Meet 4 northern musicians playing Folk on the Rocks this year

CBC North's The Trailbreaker caught up with four musicians performing at Folk on the Rocks, for the return of live music in the N.W.T.

Return to live music in N.W.T. a 'homecoming' for local talent

Dylan Hope — who goes by the stage name DYLN — has been writing music for the last year and a half, and will debut his material for the first time at this year's musical festival. (Submitted by Dylan Hope)

Folk on the Rocks is returning to Yellowknife, but with a uniquely northern lineup this year, some musicians are making their debut to large audiences.

CBC North's The Trailbreaker caught up with some of the artists — from those who are taking up the mic for the first time to veteran acts of the territory's largest music festival.

Here's what they had to say.

'Time for the world to see me'

Dylan Hope — who goes by the stage name DYLN — has been recording music for the last year and a half, but he started writing rhymes in Grade 7. He's working on a new album, A Reflection of Me, which he'll play in full this Saturday.

"There's so many stories to tell. In this album it's about my experience, my family's experience, my dad's experience, just being First Nations really," said Hope in his Yellowknife studio.

"[I'm] just saying things how it should be said. There's no pretty pink bow laced up on top of the album, it's just me making a beat, me writing, I record it and hopefully it's good enough."

Hope, who is Dehcho Dene and lives in Yellowknife, is a first time performer but is confident in his abilities. 

"I've put my hours in and now it's just time for the world to see me," he said. 

Hope started writing poems in English class, where he developed his lyricism.

"It kind of started with Mac Miller. I really liked the idea of writing and the poetry side of English class, so I got really good at just writing poems and that turned into writing rhymes," said Hope.

This year’s folk on the rocks is heavy on Northern talent. And that means some artists who are from this place, are taking to the stage for the very first time. Dylan Hope is a musician from the DehCho, and raised in the capital. Here's his story, as told to the CBC’s Avery Zingel, from his studio in Yellowknife. 7:15

"When I was 16 I started writing about what I see on the street, or writing about vulnerability, and fears, and being scared about being young and this is the path that's set out for me … but really it's not," he said. 

In his first solo set, Hope said he'll debut his upcoming album. On the second day, he'll play singles and mixtapes.

Catch DYLN on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Aurora Stage.

A new experience for Quantum Haze

Yellowknife band Quantum Haze performed a physically distanced show at the Northern Arts and Culture Centre earlier this year. They're excited to play in front of a bigger audience at Folk 2021. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

Northern latitudes have a habit of producing progressive rock and metal bands, and Quantum Haze is no exception.

The band came into being a year and a half ago, meaning they've never played a show outside of stringent COVID-19 restrictions.

The band's members are 14- and 15-years-old, and although they've played three shows at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre, they said playing the main stage will be a new experience.

"We're really looking forward to just being able to play in front of a big crowd and at Folk, which is the biggest festival in N.W.T., and we get to play on the main stage, which is really cool," said Nikhilish Gohil, who plays drums.

Joe Curran plays bass and keyboards and said "a lot of our originals are inspired by the bands we listen to."

Duncan Stewart, who plays rhythm guitar and bass, said lead guitarist Alex Ketchum is into classical, jazz and metal, and Stewart is into heavier death metal and thrash, while Gohil prefers bands like Rush and Dream Theater.

"All of those combined creates us," said Stewart. 

Northern latitudes have a habit of producing prog rock and metal bands. And Quantum Haze is no exception. These musicians are just in high school, but they’re getting ready to hit the big stage at Folk on the Rocks. Our reporter, Avery Zingel, takes us to band practice. 5:22

The band members hope they can channel the momentum of their first show into recording their first album.

What in the world is a Santa Box? 

Yellowknife musician and composer Carmen Braden is unveiling a new instrument during the 2021 edition Folk on the Rocks. (Hannah Eden)

Yellowknifer Carmen Braden is no stranger to Folk on the Rocks, and this year she'll perform with new bandmates and an instrument that pianist Andrew Jossa invented himself.

It's called a Santa box.

"There's your teaser," Braden said. 

"We were calling them Santa boxes because one of them literally is a tin Christmas cookie box with a Santa on top. But they have a [contact] microphone attached," she continued.

"Anything that kind of comes in physical contact with the microphone or things it's touching gets kind of amplified in this really cool way."

Carmen Braden is appearing at the Folk on the Rocks music festival with a new crew of musicians in tow And they’ve got a new and unusual instrument called “the Santa box” To find out what exactly that is, we joined Braden’s pre-folk band practice. 6:56

Braden plans to perform some of her classics — like an ode to Bruno's Pizza, and more specifically to the beauty of a slice of Hawaiian. 

Others will be tunes she wrote during the pandemic, to be released this fall. 

"I'm much happier to be going back in front of real bodies, real ears," she said.

Carmen Braden plays the Canadian North Main Stage on Sunday at 5:45 p.m.

Folk 2021 a 'homecoming' following pandemic

Ryan McCord has performed at Folk on the Rocks several times in the past, but this is the first time he'll be appear under his own name. (Submitted by Ryan McCord)

If you've been two-steppin' alone in your kitchen for the last year, now is your time to shine. 

Ryan McCord and his band are taking the stage with some classic country tunes.

McCord is a Yellowknifer of 17 years, and in that time he's played for a number of acts at Folk, but never under his own name.

"I think it's really cool that there's so many Northern artists involved with this year."

McCord said his music is inspired by times he rode freight trains in his youth, life in the Woodyard, and all the musicians that have passed through his shack. 

"It's music that's meant for dancing."

Returning to the festival after last year's shut-down, McCord says Folk 2021 will be something of a "homecoming."

McCord is performing Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at the Lawson Lundell Beer Garden Stage.