Leela Gilday was born and raised in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. She is a singer/songwriter from the Dene Nation. Gilday started singing at an early age, and her performing career began at the Folk on the Rocks Music Festival stage when she was eight years old. She earned a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance at the University of Alberta. Leela now performs across Canada and abroad with her band. Her songwriting reflects her northern roots, explores her identity as a modern Urban Indian, and gives voice to her perspective on love and life.
Her classically trained voice has been described as “soulful and torchy” but at times sounds clear and high, evoking the feel of summers in the land of the midnight sun. Her music has been warmly received by audiences across Canada and the world.
Her album, Spirit World, Solid Wood garnered much recognition, earning her a Juno nomination and three Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in 2002 for Best Female Artist, Best Songwriter, and Best Folk Album. Gilday’s album and her constant touring have placed her front and centre in the Native music scene: she has appeared on the cover of the nationally-distributed SOCAN magazine, “Music and Words”, earned a place in Maclean’s Magazine “Top 50 under 30” and been featured in numerous national CBC television and radio broadcasts.
She won the 2007 Juno for Aboriginal recording of the Year for Sedzé, her second album. One Drum (2008), a Leela Gilday music video directed by Helen Haig-Brown, won Honorable Mention at the 2009 Fargo film Festival. Her third album, Calling All Warriors (2010), won Aboriginal Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards and the next year that organization named her Aboriginal Female Entertainer of the Year. Heart of the People (2014) was chosen as Aboriginal recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards and also received a Juno nomination.
In 2014, Leela Gilday’s alma mater honoured her with a University of Alberta Horizon Award for individuals with significant early career achievements. She lives in and works from Yellowknife. Beyond North America, she has performed in New Zealand, Greenland, Japan, and in 2018, completed an extensive tour in Germany.
Presently she is working on her fifth album about which she has written: “ … since the launch of “Heart of the People” album, I have been searching for a new voice, a new palette, something to take my songs to the next level. With this next record I dive even deeper, plumb greater personal and emotional depths, and explore a new more mature sound with producer Hill Kourkoutis in Toronto. On this record I pay tribute to the Water Protectors, say goodbye to old friends, healing within our families, old love & good love, sounds of the Dene Nation.”
Spirit World, Solid Wood. (2002) LG 001Diva Sound Records.
Sedzé. (2006) LG 002 Diva Sound Records
Calling All Warriors. (2009) LG 003 Diva Sound Records
Heart of the People. (2014) LG 004 Diva Sound Records
Press – Critical Acclaim
“Every once in a while, one encounters a voice that sends tingles up and down the spine. It’s a combination of qualities – a voice that abandons itself to the song, a serious talent that has been finely honed, and that indefinable thing we call charisma. I’m talking about Leela Gilday”. – Michele Letourneau, NNSL
“No longer do Susan Aglukark or Tom Jackson take home all the awards; the youthful talents of artists such as George Leach and Leela Gilday have replaced them”. – Alan Greyeyes, SAY Magazine
“Leela is a huge new talent whose star shines brightly. Once you’ve heard her sing, you won’t forget her name. The world is waiting”. – Sandy Scofield, award-winning Metis Singer-Songwriter
“Backed by a four-piece band that offers a unique blend of folk, roots, and traditional sounds, Gilday combines insight with humour, and a concern for social justice with a keen awareness of the simple joys of being alive. The passionate, open-voiced Gilday sings about identity, death, love, and life with a soulfulness and honesty that reaches Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal audience members with equal intensity.” KickingHorseCulture
In Her Own Words
Music is the most definitive tool for expression in my life. It is a gift from the Creator. It has always been a part of our lives and has always occupied a sacred and powerful place in society. Music enables me to define myself- my identity and my stories, and so what defines my music (to my ears) is that reflection of my identity and all the parts thereof. I believe that my music is Aboriginal, though I make use of contemporary and popular forms of expression, because I am Aboriginal- my identity as a Dene woman is a central part of my life. Through music I am able to share my stories- the stories of the Dene, the stories of the north, in hopes that people gain something from those stories. It is through the arts that humanity is most easily uplifted and will find reasons to address the social and environmental issues we face. It is my hope that I will be a most positive part of this movement, and that I will be able to continue singing and creating for the rest of my time here.
Contact Information & Links
Indigenous Music Culture: http://rpm.fm/artist/leela-gilday-2/