N.W.T. artist Leela Gilday is a double Juno Award nominee

Leela Gilday is nominated for two Junos this year: Indigenous Artist of the Year and Contemporary Roots album.

It’s the first time she’s been nominated outside of the Indigenous artists category

Leela Gilday, a Dene musician from the Northwest Territories, is up for two Juno awards this year. (Dave Brosha Photography)

Leela Gilday, a Dene musician from the Northwest Territories, was in her kitchen cleaning out her fridge's veggie drawer when she found out she was a double Juno nominee.

She had tuned into the nomination announcement for the music award show when the category of Contemporary Roots Album of the Year came up.

She forgot she even submitted her latest album, North Star Calling, to the category.

"When they announced my name, I was … the most surprised you could be and my jaw dropped," she said, adding her husband immediately ran in from the other room.

"He was like, 'Oh, my God.' And I immediately started crying, because ... it was a really lovely surprise."

Then, just a few minutes later, the Indigenous Artists of the Year category was announced and, "lo and behold, my name was in there, too."

While it's not the first time Gilday has been nominated for a Juno (she has taken the award home, too, in the past), getting two Juno nominations in one year is a first for her. And, it's the first time she's been nominated outside of the Indigenous artists category.

Listen to Gilday's full interview with CBC on her recent nominations:

Leela Gilday is nominated for two Juno's this year: Indigenous Artist of the Year and Contemporary Roots album. She joined us to chat about her two Juno nominations and about the music and the creative process behind it all. 17:03

Her album was released in September 2019, and she says she submitted it as an afterthought.

"I had no idea that it had a chance of being nominated. And so I was really … pleasantly surprised," she said.

"That it fell on the ears of those juries, and they selected it — it meant a lot, actually, because I feel it's my most important body of work."

The titular track from North Star Calling was written by Gilday and her husband, and it's about not being on your own.

"If you're struggling with depression or suicide ideation or anything, that you can't talk about it, just reach out and know that there are people there and that in the universe," she said. "You're not alone."

Diverse voices being recognized

She says the contemporary roots category shocked her the most, especially since in the past, the roots categories have been focused on "settler-oriented" roots music like fiddling.

"Roots means different things to people. So if you listen to my record there's Dene roots on it — there's Dene drumming all throughout.… This music comes from the North.

"[It's] become a very diverse category.… I feel like I may be getting recognized in part because of the spirit of the times and how people are starting to recognize that a diversity of voices is important," she said, adding she's submitted all of her records to the category in the past.

The Juno Awards ceremony will take place May 16.

With files from Loren McGinnis