Stay in choir, kids
Listening to Jay Gilday’s track “Battlefield” off the 2016 release Faster than Light is like walking through a house party. An acoustic player at the door leads the track; drums and a tambourine in the living room corner beat along Cash-like train rhythms; a couple of trumpets and a trombone occupy the bathroom with their tight sounds flying out midway through the track, and a clarinet hangs back in the kitchen playing a subtle song.
Throughout all of this, Gilday is there, his voice another instrument, guiding you through the cacophony of melodies.
It’s as if he can’t be limited to instruments; his smooth, leathery voice is the outstanding feature of each track on the record. As Gilday effortlessly runs through multiple genres, his musical upbringing becomes evident.
Gilday was in choir for nearly his entire time in school, “up until it was super awkward to be in a choir as a teenager,” he explains, recalling his childhood in Yellowknife.
His father was a music teacher and choir instructor for nearly 40 years, teaching him through grade school and beyond. Though choir was quickly cut after hitting the awkward teenage years of angst, music stayed a part of Gilday.
At 15, the Irish-Dene musician picked up acoustic guitar and soon began writing. With his father’s folk music influence and his mother’s roots in the north—working as a community liaison with the Northwest Territories Dene Nation—his music is anything but ordinary.
Balancing the tight line between a reliable source of income and full time music is not easy, especially when you’ve had four kids in the space of only four years.
During his day job with Canada Post, he listens to artists like Nick Drake, Lou Reed, and Zeppelin’s Robert Plant as he runs his route. But his true passions lie in his own music.
His first album, 2008’s All that I Can Give for Now, says it all. When offered a sizeable grant nearly ten years ago, right in the middle of babies and family commitments, Gilday was hard pressed to dedicate the time he wanted and needed to making the record everything he had planned. The stars just weren’t quite aligning, yet.
Things are now falling into place and the songwriter is seeing significant shifts in his musical career, including his two big wins at the EMAs this month. The albums were always going to come he says, “it was just whether I could make a living at it.”
Taking time off this summer, Gilday is booked for a gig nearly every weekend with the odd show in between. But, he says, knowing the moment to dedicate that kind of time and trust into performing was difficult.
“It’s a huge overlap and at that point two years ago, I was completely terrified to do that,” he says. “I could not afford to take two months off work.”
Gilday expects a lot of the narrative in his next album to revolve around the changes happening in his life since Faster than Light was released last December. He’s running with the momentum he’s built in the last year or so and booked with Riverdale Recorders to begin work on his next record this August.
He finds his win at the Edmonton Music Awards for Best Songwriter particularly ironic.
“I have a very direct relationship with music and not so with lyrics,” he says, “partly because as much as I’m out there playing, I am a little bit introverted. And so whenever I’m writing lyrics, I’m like, ‘Do I actually want everybody to know my innermost feelings?’”
Somehow when the musician picks up a guitar, his quiet introversion drops and his playful, dark voice takes centre stage. What sets Gilday apart from the rest is his unfailing authenticity, whether he’s playing a live show or playing through your earbuds he’s got you entranced by his voice and its arresting honesty.
His genuine nature seems to keep him balanced, with touring off the table for the Edmonton father of four, he knows exactly what he’s willing and not willing to give up. Ready for the next chapter in his career, Gilday has no plans to bend on his rules of entry for the industry, but he certainly isn’t going anywhere but up.
Wed., July 19 (7:30 pm)
Qualico Patio Series featuring Jay Gilday
Festival Place, $8