Blasting Sand and Beats: Garret Baldhead Shares the Spotlight and Songs
Garrett Baldhead is a First Nations man who blasts sand and beats. A member of the One Arrow First Nation Plains Cree tribe who has lived in Saskatoon for the past 15 years, he’s been a sandblaster and painter for the past ten years and went to audio and film school. He’s been on the road DJing, taking pictures and shooting video. His content creation journey has been supported in part by grants from TakingItGlobal. The beats have been fun, but It all started with sand.
Sandblasting is something Baldhead got into as his first job out of high school, working in oil and gas. During times where work is slow, he does video and photography work or creates content from videos he shoots at powwows. The work can be dangerous if you lose focus but so far Baldhead has stayed safe.
His love of audio and video started in the early 2000s, when his mom bought him a camera and cassette tapes. His uncle showed him how to convert the footage and edit it on the computer. Baldhead created a video of his adventures called Rocking the Res. It was shot without modern effects or proper lighting, just him and his camera. He didn’t have a wide angle lens or anything. The audio class he attended taught him how to set up speakers and equipment for audio gigs, something he’s found really helpful so he can get more work.
What motivates Baldhead to do what he does is a deep longing to tell stories. He wanted to record his grandfather’s stories before he passed away, to be able to record what his life was like and he would like to record his language so it can be used to make music. He doesn’t speak Cree himself but loves to hear it spoken. He’s always challenging himself to learn more and tell better stories.
Going to school for film and audio was a challenge in itself because his wife was also going to school and they were raising their son. Juggling childcare and his travel as a DJ meant he would sometimes fall behind in his studies but he would pick up and submit schoolwork when he could. His wife urged him to see it through, even though it was really hard. He would feel like he was missing out studying when he could be DJing but he kept going and graduated in the end.
His advice for students thinking of pursuing post secondary outside of their home community is to keep busy and stay out of trouble. “Your mind will be your biggest enemy for sure,” Baldhead advises. When he left his reserve, he was scared and didn’t want to leave. He encourages youth to keep moving forward doing what needs to be done to reach their goals, even if they feel alone like he did.
An orphan as a teen, Baldhead was left to fend for himself. “I wish I had parents to guide me right from wrong, but I never, I never did,” he recalls. He had to teach himself and didn’t have a stable home until he met his partner when he was 20. “Ever since then, we have just kind of been there for each other. Some days it gets tough; you feel like you're alone. But really, you're not,” he counsels. Despite his tough beginnings, he’s found a way through. His mother told him if he didn’t want to go to school he had to work and so after high school he did just that.
When he thinks about how far he’s come, he credits the support of his wife. “I owe everything to her because she's the one that helped me change my lifestyle. Back when I first met her, I was trying to be someone who I wasn't. Now I always tell her thanks for helping me turn my life around,” he shares.
To keep his mental health in check, Baldhead plays and listens to loud music. He likes to go for walks and help out neighbours with shoveling in the winter time. During times of pandemic restriction, he was also really focused on keeping active with his family so his son didn’t feel lonely. He knows what the joy of connecting feels like at music events and how hard it can be to miss out on them.
Hosting live events is something he loves doing and does well. Many of the shows he’s promoted have sold out and he loves being part of sharing the work of First Nations musicians. “I want to promote them because they have so much good talent that you barely see,” he explains, thinking of how few weddings bands have to play these days. He learned to make flyers with online software and templates. It’s been a learning process, not every show is a success. “Don't feel bad if you don't sell out your first show,” he advises aspiring promoters.
In closing, Baldhead has words of wisdom for Indigenous youth. “Whatever you do, just put your thought and effort into it. The only way you're going to learn is just to push yourself. Work right through your dreams, because they’re not going to come to you unless you work for them,” he urges.
Telling stories and sharing songs, he’s creating community around content and is content in his community. As a First Nations man who blasts sand and beats, Garret Baldhead’s moving forward making music, videos and art. Raising a family and his own expectations for the next great event on the horizon, he’s finding new ways to share the spotlight with First Nations musicians who deserve to be seen.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.