co-founder of Spirit of a Woman, a non-profit organization providing personal and professional development for women and girls. Additionally, Jackson has been instrumental in launching and maintaining Indigenous Girls Rock Camp, a 7-day empowerment music camp for girls 8 to 18. Attendees learn an instrument as well as performance leadership with female music instructors, learn about forming a band and writing original song and performing live. 

“It’s a way to inspire women to get involved, there are not a lot of women in it,” Jackson said. The program offers retreats, development opportunities, scholarships and more.  

Born in the Wausau area, Jackson moved to the Lac du Flambeau area around 19 where she raised her family and worked in the area where she applied her talents as tribal preservation officer to historic preservation, including the center that stands today. It was that center which inspired her first album, “Spirt of a Woman.”

“That was where my passion to continue music came from,” Jackson observed. 

Jackson’s love for music began when she was a child — her father and uncles all were musicians and she started out in singing and vocals. 

“Music has been in my life as long as I can remember,” she noted. 

As a teenager, Jackson picked up guitar and also learned the drums. 

Her debut album would release in 2012 and go on to be the NAMA winner for best Americana Album of the Year. Her next, “Renditions of the Soul,” also went on to gain national recognition. 

“It’s really been a great jumpstart,” she said. “Music for me is mostly about celebrating my heritage, culture and community … I enjoy sharing my culture.”

She currently lives in Madison, where she is still active in historic and cultural preservation, the non-profit girls’ camp program as well as her music — which takes her on the road locally, nationally and sometimes internationally. She also has strong family priorities and bonds.  

Jackson will not be attending the NAMA ceremony in New York this year. She is currently working on more music as well as being a mother, grandmother and advocate for tribal affairs. 

Find more about Jackson at www. http://spiritofanikwe.com.