G.R. Gritt is a Juno Award winning, transgender, Anishinaabe/Métis artist who is releasing their new album named Ancestors. The album is a six-song LP inspired by Gritt’s grandmother.
“The album was inspired by my Nana, Marlene Cyr (née Roque), my maternal grandmother who was from Shebahonaning (currently known as Killarney, ON),” Gritt said. “I inherited a violin when she passed away, and I had it repaired in Ottawa, Ontario. My goal for this album was to talk about my family history and my experiences and feelings about being an Indigenous person in so-called Canada, all while using this violin as much as I could.”
In addition to the violin, Gritt also plays the drums and the guitar. They believe learning the guitar saved their life. They explained that being bullied as a child enabled them to put a lot of those feelings into learning an instrument and getting a lot of joy out of it.
“So I think as a teenager, when you start thinking about your future because everyone starts asking about it, I knew I wanted to be a musician, but I didn’t know how I could make a living from it. I knew that no matter what, I would be a musician, but, in my heart, I wished I could just do that full-time.”
In high school, Gritt says they were mainly a singer-songwriter and played drums in a rock band. They were also the lead singer and bassist in an emo band. For a long time, their voice was their least favourite instrument, and they tried not to be self-conscious about it when they were in high school, but now Gritt says it’s the piano.
“I’m not good enough at it yet that my hands can move seamlessly and without error. So, it takes many takes and a lot of improper technique to get the sounds I want out of it!” they explained.
On the other hand, they consider guitar the easiest for them to use as well as the drums, saying they love the nuances with the tones and ghost notes and how loud or soft they can be. On Ancestors, they started each song by manually playing a groove on an analog drum sampler and building on top of it.
Outside of music, Gritt has a few hobbies including going on walks and hikes with their partner and their dog and working on their home. They also love working at the sugar bush in the spring, paddle boarding and swimming in the summer, hunting, and fishing with their family.
In ten years, Gritt sees themself doing something for their community and being closer to their roots.
“I see myself having a studio that is affordable and friendly to artists that have been purposefully pushed in the margins and that need affordable recording time and a professional sound. I see myself being fluent in Anishinaabemowin and writing songs in the language. I see myself using my voice and music to uplift my community and supporting other artists in reaching their goals. I try not to focus too much on musical achievements. Sure, it would be great to be on a Polaris list, or get some more nominations through the JUNOs or folk music awards, but if you put too many eggs in those baskets, you end up giving away a lot of joy if you don’t see yourself on those lists,” he explained.
Gritt strongly believes that music can offer messages that are often hard to hear because people have their defences down when they are enjoying a musical performance. In this album, for them, it was important to share how colonization has impacted them and their family, as well as all Indigenous peoples.
“I wanted to sneak it into their hearts and minds before they had a chance to get defensive about the messaging and be able to build empathy and understanding. When I think about whether or not I succeeded, I feel that just by continuing to exist and by creating these songs, I’m both lucky and successful. Anything on top of that is icing!”
Ancestors is available for download here!