G.R. Gritt’s upcoming record is about transformation in more ways than one. Themes address culture and language and the reclamation of those things. Part of how it is delivered is new: gracing its six tracks is a voice that has undergone significant change.
In some ways, Gritt said it signals a fresh start in their solo career, provided that the human voice is incomparable — it’s the most intimate instrument around.
“I started using testosterone, going through hormone therapy and it changed my voice,” they said. “I knew that was going to happen.
“I think folks who have heard me perform, I hope, will be delightfully surprised in the new sound and the new messages and ideas I have to share. There’s a whole new timbre. I’m really excited about that.”
Gritt, a transgender, two-spirit, Indigenous artist, now based in Sudbury, Ont., having uprooted from Yellowknife, plays Whitehorse’s Old Fire Hall on Jan. 10. They plan to play some new numbers there.
Gritt’s forthcoming, six-track album is coming out this year. They characterized it as having a “folk heart,” but not necessarily in line with that genre — more music created for and by the people. Analog drum samples and synthesizers run throughout.
They started Quantum Tangle, which won Indigenous album of the year at the 2017 Junos.
Such a vocal shift wasn’t without its difficulties. It meant waving goodbye, in a sense.
And there was fear. Gritt said it was unclear whether they would be able to sing ever again once going through hormone therapy.
“Everything, you know, research-wise was like, ‘You got a 50-50 shot.’”
They were processing the prospect of having to do backing vocals, focusing more on instrumentation. But there was no question: they were going for it, regardless of the outcome.
“If I hadn’t started hormone therapy, I don’t think I would want to sing anyway, like I don’t know how much joy I would have where I’d actually want to continue singing, so I didn’t have much of a choice.”
After years of testosterone treatments, they can indeed sing. Getting to that point took effort, though, and patience in embracing changes.
“The voice is a very psychological thing. Your voice is an integral part of you. It’s probably the most unique and beautiful instrument someone possesses.
“Your voice resonates in your body, it resonates in your skull. There would be times when I would be singing and a specific note resonated differently in my face, and it would surprise me. It was just my bones resonating in a different way. It is like learning a whole new instrument, but it’s the one you know most intimately and now it’s brand new. It’s a little bit bananas.
“I also had to say goodbye to the voice that I had. I don’t know what else to compare it to other than saying it’s kind of like saying goodbye to an old friend, but your friend is still there, just different.”
Themes of the record revolve around Gritt’s grandmother, their Nana, who attended residential school in the Killarney, Ont. area. She never passed down her culture and language.
She had this violin, too, that sat in a corner of her living room.
“I inherited it from her when she passed away when I was in my teens,” Gritt said. “No one knew where it came from. I don’t know if she ever even played it.
“So, I’m kind of like, if I can take that instrument and repair it and play it on this album, then maybe there’s also parts of my culture, my language that I can also reclaim and repair or revitalize, even if it’s just a little bit. If I can do that, then it’s this beautiful metaphor for my relationship with my Nana and also my relationship with me learning my language and my culture.”
Gritt performs at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20.
Contact Julien Gignac at