The short list for the $50,000 Polaris Music Prize has been announced, and among the 10 nominated albums for the 2019 edition is Ballad of the Runaway Girl (2018) by Montreal-based, Salluit-raised Elisapie (Elisapie Isaac). She is the second Inuk musician short-listed for the accolade following Tanya Tagaq’s nomination and subsequent win in 2014 for the record Animisms.
“I only had a few songs done, but I mainly had covers of Inuit CNC recordings that I had listened to when I was depressed,” she told the Inuit Art Quarterly in 2018 about the genesis of her third studio album Ballad of the Runaway Girl. “I was obsessed with these songs and decided I would simply make a cover album—just for myself, with no pressure of other listeners. All of a sudden what came out of these cover songs and my own music was something really beautiful.”
Across the 11 tracks of the resulting record, the musician combines English, French and Inuktitut to explore themes of identity, depression and motherhood.
“After so many years of living in the South, I realized that I needed to redefine who I was,” explains the singer-songwriter about the album recorded in a small chalet in rural Quebec, inspired by an earlier intimate demo made with two fellow musicians that followed a personal journey to the North. “What was going to keep me sane was to go back to take time to be with family and nature.”
Elisapie joins Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Jessie Reyez, Dominique Fils-Aimé, FET.NAT, Les Louanges, Marie Davidson, PUP, Shad and Haviah Mighty on the shortlist, selected by an independent jury of national music journalists, broadcasters and more. She is currently on tour across Europe this summer with additional performances in Canada slated for the fall.
“This year’s Short List offers a mix of returning Polaris nominees and new voices in a terrific range of genres,” notes Polaris jury foreperson Katherine Duncan in a press release.
The winner of the award will be selected by an 11-person jury and announced at a ceremony at the Carlu in Toronto, ON, on September 16, 2019, with each of the nominated artists receiving a prize of $3000.