July's First Thursday art party at the Art Gallery of Ontario is dedicated to indigenous land rights, inspired by the exhibition Picturing the Americas. We spoke to headliner Tanya Tagaq, the fiercely fur-wearing Inuk throat singer from Nunavut who last year won the Polaris Music Prize for her album Animism.
You had such a great year here in Canada in 2014, and you just played Bonnaroo. Is 2015 the year you conquer America?
It's not about conquering, it's about access to a market that will allow you to survive off your music. All I want to do is support my children. It's just such a a hit-or-miss thing. Hopefully people in the United States will get it. It's a very Canadian thing that I'm doing.
Very Canadian, and yet you weren't exactly an overnight success here either.
I'm really happy that they finally caught on, because I've been doing this [stuff] for 15 years. [Laughs.] It took a while, but people finally got on the boat.
Hearing about your show at Joe's Pub, it seems that at least some people are on board down there, too.
When I'm in New York, I feel like I'm home. People there want something different, so it's easy to make the audiences happy. And at festivals, people are excited about what's coming at them. But with the conservative mainstream, it's a little closed off. We'll see what happens, though. There's plenty of room.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, you said that during the good performances you lose consciousness. I think I know what that is. You're doing the Inuk throat singing, you're working it too hard and you're hyperventilating.
I think you're wrong. [Laughs.] In the nicest way possible, I think you're wrong. It's more about accessing the musical energy, and the release of control. I know that my band members get like that too, and they're not hyperventilating.
Actually, I was joking.
Oh. Well, it was funny. Good job.
You won the Polaris prize last year. The long list of 40 albums is now out for the 2015 prize; so do you have any albums you'd like to see win?
I'm not going to play favourites quite yet. I might when the short list comes out. But if my schedule allows, I'd love to be there. It was such a wonderful show last year. I enjoyed being with my peers, and I loved being part of a show that was by musicians, for musicians. I think Polaris does a very good job. But of course I'm biased.
You've been busy touring since you won, but have you had time to start on a follow-up to Animism yet?
We start in December. It's all plotted out. We've got some different ideas, but I don't feel comfortable saying yet. We just signed the record deal yesterday. Let's just say that it's very, very exciting.
Tanya Tagaq headlines Land Rights Now, part of the AGO's First Thursday event series. July 2, 7 p.m. Sold out. 317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648 or ago.net.