A Xaayda Kil Christmas with Carsen Gray

Written by Rhonda Lee McIsaac


It is so inspiring and heart-warming to hear the effect that these Haida Christmas projects have on Elders and community members” she says about her favorite part of the album production process. 

Haida Gwaii based singer songwriter Carsen Gray shares an album of Christmas songs sung in Xaayda Kil; the southern dialect of the Haida language and the language of her home in Skidegate. 

The album is a culmination of work that nourishes her spirit and her community. When I asked her about the album she explained that it was a journey of “listening to the voice notes of the songs to ensure proper pronunciation” coupled with hours and hours of practise.

While Carsen's music and soothing voice is out of this world she is a very compassionate, down to earth and relatable busy mother. She often does her recording in the evenings; after her children are asleep "to make sure I can get that time to pour into my craft", she explains of the creative process.

For Gray, the response to her music by her fans and her community is empowering. “I love hearing about how much people enjoy the music! It is so inspiring and heart-warming to hear the effect that these Haida Christmas projects have on Elders and community members” she says about her favorite part of the album production process. 

Gray and her partner, Indigenous Hip Pop Musician & Entrepreneur, Joey Stylez, both balance their work with their children’s schedules to travel, produce, and perform together or separately. She explains her album required all of her organizational skills, her patience, and her passion for Xaayda kil; the southern dialect of the Haida language.  

“This beautiful land and community have inspired these Christmas projects which are all sung in Xaayda kil; our traditional language, and I'm so thankful to come from such an amazing and supportive community” she states. 

She recalls her early career and inspirations: “Joey and I first got together in 2014 and at that time I didn't have any of my own songs out in the world so he really pushed me to start writing and recording my own songs. He really believed in me from the start and has continued to support me throughout my career” she states of his influence. 

When I asked about the challenges of her craft she explained that part of the writing process includes dealing with stress and even writer’s block. Deadlines “can be stressful as an artist to create when you have to meet certain deadlines for a record label. But I enjoy the work progress of singing, recording and helping put the songs together in the studio” she says.

“I turn to my husband for ideas because we're a great team. We collaborate together on almost all of my music projects. If I'm having a creative block, he's usually operating on a different schedule then me and his creative ideas and juices are flowing” she states about working through blocks in inspiration.  

Recalling her early musical years she credits her uncle, musician Bobby Taylor and his belief in her as a 7-year-old girl. 

Along side her influence from Bobby, who mentored and discovered Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 and lead his own band "Bobby Taylor and the Vancouver's" alongside Tommy Chong, she explains that “He really encouraged me because he truly believed in me that I would be a successful singer one day”.

She was always singing gospel songs and Motown songs that her Uncle wrote to teach her about music and this foundation helped her soar to success as an artist both on the screen and in the recording studio.

That she now sings in Xaayda kil, shows her personal growth and dedication to her culture and heritage via her musicianship. Those who have inspired her and supported her coupled with her hard work and dedication to music and Haida language preservation, Carsen Gray’s Xaayda kil Christmas album truly brings new joy and light to the holiday season.

Carsen brings so much creativity and positivity to the islands and she works to showcase many talented locals behind the scenes from photographers to models. Her music videos are chalked full of not only stunning vocal range, soothing melodies, and words of wisdom but also many of the local faces that represent her stories. 

To snag a copy of her Christmas album, Xaayda Christmas sung in Xaayda Kil, don't forget to check out her shop here: https://shophaidagwaii.ca/pages/brand/carsen-gray.

Don't miss the opportunity to follow her socials linked to her profile here to stay up to date when she releases new singles and albums!

This article was written by Rhonda Lee McIsaac and photographed by Jessica Fairweather.

Rhonda is an Anishnawbek writer, journalist, and artist based on Haida Gwaii. Her work focuses on local, national, indigenous, and environmental issues.

Jessica is a Haida Photographer who was born and raised on Haida Gwaii. She has been practicing photography for 9 years and began her business "Studio Simone A." In 2020. She has experience with product, portrait, lifestyle, maternity, weddings, and many other forms of photography. 

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