Leela Gilday


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1. At what age did you find that you had a passion for art and how did it happen?

I come from a musical family, so I began singing as a baby. My family always sang and played together. My father was a music teacher and I began to sing in choirs and took part in productions since I was 5. I started my solo performing career at the age of 8. Music was as second nature as breathing. I can’t imagine a life without music.

2. How did your parents respond to your wish to be an artist?

They were and continue to be fully supportive and encouraging. I was lucky that way.

3. Can you name any other artists that you admire and tell us why?

I admire so many artists this is a difficult question. I admire artists who have managed to strike a balance between work and life. So many times people expect artists to sacrifice everything for their art- I myself have sacrificed some major things in my life for my art. But I don’t think it’s good to glorify this- I think if an artist can live a good life, an abundant and rewarding life filled with healthy relationships, doing good work for their communities and integrate their work into that, that is an admirable life. I know a few people like this and I strive for that in my own.  

4. How would you describe your style as an artist?

My style of songwriting is reflective. I value personal honesty and integrity above all else in my writing. I hope to connect with my audience, and bring them into my world in some way. I write about people, stories and issues that impact me emotionally. I also feel like the land and Denendeh play a huge role in my music.

5. Please tell us about your upcoming work with Northern Sights?

I had the great honour and pleasure of traveling up to Deline, on the Sahtu, which is where my family is from, and composing a song based on the story of Tu Dze (Waterheart). I composed the song around the beat and melody of a traditional Dene drum song, which was performed by several of my cousins and relations. We collaborated on the song and played it live for a 360 video which was shot on Prophet Louis Ayah’s grounds- near the teepees and right on the shore of the Sahtu (Great Bear Lake). The song describes the great Water Heart, which lives at the bottom of the Sahtu and ensures the health of the water and the land. The heart is surrounded by a multitude of different kinds of fishes. It is connected to all the rivers and lakes around the world.

6. What kind of art would you like to see more of in the Northwest Territories?

Any kind of art is good. More is what I would like to see- more of every kind imaginable.

7. If there a young artist who is looking at finding their passion what advice would you give them?

There are a lot of young people who think that art and fame are one and the same. But they are not. And art is always valuable as a tool of self-expression, one that will make the fabric of your life richer and more beautiful. So my main advice is to follow your heart- play as much as possible, write music, learn other people’s music, share music, enjoy how music makes you feel and how it connects you to others.

8. What would you like the future to hold for the artists in Northwest Territories?

I would like to see the art in the NWT receive wider attention around the world. There are so many unique and amazing artists in Denendeh and we deserve the eyes of the world on us.

9. If you could partner with anyone in the world living or passed who would it be and why?

I would have liked to sing with the great Aretha Franklin before she passed.

10. What is your next big project?

I am releasing 2 recordings in 2019- one is a collaborative project I worked on last year entitled “Gho-Bah/Gombaa” and featuring 11 artists from around the NWT. That will be released in January. The other is my 5th full-length recording which will be released in May. I am constantly playing and touring as well as recording.