Brenda MacIntyre

Connecting Spirit and Song: Singer Brenda McIntyre Finds her Voice and a Path to Healing

Illustration by Shaikara David

“The land is what saved me. That's all I felt like I had and that was my biggest connection,” remembers Brenda McIntyre. In school, she was a shy kid who was bullied regularly who found solace in the hills among the sage-brush. Growing up, she couldn’t figure out why people were so mean, but it drove her to help instead of hurt and to foster connection. She excelled in school, keeping busy to shut out the bullying. Her parents passed away when she was a teenager and she dealt with even more bullying about that.

Her connection to spirit and the land got her through hard times, along with a recurring vision she had that revealed her destiny, being a singer. One of her friends first encouraged her towards the stage and the night she belted out some cover tunes changed everything, surprising the audience with the big voice she had been hiding. McIntyre went on to rap in Miami and released her first single. The music she made was fun but she discovered reggae and started moving in a different direction with her work into more conscious music. 

After growing up feeling like nobody listened to her and she didn’t have a voice, she’s found she can share positive messages in her songs and people listen when she takes to the stage. She realized, “I can actually do something here. This isn't about entertainment anymore. Now we can help people through my music.” That's what she’s been doing since that moment of clarity.

Struggling with complex PTSD after losing her son, a rap and trap producer, McIntyre returned to her musical roots with an album that let her pick up the pieces creatively. It birthed her current sound, Conscious Indigenous Reggae. While the project was aimed at her own healing, she knew it would help people, too. 

Now, her time is spent on client work, healing sessions, teaching and marketing her business, something she finds tedious but necessary. She still releases music and has more in the works, but albums are expensive and she doesn’t consider herself a touring musician. On past tours, she’s offered workshops with her own oracle deck. There’s really no typical work day and to manage her chronic pain, she takes a lot of time off and shifts things around to get things done. 

“Everything comes from the song. Our songs are ceremony, the way that I sing is ceremony.”

As a singer and healer, she has a special mission, “it's helping women find their voice. That's what it's about, inner voice and outer voice. Doing the resilience work I do now, I had no idea this would happen.” She channels songs and also information for clients and mentoring advice. “Everything comes from the song. Our songs are ceremony, the way that I sing is ceremony,” she explains. From the “virtual stage”, she loves spending time with people who are struggling and leaving them feeling relaxed and smiling.

At the start of the pandemic, she had an idea to create a course to help women get through the challenges everyone was navigating. Through the trauma of her son’s murder trial, she gained skills and resources to get through other challenges and she wanted to pass that wisdom along. Turning her music into teachings isn’t new to McIntyre, given her music has always been accompanied with an ebook of teachings, lyrics and the origins of songs. 

Her advice to aspiring singers is generous and thoughtful. “Keep your eyes open and your mind open to what kind of opportunities there might be. I know that for sure the music industry is changing, because it has no choice at this point. Indigenous people at the International Indigenous music summit are really helping to make that change, so follow them for sure. Just be ready to be creative with how you want song to be in your life,” she advises. McIntyre knows music success isn’t always shiny pop stardom, but it might be. 

For some, music can be a path home or to other communities for connection. As a sixties scoop survivor, she’s still looking for her community but she finds community where she goes with her work that brings things together. She shares her wisdom with singers with kind reassurance, “You'll find your way if you have the passion, so really, really feed the passion, and believe in yourself and know, there's not just one way. There's always a lot of different ways to approach anything, you don't need to just do what everyone else has done. In fact, if you don't, it's better.”

Looking to the future, she has hope for future grandchildren, reclaiming her identity and finding where she’s from. As she feeds her business, herself and her family, she hopes to be in service and give back as much as she can. “I’ve gotta make money and the way I'm going to do that is by having fun, by playing with song and healing energy and offering that to people in ways that are good for them,” she relays. One day she hopes to create a book and a certification program and she’s bursting with ideas she scribbles down to save for the future. 

Documenting dreams is a practice McIntyre recommends to others as well. “It might not be time now. It might never be time, but write them down anyways. You never know what might come to fruition,” she suggests. She keeps a folder of ideas, songs and lyrics for herself and knows how helpful it can be. In closing, McIntyre wants to encourage Indigenous youth in saying, “Don't give up on you. Sure, give up on stuff that isn't working that should be given up on but don't ever give up on you. Just keep going. You've got this.”

As a child who was bullied, connection to land and spirit saved Brenda McIntyre. Now in connection with music and channeling songs with ceremony, she’s helping people and healing herself. After so much time spent not feeling heard, she’s letting her voice take center stage in sharing the right words through positive messages, knowing how much the wrong words can hurt.  

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
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  • Province/Territory
    Ontario
  • Date
    February 12, 2024
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