Minneapolis-based, Toronto-born Donna Grantis’ first solo album, DIAMONDS & DYNAMITE, dropped this spring. Her virtuosic musicality and array of influences are on full display, complete with incendiary guitar playing and Indian percussion from tabla master, Suphala. 

Grantis honed her craft playing in her own jazz band with the likes of Kardinal Offishall, SATE and Amanda Marshall before starting her journey with Prince. She rehearsed, recorded, performed and toured with him from 2012-2016. Prince once said of her, “Donna can whup every man on guitar, bar none.” Grantis has even performed at the White House for President Barack Obama and family.  She will be in town next week performing at The Mod Club on Monday, June 24.

We chatted with her this week. 

SDTC: You just released your debut solo album this year. How has that experienced differed from your previous releases? 

DG: DIAMONDS & DYNAMITE is different from other releases I have been a part of, in that I composed, arranged and produced the record myself. It’s liberating and exciting to see through an artistic vision so completely. On the flip side, I also enjoy collaborating with other artists and am inspired by the unique elements each of us can bring to a project.

You’ve had a long working relationship with Prince. How did news of his death affect you? What was the greatest lesson he taught you? What is your best memory of him?

I learned a tremendous amount about both the art and business of music from Prince. He taught me a lot about myself, my work ethic, creative vision and spiritual views. One of the greatest things I learned from Prince was the effect of having a confident mindset. When I think back about a best memory, I think about the experience as a whole and how thankful I am for the moments we shared both on stage and off. From rocking out on stage, in rehearsal or in the studio, and travelling the world, to playing ping pong, watching movies or hanging out, it was such a special time that I will forever cherish.

Best advice you’ve been given? Worst advice?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given is “When faced with a decision, don’t think about what you’re going to lose, think about what you’re going to gain.” Artists often make a lot of sacrifices to pursue their passions. Thinking of this advice puts a great emphasis on positive gains rather than negative possibilities.

Who/what is currently influencing your music?

The political and cultural climate fused with music that inspires me—from Jimi Hendrix to Miles Davis, Prince to Herbie Hancock.

Did you find that becoming a mother changed your approach to your work? Has it shaped the art you create (or vice versa)?

I am more diligent and focused with the time I devote to creating and learning. Life shapes the art I create—experiences, feelings, relationships, culture, politics, and more. Being a mother is part of what shapes the music I write and perform.

Photo: Madison Dube

How has your sound evolved over the last few years?

My sound has evolved through composition. DIAMONDS & DYNAMITE filters all of my musical influences and life experiences through my personal lens. It’s a reflection of who I am, translated into forty minutes of instrumental electric jazz jams and it is a snapshot of my musical evolution to date.

What do you hope listeners take away from your new album?

I love when music moves me. I hope that the music from DIAMONDS & DYNAMITE makes listeners feel something – inspired, comforted and connected.