After dropping a new single earlier this year, Yellowknife Dene artist Leela Gilday released her new album North Star Calling on Sept. 9 after five years of collaborating, writing and getting back on the land.
Since her last album, Gilday has been working on projects with many Indigenous artists and produced a collaborative record, all while working on her own songs.
“It’s not like I’ve been sitting around on my butt, but now is the time,” said Gilday. “I had been searching for my producer and she was the voice I was looking for to get my songs out to the world in the way that I wanted.”
Gilday said her new producer Hill Kourkoutis allowed her to harness her voic to express messages she feels the world needs to hear.
“The record has a lot of messages of healing empowerment and connecting to the land,” said Gilday. “I’ve always been influenced by where I come from, the people and the connection with the land that is so strong. It’s particularly strong with Indigenous people but it’s a human connection to where we come from and what sustains us.”
Struggling with her own demons, Gilday has been able to write an album that is semi-autobiographical but delivers messages that ring true for people across cultures.
“I draw on my culture, with Dene drums all over the record and songs from Deline that I collected from the land,” she said.
The family of a Dene elder, who had long since passed away, allowed Gilday to use a recording of her voice for the song Space.
“Those are very powerful personal indicators,” she said.
She recalled recently performing in Quebec and being approached by new fans who were moved by what she had to say.
“We’re living in a time of great transition,” she said. “We’re facing, as a species, problems so much larger than us and things we need to take action on and so messages of empowerment are truly needed at this point in history.”
Gilday draws her messages of empowerment from her time spent on the land, time that has allowed her to heal and quiet her mind, she said.
“I managed to move back to the North in 2009 after spending many years establishing myself as a musician and because I need that connection and I need to be out on my land,” said Gilday.
“I love to do things that involve traditional cultural practices like harvesting, it’s great to go out and go fishing or go trapping or hunting or even getting out to a bush tent and making a fire for tea and sitting around,” she continued. “It’s really healing and a chance to take you out of your frame of reference.”
Getting out on the land also provides Gilday with opportunities to get back to writing.
“I really enjoys writing. I often take my notebook and my guitar and just walk out,” said Gilday.
Since her new single K’eintah Natse Ju was released, it has climbed to the number one spot on the national Indigenous top 40 chart, but Gilday said she isn’t focused on producing commercialized songs.
“I’m not a top 40 billboard artist and it’s not like I have a record coming out every year and no one is breathing down my neck asking me to write radio consumer singles,” she said. “That’s not the direction I’ve ever gone so it’s all been incredible but this time I’ve really tapped into where I’m at and fulfilling my own potential.”
Now Gilday will be touring and playing her songs and delivering her messages to an international audience.
“We did our first European tour last year and I just got back from Australia, playing another festival over there so those are markets we are really focusing on,” she said.
She will be going to Germany next week and Finland in October but before reaching Finland Gilday will be coming home to Yellowknife to play a show at the the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) on Sept. 25 for her official album launch.
Gilday mentioned she will be joined by her good friend Pat Braden, who will be playing bass guitar. She is encouraging people to grab tickets while they’re still available.