New Brunswick

Juggling music and school, hip hop artist receives second ECMA nod

This week, a rapper from the Pabineau First Nation learned he is up for an award for the 2017 indigenous artist of the year.

University student sometimes feels he lives a double life

Tristan Grant comes from a musical family. His mother performs under the name MO3 and his uncle is known as Red Suga. (Facebook)

A hip hop artist from northern New Brunswick is comparing his lifestyle to that of a secret agent or a super hero.

This is because Tristan Grant (or Wolf Castle) says he feels like he's leading a double life, as he tries to balance his two very different roles.

The 20-year-old not only sings, but studies drama full-time at Mount Allison University. This means that he goes from sitting in class, reading, to standing in front of an audience of a few hundred people just hours later.

This has been life for the musician in the year since he was first nominated for an East Coast Music Award (ECMA).

This week, the rapper from the Pabineau First Nation learned he is up for an award for the 2017 indigenous artist of the year.

'I was prepared'

Last year, Grant learned of his nomination through a Twitter notification.

It was "crazy," he said of the nomination, "Because it kind of validated my musical career and it wasn't a hobby anymore."

This year "I was prepared."

"I went to class in the morning and then, when I came home, I was just pacing in my room, waiting," the third-year student said.

Grant was on the East Coast Music Association's Twitter profile, where it was announcing the nominations, and saw his name.

"I was super, super happy because, yes, round two: back to back nominations," he said.

A sweeter nomination

This nomination is sweeter than the first said Grant, "because I'm more prepared now.

"It's not really a shot in the dark anymore," he said, explaining that unlike last year, he isn't terrified about the process since he's already gone through it.

"Now I can focus more on just growing the brand, I suppose, and getting the music ready."

Since the last awards, Grant says he figured out that he had a handle on his music and started working on the "business stuff."

For the un-signed artist, this includes self-promoting and trying to collaborate with other artists as much as possible.

"I will not charge money," he said in a call for collaborations. "I just want to make music all the time and get it out there and grow the hip hop scene in New Brunswick."

"There's plenty of stories to tell in the Maritimes for sure," Grant continued. "We'll write a hip hop song about fishing, it doesn't matter to me."

School vs. music

The artist said he is sometime tempted to set school aside to focus full-time on his music, as he has to consider his class schedule when committing to shows.

The day prior to his CBC interview, for example, Grant had to miss a couple of classes in order to perform in Saint John.

However, the rapper says he lets his professors know when he has a show.

"'I'm a student, I gotta make the moolah,'" Grant said he tells them. "They're usually very understanding."

Despite the difficulty, Grant says he's more than halfway done his drama degree and has to finish it. He also loves the professors and fellow students, as well as working on the shows.

Plus, he's learning lots about performing and being professional.

"It's a little tougher with school, but I think it's worth it to get the education, honestly," Grant said. "I think it's really worth it, and I'd encourage anybody to go off to university if they can — and study something they want, because it's a lot of work."

Album No. 3 

Grant has been working on a third and "sweeter" album since his first nomination, The Artificial to Original, which doesn't yet have a firm release date.

The album's themes include love and happiness, he said, admitting, "It's a little hippie. It sounds like a little corny, I understand that.

"I like having good vibes and I'm trying to make a positive outlook on life."

With files from Information Morning Moncton