Finding a new voice: Juno winner Grey Gritt vies for Indigenous Music Award for solo album

Yellowknife blues-folk musician Grey Gritt, whose solo album Live at the NACC is nominated for an Indigenous Music Award, has been busy performing as half of the award-winning duo Quantum Tangle, while also undergoing a personal transformation.

Yellowknife blues-folk musician is half of Quantum Tangle, which won a Juno in April

Greyson Gritt, who performs under the name Grey Gritt, is nominated for best blues album at the 2017 Indigenous Music Awards, which will be handed out Friday in Winnipeg. (Pat Kane)

Listening to Grey Gritt now, one may notice a different sound compared to their album Live at the NACC, which is up for an Indigenous Music Award on Friday.

That's because Gritt's voice is growing deeper, as the Yellowknife blues-folk musician — who identifies as transgender — has been taking testosterone over the past year.

"I feel like I'm getting to know my new voice, and it's scary and exciting," said Gritt, who is also one half of the Juno Award-winning duo Quantum Tangle.

Live at the NACC, which is nominated for best blues album, was recorded in May 2015 and released the following year. It features 11 tracks in English and French from a solo acoustic set by Gritt at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre in Yellowknife.

These days, Gritt is working with Tiffany Ayalik on Quantum Tangle, which won the Juno for best Indigenous album last month for Tiny Hands. The duo has some projects on the go, including a tour of Canadian music festivals this summer.

Gritt said being busy with Quantum Tangle has meant less solo work for now, but added that working in a duo has been helpful during the vocal transformation.

"There's a lot of fear with deciding to take hormones, and one of it being that your voice changes permanently," Gritt explained.

"One of the reasons why I think … I focused on Quantum Tangle is that you're sharing the attention and you're sharing the performance, so it was also like, 'Hey, if I can't quite sing for a little while in the same way, we can modify our show together so that it can accommodate for my vocal change.'"

However, Gritt said they hope to perform solo again at some point.

"I'm looking forward to reworking some tunes and getting back on the stage as Grey Gritt," they said. "I'm feeling motivated to work on another album on my own."

Tiffany Ayalik, left, and Grey Gritt of Quantum Tangle pose for photographs after accepting the Juno Award for Indigenous music album of the year on April 1 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Gritt, who is Anishinaabe-Métis, hails from northern Ontario but has lived in the Northwest Territories for almost eight years. In addition to performing and recording music, Gritt has been advocating for more inclusive health care for LGBT northerners as well as talking with young people.

"I've been lucky to do northern tours and go into different communities, and you know, when you're out of school and you see the kids that are questioning or queer or who are labelled as different," they said.

"So for me, it's been awesome because I can go into those places and I don't have to adhere to their hierarchy or pecking order of that school, right? I'm a complete outsider, so if I want to and talk to someone, I can just do that."

But while Gritt is open about being queer, Indigenous and transgender, there is a desire to be defined beyond labels.

"You get into these weird places where you're known [as] … 'You're that transgender artist,' or 'You're that Indigenous artist, you're that queer artist.' And sometimes you just want to be 'that artist that happens to be queer' or happens to be transgender or just happens to be Indigenous," they said.

The nomination for Live at the NACC is the first Indigenous Music Award nod for Gritt, who will be attending the awards gala in Winnipeg on Friday evening.

Also nominated for best blues album are Bluedog (Red-White and Blues), Cary Morin (Cradle to the Grave), Levi Platero (self-titled) and The Gary Sappier Blues Band (The Gary Sappier Blues Band Volume Two!).