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Music artist Wild Black one of 10 winners of RBC, Canadian Academy music video contest, The MVP Project

Her new single and music video, ‘Stay Dreamin,’ will be released this summer.

Music artist Wild Black one of 10 winners of RBC, Canadian Academy music video contest, The MVP Project
Musical artist Wild Black, based in Toronto, is from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She was recently announced as one of 10 winners of a grant from RBC to create a music video through the bank's MVP Project. It's a joint initiative with the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television that allows artists to design and produce music videos. LAURA LYNN PETRICK PHOTO

When Elsa Gebremichael, also known by her stage name, Wild Black, found herself at the tail end of a relationship, she dug deep and penned a masterpiece — “Moon Star Lover.”

At the time, it was Wild Black’s second single. Fortunately, when she submitted the song for The MVP Project, a joint initiative of RBCxMusic and the Prism Prize — administered by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television — their acceptance soon turned sorrow into joy.

“That song has done really well, and I had a great response from that video,” Gebremichael told Black Dollar Magazine. “I feel like a lot of people are still listening to it, and it has been on TV shows and in sync placements. The CBC even used it for a campaign. It has had so much life, and I’m grateful for that."

Started in 2018, The MVP Project provides funding for emerging Canadian musicians and filmmakers to create and produce music videos.

She was selected in the inaugural group of participants and chosen by a jury of industry professionals close to music.

To date, The MVP Project has awarded 97 grants to emerging artists, supporting the creation of 71 music videos, and surpassed $1 million in funding as of July 2022, according to a statement.

Wild Black was chosen again for round nine, following the unveiling of its latest cohort of The MVP Project last year. Each winner received between $5,000 and $15,000, a rep from RBC told Black Dollar Magazine in an email.

Her upcoming song and video, “Stay Dreamin’,” will be released in the summer.

“We were in lockdown, and I was in a low head space and heart space, too,” Gebremichael said. “I was questioning what I was going to do with my life, with the uncertainty of the world; I struggled with mental health stuff.”

She said a text message sent on New Year's Day in 2021 from a friend and collaborator was what inspired the new song. Writing that song for Gebremichael was a moment where she felt a glimmer of hope for the future. With a dreamy and melancholic tone and a sense of yearning, she said it has an uplifting chorus that is “full of hope and freedom.”

The Wild Black singer said the video is in the pre-production phase, and she should begin filming by March. It will be conceptualized by Gebremichael, director Sara Alfaro, and producer Yasmin Evening-Kerr, she added.

Ethiopian free spirit rediscovers her passion post-pandemic

Growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where there was not a large diaspora of Black people, many of her friends were white. That said, she found common ground with her peers through music and learned to connect with them through different genres of sound and style.

“I was part of my Ethiopian community through friends and family gatherings, but I was very much in white spaces — there weren’t a lot of folks of colour. I was the only Black kid in a lot of places, but Saskatoon is where I met three of my closest girlfriends (with whom) I am still friends to this day,” she said.

Gebremichael, who is of Ethiopian descent, grew up playing in bands when she was 15 years old. She quickly became a fan of bands like Weezer, Hole, and Nirvana.

Later, she moved to Toronto in 2017 and released her first song, “Wild & Free,” in 2018. Wild Black has previously toured extensively and, last year, performed at Pop Montreal 2022.

While she listened to what she describes as “emo bands,” growing up, she also took a liking to experimental, electro-pop, disco, 80s and 90s pop, R&B, alternative rock, and dance music, which is predominant in much of Wild Black’s sound.

A multitude of influences are propelling her to complete her second album. She hopes to release it in the fall. She says her song “Stay Dreamin’” won’t be the debut single for a new album; that is still to be determined.

“I’m really excited about it. I wrote it because I needed to remind myself and others, hopefully, that it is going to be OK,” she told Black Dollar Magazine. “It’s OK to ‘Stay Dreamin'’’ and not give up (when you doubt yourself). Things can feel hard and can get heavy to where it feels like there isn’t much hope. But it’s temporary. I try to remind myself that there’s a sun in the sky.”

Wild Black hopes to appear on the festival circuit this spring and summer. She also said she is applying to festivals and hopes to perform on sets throughout Canada this year.

“Amplifying new talent and showcasing diverse perspectives in music is core to the RBCxMusic platform, and we are incredibly proud to continue our support of the MVP Project," Shannon Cole, vice president of brand marketing at RBC, said in a statement. “With each round, we continue to be impressed by the talent in this country and look forward to seeing the latest recipients' creative visions come to life.”