Provided by Donna Grantis

Chatting With Prince Guitarist & Climate Warrior Donna Grantis

Everyday should be Earth Day, but if you don’t want to hear that from us, take it from Donna Grantis. She’s a legend.

During the latter end of his stellar career, Donna Grantis was Prince’s right-hand woman. She was his lead guitarist who also stood her ground in New Power Generation and 3RDEYEGIRL. The Canadian musician looks back fondly on what the iconic Prince brought to music, but also to culture around the world. 

Grantis herself is just as worldly. She is a big advocate for climate change and her current psychedelic single, “Drop in the Bucket,” is the perfect testament to such. (It is backed by message-driven spoken word that gave me chills.) The climate change movement needs the strength and recognition that this star is giving it, and as a believer and activist in affordable, clean, renewable energy for all, she stands firm on the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

The Aquarian caught up with Grantis via email to talk about the late, great Prince, global warming, and this new solo song of hers.

Where are you right now, Donna? 

I’m on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Huron-Wendat, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, also known as Tkaronto – Toronto. 

When did you know you wanted to pick up guitar and start playing?  

When I was 13. I borrowed my older brother’s acoustic guitar. I made a deal with my Dad – if I learned how to play a song in its entirety, he would buy me an electric. I learned “Stairway To Heaven” and never looked back!  

The rest is history. When did you cross paths with Prince? 

In 2012 I was invited to Paisley Park to jam with Prince, bassist Ida Nielsen, and drummer Hannah Welton, which led to the formation of 3RDEYEGIRL. 2012 to 2016 was a life changing, wondrously creative, immersive experience that I am eternally grateful for. As a member of 3RDEYEGIRL and New Power Generation, it was a a tremendous gift to rehearse, record, and tour the world alongside Prince and a phenomenal group of musicians.  

How did you hook up with Brian Eno and EarthPercent Charity? And do you feel like we are finally getting somewhere with climate change in 2023?  

I posted a video on socials of a solo guitar arrangement of the song “1/1” from Brian  Eno’s 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports – and it reached the EarthPercent  team. Concurrently, I was developing my Culture vs Policy music + climate project. I was inspired to learn about the incredible initiatives EarthPercent is leading to engage the music industry to support climate action, such as ‘The Earth As Your Co-Writer’ campaign. 

The climate movement is growing. The youth movement is powerful. Elder activists are uniting for change. Public conversation has shifted tremendously – even in the last three years. There is an ever-expanding community of people who recognize the urgency of addressing the climate challenge and who want to be a part of the solution. In the arts community, there are a growing number of organizations – like Julie’s Bicycle, Music Declares Emergency, EarthPercent, The Jellyfish Project, and SCALE/LeSAUT – that are actively supporting artists and encouraging a cultural response to the climate crisis.  

“Drop in the Bucket” has a great and classic groove to it. How did you know you wanted to collaborate with Tzeporah Berman for this ethereal track? 

I was moved by Tzeporah’s words from an interview on the Care More Be Better podcast hosted by Corinna Bellizzi, from which the narrative is sampled. She spoke about the continued extraction of fossil fuels, the resulting impacts on people and planet, and, ultimately, how change happens. 

I was inspired to compose this song and highlight her message in hopes that it may evoke a feeling or spark an idea in someone as it did with me. I was so surprised to learn that despite the destructive reality of fossil fuels, there is no binding global mechanism to phase-out their production. In “A Drop In The Bucket,” Tzeporah asks the question, “Why are we spending the majority of the world’s financial and intellectual and political capital to dig up more of the stuff that we know is hurting us?”  

It’s time for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

The single release coincided with Earth Day… what are your thoughts on Earth Day? 

Celebrations generally reflect and reinforce a shared value system, so in that sense, I love the idea of celebrating Earth Day – but, of course, expressing gratitude and appreciation, and caring for Earth every day en masse would be truly transformative.  How else could Earth be celebrated? What are some other ways we could acknowledge our relationship to all species? How can western culture strengthen it’s connection with land and waters? I believe Indigenous-led climate justice is key. 

What message did you want to get across with the single’s artwork? 

The larger photo is a still from the “A Drop In The Bucket” live performance video. As there are no visible gases being emitted from the smokestacks in the photo, it is not clear if the power plant is operational; and set against the blue sky, there is a juxtaposition that invites personal interpretation on the part of the viewer. Imagine a world that has developed beyond fossil fuels – a world that has transitioned to affordable, clean, renewable energy for all. 

I think the world is still reeling from the aftermath of Prince’s death even though it has been seven years since his untimely death. With that, I ask: What did the late great Prince teach you? 

By performing live alongside Prince, I witnessed the transformative effect music can have on people throughout the world: from Dubai to Singapore, throughout Europe and the Americas. As a unifying force, music brings people of all demographics together to feel something – joy, comfort, belonging, connection. Prince demonstrated the impact of music as a vehicle for social change and the powerful connection between art and activism.  

Any last thoughts?

Planetary health and environmental justice are inextricably linked to human health and social justice. “What will it take to build a world where we can all live, rest, and thrive in the places we love?” –