6 LGBTQ2S+ musicians celebrate the artists who came before them

T. Thomason, iskwē, Adria Kain and more tell us who has inspired them, and what we should listen to during Pride.

T. Thomason, iskwē, Adria Kain and more tell us who has inspired them, and what we should listen to

'I want to celebrate not only Lucas [Silveira]'s fantastic talent and artistry, but his tenacity, grace, and kindness as a trailblazer in this incredibly challenging industry.' — T. Thomason (Celeste Sloman, Lane Dorsey, Meghan Tansey Whitton, Lucas Silveira/Facebook; design by CBC Music)

Pride spans from June to August across Canada, depending on where you live, giving us a vibrant and wide-ranging landscape to celebrate a movement that is rooted in protest against police brutality, and which was originally led by queer people of colourincluding Marsha P. Johnson.

To recognize those who came before, CBC Music asked Canadian LGBTQ2S+ musicians who has made a difference to them as artists, and why — and what song they think is a must-hear from the artist they're celebrating. The result is a beautiful recognition of both industry veterans and contemporaries — plus a perfect little playlist to mark the last month of Pride for 2022.

Artist: Partner 
Artist to celebrate: Tegan and Sara

"We each found out about Tegan and Sara when we were in our teens. Like many, many, many other queer people of our age, something about the music and the look and the stories they told onstage spoke to us on a deep level. They made being gay seem exciting and cool but also relatable. Everything about them was aspirational. They had the coolest haircuts, used interesting chords, and seemed hilarious and wise. 

"As a child, there were definitely musicians around who I knew to be queer, like Elton John and k.d. lang. They were very cool and glamorous but seemed to exist in a faraway different world. The thing that seemed exciting about Tegan and Sara was that they bridged that gap. Elton John lived in a castle, but Tegan and Sara seemed to live in an extremely exciting version of my own world, and they gave my friends and I a roadmap to a future we could be excited about."

Must-hear song: "Yellow"

"I love their entire back catalogue, but they also just put out a brand new single called "Yellow" so everyone should listen to that."

Artist: iskwē
Artist to celebrate: Ria Mae

"I've been a fan of Ria's for many, many years, and as luck would have it we were a part of some Juno programming together in 2018, which is when we met. Not only did we become friends from this, but Ria became an absolute shoulder I have leaned on many times while navigating this music industry, and all the many challenges and frustrations that come with representing ourselves honestly and with conviction. So not only was I able to befriend someone who I admired creatively, but I was able to lean on and learn from another strong creative in the biz."

Must-hear song: "Broken" featuring Tegan Quin

"This is just a really, really good song! I love the groove, I love singing along, the vocal harmonies and melodies, plus I love hearing both Ria and Tegan on the same tune!" 

Artist: Mariel Buckley 
Artist to celebrate: k.d. lang 

"For obvious reasons, I had to choose k.d. lang, an absolutely unparalleled talent that defied gender and sexuality. Early in my career, when I was still woodshedding covers and working slowly on my original tunes, I played a ton of traditional country during happy-hour slots. I had a bassist who steered me toward [lang's 1989 album] Absolute Torch and Twang and it totally blew me away. I didn't really understand the importance of visibility, at the time. The early 2000s were not as evolved, and I assumed that gay folks were supposed to exist privately because that's what I mostly perceived. Thankfully, I've also lived through a lot of progress for acceptance and that's been awesome to see. I'm thankful to see steps forward every day, and I hope for more inclusion from artists to labels. The more representation we can secure, the safer and happier our next generations can be."

Must-hear song: "Western Stars"

"A lang song that I think people should hear is "Western Stars." It kicks off Shadowland, an incredible, deep and thoughtful work of country noir. The song is a masterclass in balanced production and vocal emotion." 

Artist: Adria Kain
Artist to celebrate: Frank Ocean

"Growing up, I wasn't fully aware of my sexuality or that of others. I feel like it wasn't even as prevalent in music as it is now, so for me it didn't really leave an impact until I was much older and already a fully developed artist. The only artist who ever changed my perspective on things and really inspired me to take things with music to another level was Frank Ocean. 

