For five musicians in the Northwest Territories, an online contest to find Canada’s next greatest artist has elevated them and their tunes into the national spotlight.
Grey Gritt, Bryce Young, Dana Sipos, Predator/Prey and Between Gigs were chosen as the top five regional finalists for the NWT on CBC’s Searchlight – an online contest that has Canadians voting to find the country’s best new artist.
Thousands of submissions flooded in from across the country for the annual spring contest representing a variety of musical styles from rock to blues to folk. The top five in each region were selected by vote and announced last week.
Gritt, a Yellowknifer and last year’s NWT regional finalist for Searchlight, has a long repertoire of musical performances including numerous appearances in Canadian music festivals. The soul and blues artist said the North is the perfect place for emerging Canadian indie musicians because of the low market saturation.
“We have a small pool of musicians that are pretty high calibre,” Gritt said. “We have a lot of extremely talented artists that are Juno award winners and nationally and internationally renowned and they are extremely accessible to folks here.”
Gritt said Searchlight is a good opportunity for artists to further expand their musical network outside of the NWT and make friends with other independent musicians across the country.
Young, a Fort Smith local, said he was floored that his acoustic, instrumental submission was counted among the top 230 tracks from emerging Canadian artists.
“It’s definitely flattering,” he told The Journal last week. “I checked the numbers and they said something like there were 4,500 people across Canada who entered and I’m one of the 230 left, top five in the NWT. It’s definitely a confidence booster.”
Young, 24, has been playing the guitar since he was a youth. While he has played in a number of high profile music festivals and events in the North, he has never seriously considered taking up music professionally.
Currently working at a diamond mine, the young artist said his unexpected success in Searchlight has made him reconsider that option, but for the moment, he’s happy knowing his hometown supported him 100 per cent.
“I’m beside myself in disbelief in the amount of support they’ve all given me and I’d love to thank them all personally,” he said.
Predator/Prey named NWT finalist
For Predator/Prey, a band comprised of Adam Phipps and Dak de Kerckhove, the elevation of their track Unkindness of Ravens to the NWT regional finalist was something of a surprise.
“We were really excited and we felt that it was unexpected,” de Kerckhove said. “We’re of course very happy with our album, but it’s exciting to see how much great talent there is out there. When you see it all you think, wow, it’s a tough, competitive field, so we didn’t really think we were going to be the winning band.”
The band’s genre is listed as folk psychedelic, which de Kerckhove said is a strange mix, but makes more sense when considering their concept-driven sound that varies from song to song, fluctuating between folksier tunes and harder electronic tracks.
The band has released two full-length albums, Predator and Prey, both performed with the help of Carrie Phipps’ vocals and Brian Moyer on trumpet. Each song is a reflection of an animal and its experience as either predator or prey.
“We tried to choose something ecological or scientific about the animal’s life and have that drive the song musically and lyrically,” de Kerckhove said.
Predator/Prey’s unique sound has already made waves online and to keep up the momentum, the band teamed up with 15 other artists on Searchlight to create a mixtape of their song submissions, including Sipos’ top-five entry, A Coronary Tale. The mixtape can be downloaded for free at http://thepredatorprey.com/searchlight-mixtape
Voting for Searchlight’s top five national tracks closed Monday and the winners in the pool of 23 regional finalists will be announced Tuesday morning.
NWT artists on Searchlight’s regional top five
Predator/Prey – Unkindness of Ravens
Bryce Young – Within A Midnight Dream
Between Gigs – 3 Years and Several Weekends
Dana Sipos – A Coronary Tale
Grey Gritt – Darwin