Leela Gilday has been a recognized musician for two decades – but her fifth studio album North Star Calling makes her a double Juno Award nominee.
Gilday is up for both the Indigenous artist or group of the year, and the contemporary roots album of the year.
“I was quite surprised because in the past it has been more mainstream artists to be nominated in that category,” Gilday said. “I feel like the nominations in that category speak to the kind of shift that’s happened in at least in the minds of jurors and cares and maybe the minds of others.”
It’s also the first time she’s been nominated outside of the Indigenous Artists category.
Gilday told APTN News she followed her heart instead of adhering to conventional album cycles which demand a quick turnaround between work.
Instead, North Star Calling came together over the course of five years.
“It was sort of a period I was struggling a lot with various personal battles,” Gilday said. “I think at the time that I decided to make the album that was finally when I felt that things had crystalized for me and that the music that I was writing was finally saying the things that I needed to say.”
It’s an album deeply connected to her Denendeh roots illustrated by soundscapes she’s recorded throughout the years with material from elders, drumdances and more.
“It’s subtle but to me it stands out so strongly. I guess to me this album is more deeply connected to denendeh and to my own roots in the Shatu and to the people here,” she said.
Gilday noted a lot of consideration went into including the soundscapes to ensure she did so in a good way.
“I really was at a point where there was no choice but to include those things. I felt that it was really appropriate to include those things and it grounded those messages that I included on the album,” Gilday said.
When she’s not recording she’s also promoting the voices of other Indigenous artists through advocacy work.
Gilday is consulting with music colleagues across Turtle Island on the creation of a national Indigenous music office aimed at ensuring musical sovereignty for Indigenous artists in the industry.
“We’re the only industry without a specific national Indigenous office,” Gilday said. “There’s been a long history of identity politics and the implications it has on Indigenous artists. Whose voices gets prioritize, who takes up space, who gets the grants, who has a voice at the table.”
The Juno Awards will take place Sunday June 6, 2021.