Sled Island 2010: A passion for music
Friday, July 2
By Kelsey Hipkin
Some musicians train for years at their craft, picking up an instrument and taking voice lessons from a very early age but for Calgary’s Aislinn Grant, being a musician is in her blood.
According to Grant, her father was a very talented guitar player who also played drums and possibly even the trumpet and saxophone. He died from a heart attack when Grant was 13.
“My dad was actually in business; he was a business man but he was a fantastic musician and we all told him — he was an amazing writer as well — that he should have been a musician,” she said. “He would have been way happier; he was always really stressed out all the time with his job.”
The 22-year-old did a year and a half at the University of Calgary taking business, then an illness affected her reading and studying and guitar was all she could focus on.
“I had a guitar but I never played it so I taught myself guitar,” she explained.
Guitar wasn’t the only thing Grant picked up from scratch. Growing up in Okotoks, ten minutes south of Calgary, Grant was a pizza delivery girl during high school. In the car she would listen to Alicia Keys’ “A Woman’s Worth” and sing it over and over again until she was on pitch.
Grant ended up quitting her schooling at U of C and went into music. She hated what she was doing and said it was exactly what her dad did, so she took it as a sign.
“I decided to not make the same mistake and went into music,” she said. “I kind of started doing open mics and everything just kind of started rolling.”
She got her dad’s guitar, a 1965 Gibson ES335, red with a hollow body. It’s what she calls her dad’s “holy grail of guitars.”
Back in 2008, Grant formed the band The Thank Magnets with Jasmin Frederickson and Tammy Amstutz. About two months ago she said the band split. Now Grant is flying solo and will be playing for Sled Island at Higher Ground in Kensington on Friday, July 2.
When with The Thank Magnets, Grant said the band didn’t tour, citing full time jobs and the fact that, “the hardest part about being a musician when you’re starting off is finding a balance of putting as much as you can into starting your career but living as well…you just make no money whatsoever.”
As for playing solo, “there’s things I really like about it and there’s things I really don’t like about it.”
Grant said she likes the freedom of writing and performing, “I don’t have to consider that if I do a song differently it’s going to screw someone else up, so it’s a little more freedom as far as performing but it’s also a lot more fucking scary.”
She mentioned that she finds going on stage by herself intimidating until she gets into the act and that the venue has a lot to do with things.
Grant said that when in bars with Frederickson and Amstutz they’d have a good time no matter where they went but solo, she prefers places like Higher Ground where it’s a totally different atmosphere.
“Playing in a bar, it’s not really that fun, no one’s listening and I feel awkward and I’m not very good at entertaining people who don’t want to be entertained,” she explained.
As far as her musical influences, they start with an Ani DiFranco album her parents bought. Grant said that at first she thought DiFranco was awful, “but if you listen to someone enough you just end up loving them, it’s like Bob Dylan.”
Grant added that her Dad used to play Bob Dylan all of the time and she remembered telling him when she was eight that she hated the musician.
“He just chuckled and said ‘someday you’ll understand’ and I totally remember it being that point when I was 20…I picked up a Bob Dylan kind of memorabilia disc and it was all scratched takes and after that it was literally like nothing else, it was like heroin.”
Grant also cites, Sarah McLachlan, Joni Mitchell and Eric Clapton as influences. Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” was played at her dad’s funeral and was the first song Grant learned to play on the guitar.
“[It’s] not really an easy song and it took me so long to learn [but] after I learned it everything else seemed pretty easy so when people ask me how to learn guitar I say pick a really hard song.”
In the end, for Grant, it’s all about the music itself, “music to me is an emotion that’s indescribable, it’s not sadness, it’s not happiness, it’s like an overwhelming feeling in your chest that makes you appreciative of the world in different ways whether it be depressingly appreciative or a very positive feeling.”
It’s passion, if I could put it in a word, it would be passion.”
- Check out some of Grant’s tunes here.