Mi’kmaq hip-hop artist Tristan Grant, also known as Wolf Castle, struggled to find outlets to pursue his career while growing up. (Submitted: Tristan Grant)

Mi’kmaq hip-hop artist Tristan Grant, also known as Wolf Castle, struggled to find outlets to pursue his career while growing up. Now, as a well-known artist on the East Coast, he wants to help other emerging Indigenous artists.

Grant and Music New Brunswick are providing a $3,000 grant, sponsored by Grant, for an emerging Indigenous artist’s “future vision.”

“It’s a way to find more Indigenous artists in New Brunswick and bring them to the forefront and help them on their path towards making it a career,” said Grant.

The emerging artist can use the grant funds towards any of their music-based aspirations, whether that’s recording costs or creating a music video while being supported with the proper tools and guidance.

“The goal of getting to that endpoint is showing them how the industry works and getting them in touch with people that can teach them and we can hear a real perspective of where they’re coming from,” Grant said.

He aims to make larger funding bodies and those in the music industry aware of the active Indigenous musicians across the Atlantic provinces.

Growing up on Pabineau First Nation on the outskirts of Bathurst, Grant said he struggled to find outlets to pursue his career. But being surrounded by a family of artists, musicians and film-makers, he said he felt this path was meant for him.

“I was lucky in a lot of ways because pursuing art didn’t seem like an impossible thing. I saw it all around me,he said.

Grant said he first experienced the obstacles of being an Indigenous artist trying to pursue a music profession. Growing up, he said he dealt with racism which, for a period of time, had him distant from his Indigenous identity.

Living in rural N.B. he said there weren’t any accessible venues or an industry, which compelled him to learn the piano, record, publish and release his work all by himself.

“I self-taught myself everything,” he said. “This grant takes steps towards finding people that might be in a similar situation as me, creating music in our bedroom and having no idea that there’s actually support out there.”

Grant attended Mount Allison University, where he was active in an Indigenous student support group for those dealing with culture shock. He said his Indigenous upbringing and Western world school environment allowed him to adapt quickly. He didn’t struggle adjusting, he said, because the community he lived in was so small, he had to go to Bathurst for everything.

“I grew up in two different places at once and my music always reflects that balance,” said Grant. “The more I spoke with them [members of the support group] and was integrated with the community, I leaned more into my Indigenous identity.”

In 2016, Grant was nominated for the Indigenous Artist of the Year award at the East Coast Music Awards. This self-taught, small-town artist performed at the Indigenous Showcase at the ECMA’s and his career sparked.

For the past five years, he has continued working on his career by expanding his knowledge of the music industry and building many connections from the East Coast Music Association, including the executive director of Music N.B. Jean Surette.

“I’m just at a point right now where I can give back so I’m going to do it,” said Grant.

Grant and Surette worked diligently in December, organizing this pilot project and preparing the application process, which began this month. They hope this grant will help break down the cultural barriers created in the music industry.

“I want to cater to the artists, their ways of doing things and thinking, their cultural practices and respect that,” said Grant. “It’s something that really isn’t respected outside of their lives and their communities.”

His goal is to expand this into a much larger grant and guide more Indigenous artists each year.

“People don’t seem to have belief in themselves or their dreams, and it’s a way for me to be like, you know, ‘the road’s not easy, but it is possible.’”