"Frank reminded me of my purpose outside of anything, and how that was and is always the most important thing over anything else — so when I write, I write solely from that space. He reminded me that sometimes when you can't speak the words of what you're feeling, finding the melodies that compliment the amount of emotion can be another language. I'm naturally a very emotional person and before hearing Frank I didn't necessarily know how to truly express myself without giving away too much or being overly dramatic, so it was nice to stumble across an artist like him who I felt spoke the same language as me musically, and really just all around." 

Must-hear song: "Dust"

"It's always so hard to just pick one Frank Ocean song, but one of my favourites is "Dust" from his very first project, Nostalgia Ultra. This song, to me, is so beautifully written. It's the first song that challenged me to write from a metaphoric place. To use the concept of a library and the reading of books to describe meeting someone new and thinking about the past things that you've both done and experienced, while learning to let go and try love regardless of fear and overthinking — a masterpiece." 

Artist: T. Thomason
Artist to celebrate: Lucas Silveira

"Lucas is often most recognized as the first openly trans man to be signed to a major label, and the frontman of his band the Cliks. That's how I became aware of him in high school, and when I opened for the Cliks in Toronto almost 10 years ago it was a serious dream come true. We didn't stay in touch beyond following each other on social media, but a couple years after that show, I reached out to Lucas and he agreed to meet me at a little café in west end Toronto. That was the beginning of an ongoing mentorship and friendship.

"Lucas has been so generous with his time, experience and knowledge of the music industry over the years. When I decided I needed to transition with testosterone hormone replacement therapy [THRT], I was terrified I'd have to give up my singing career. Lucas reassured me this wasn't true, and shared his approach to THRT and continuing to sing. He connected me with my vocal coach, Ali Garrison, who I still work with. I would not have the career I do, or be the person I am today if, in 2015, Lucas had not been willing to meet up with a random kid he'd met once. I want to celebrate not only Lucas's fantastic talent and artistry, but his tenacity, grace and kindness as a trailblazer in this incredibly challenging industry."

Must-hear song: "Dream Lover"

"This song proves that transitioning with THRT and continuing to sing is absolutely possible. Lucas's vocal range is incredible and this song showcases it in such an impressive way. The way he blends from chest voice to such a strong and dynamic falsetto is stunning to listen to. Lucas then revisits the range in his blended register. It's amazing to hear the power and control he has. It's a stunning vocal performance that displays admirable (OK, enviable) technique even if you don't know about Lucas's journey to this current voice. It's a joy to listen to because it sounds like so much fun to sing. Listening to Lucas's voice brings home a very powerful truth about transness to me — trans people defy what we are told is possible, we reject limitations presented to us as absolutes simply by finding and being ourselves. We create our own glorious realities and bring beauty to the world that is brand new and unique to each of us." 

Artist: Shawnee Kish
Artist to celebrate: Melissa Etheridge

"I looked up to Melissa Etheridge ever since I can remember. I was five years old in the back of my mom's car on a road trip hearing the soul of Melissa's voice showcased through her stories of living in a world of love, life and heartbreak. Not fully knowing just how influential an artist like her was, even to me at that time, I look back and feel lucky to have known her music in such depth as a kid. She's out, proud, epically talented with a big voice and a career I admire so much now as an adult and musician.

"She is true music, true artistry and I hope one day to be able to look back at my own journey and to have created a long-lasting, meaningful career the same way she has. Her legacy to me is someone who paved the way as an out artist and woman making no apologies for herself or who she loves, and showcasing that through her music. I can assure you that would have come with its challenges — challenges I have also faced in music at times. She was someone for people like me to look up to at a time when I needed it most, to know I wasn't alone out here." 

Must-hear song: "Bring me Some Water" 

"'Bring Me Some Water' is so clever. I love the writing, the passion and voice behind this track. It's a forever song with a sea of people singing back to Melissa in a live setting."