Interview: Toronto's Domanique Grant
"I'm fascinated with the idea of creating art from the point of view of a child ...I think we've all become a little cold and we need to rediscover love again." [Babs had the opportunity to sit with Domanique Grant, a singer-songwriter, actress, dancer, youth advocate, and president of the Cooperative Housing Federation of Toronto. With sound and performance quality that is as unique as her look, it’s no surprise that the artist pulls from a panorama of influences including an extensive theatre and dance training background, her Canadian-Jamaican ancestry, and training in classical instruments. Domanique Grant aims to create music and art that pushes boundaries and redefines what it means to be a young female artist in this day and age. With a number of projects on the go and a to do list longer than Santa's wish list, the gracious young artist was able to spare some time after her performance at this year’s very successful Honey Jam festival to share a few words.]
So Domanique how did you get your start? I've been singing and writing poetry all my life, I started playing the cello when I was about nine and then I moved on to playing piano. At about fourteen years of age I was introduced to theatre then made my way into collective theatre and was actually given the opportunity to write some music for theatre productions across the city. So the first theatre production I performed in I actually got to write a lot of the music for and that introduced me to song writing as an artist and performing. I find there is a distinct difference between going on stage and singing and going on stage and performing, and as a theatre artist there's the task of providing your audience with an experience and that experience is just as necessary in a vocal performance. So at my first theatre performance, I was scouted for this Chris Bosh concert and from there on I kept doing my thing.
Your Honey Jam performance was definitely very theatrical, was that something specific to this performance or can audiences expect that from you as an artist? Yeah, I mean performing is performing and whether I'm doing an Adele cover, a reggae track, or something original, theatre is integrated in my body so whether it’s dancing, movement, or singing, the story telling aspect of theatre is always present.
But have you had theatre training? I actually just graduated from York University. My first major is in theatre and my second major is in international development.
At this point you have the training to take you in a number of directions; the building blocks to success if you will, so where do you see yourself in five years, what kind of mark do you want to make on the industry? I see myself touring internationally. I had the opportunity to travel to east Africa last summer, through a lot of community work, but I was also opening and touring with a lot of the artists there. Canada is so diverse and I come from a very rich cultural background, it's really given me a huge plethora of influences to pull from and I happen to be really fascinated with East Africa, Japan, and everywhere really so I see myself touring.
You are keeping incredibly busy . How do you manage to fit everything into your schedule? Do you work as well? Yeah I work. It just comes with the territory; a lot of artists have to juggle school, and work and recording. When you’re starting out you've gotta hustle. If you want to be successful you have to pay for your stuff, you can't expect to get everything for free. I see it as preparation for bigger things to come if you limit yourself to doing just one thing you’re not gonna be prepared for really touring and the life that comes with being a professional artist, so I see this as training.
How do you feel about the music scene in Toronto right now? I think Toronto has a lot of talent. I mean we have the big names like Drake and Bieber, and also the Julie Black(s) and Kardinal Offishall(s) who have done really well. But there is also so much local talent, and unfortunately not a lot of money in the Canadian music industry right now which puts some boundaries on artist funding and where they can go, so it’s up to the artists to create those opportunities, which is why I'm so grateful for mediums like iscreammusic.
How would you want a fan to describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music before? I describe my sound as music for dreamers. I'm fascinated with the idea of creating art from the point of view of a child; I think it provokes a lot of vivid lyrics and emotion. I think we've all become a little cold and we need to rediscover love again. So the question becomes how do we rediscover love and emotion so that our children aren't hopeless. I think that's what music does and that's what I want my music to do for people.
What are some of your musical influences? I grew up on the two Bob's I always say. Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. So it's kinda tough because as a black woman with a soulful voice people just want to tell you to sing RnB, and I was like no, I have so many different influences that expand over a number of genres so I refuse to put myself in any one single category, because the music that comes from the appreciation and mixing of the different sounds is so beautiful and I pull from alternative, folk, RnB, Reggae and Classical to create a sound that is all my own.
Your advocacy for work…was that something your parents introduced you to or were you involved in that from an early age? I think one of the things you realize growing up downtown is that there is just so much around you and I really took note of a lot of the communities that are overlooked, that a lot of people don't see and my mother was a single parent with four kids worked her ass off her entire life and we didn’t grow up in the richest area, and I had to go to school with really wealthy kids so I think that imbalance, living that reality and seeing the way some people lived really inspired me to get involved with social housing.
I'm currently the President of the Cooperative Housing Federation of Toronto, we represent 45 thousand members throughout Toronto and it’s really about housing and that basic foundation that everyone needs. I think that there is a way to write music about these important topics in a way that isn't preachy. I mean if you look at Michael Jackson's career he has so many socially conscious songs that are mainstream hits and he managed to combine the topics with performance in a way that made us listen and appreciate what he was trying to convey. So I think all the work that I do within the community is really just a background and platform for me sharing my voice as an artist.
Do you see yourself doing more stage theatre or is music where your heart and mind is at right now? I definitely want to do more theatre, I think I got to a point where I was just doing too much, and I just needed to put some things aside and focus. So for right now music is the main focus and theatre will of course be integrated into it, but in a little bit of time from now I’ll definitely get more active in theatre. I really want to a one woman show.
So what do you have coming up in the near future that you want people to know about? We are working on an EP, and I'm really excited to release the next single, it's called "Love Investments" we actually performed it at Nathan Philip Square at the Irie music Festival which was crazy. And we are getting ready to shoot a music video.
We are gonna be traveling a lot. And I always say don't limit yourself to genres so you'll be hearing music that incorporates African, alternative, folk music etc., I've been songwriting for over six years, and I'm just really excited for people to hear the original material that we've recorded. Other than that just keep supporting local talent. Keep supporting local talent indeed.
Look out for Domanique’s EP coming out this fall and if you’re eager to find out more about this up and coming copious threat artist, check out her website, domaniquegrant.com and follow her on twitter for more information about the new single and upcoming shows.
In N Out Babs