JupiterReign is having a year to remember. Eight months on from releasing her debut Intergalactic EP, the soft-spoken North Preston R&B artist—otherwise known as Thaydra Gray—is enjoying a star-touched moment of her own: The 27-year-old is in the running for four African Nova Scotian Music Association Awards, including Rising Star and Artist of the Year. (The awards are announced Thursday, Oct. 5 in a live ceremony at the Light House Arts Centre.) On top of that, she’s been tapped to perform at Nova Scotia Music Week in Yarmouth (Nov. 2-5), where she’s nominated for African Nova Scotian Artist of the Year.
The buzz has Gray’s name being mentioned in the same breath as industry stalwarts Jah’Mila, Kayo and O’Sound, as well as fellow up-and-comer Maggie Andrew. Hard to fathom for an artist who wrote her first single—“Don’t Wanna,” co-produced by friend and hometown heavyweight Reeny Smith—less than 18 months ago.
“I literally can’t believe it,” JupiterReign says, speaking by phone with The Coast. “It was like I blinked my eyes and now it’s [all] happening.”
Don’t mistake the all-at-onceness of JupiterReign’s atmospheric rise for sheer luck: She was born to sing. Raised in church choirs between North Preston and chilly Montreal—Gray’s father, reverend Darryl Gray, led civil rights protests in Halifax and was dubbed the “renegade” pastor in Montreal for his outspokenness on social issues—she honed her voice singing on Sunday mornings.
“My mother was the choir director, so we never left the church—we were literally there Monday to Sunday, and all over again. So I was going to be in all the choirs,” JupiterReign says, with a laugh. “I wanted to do praise and worship every week. Whoever was up there singing, I wanted to be up there with them.”
Though her musical tastes have ventured from gospel—Gray counts R&B/hip hop stars SZA, Jhené Aiko and Summer Walker as inspirations, and wears a Beyoncé shirt during her interview with The Coast—the core of her earliest singing years remains.
“There’s so much feeling [in the music]. It wasn’t just songs; it’s deeper than that,” she says. “I think that’s where it grew for me to being like, ‘I want to make music that moves people.’”
On the five-track Intergalactic, JupiterReign wades through familiar R&B terrain—love and heartbreak—but still manages to sound fresh, whether layering her vocals like pillow feathers on the airy breakup anthem “Don’t Wanna,” or mourning the betrayal of a partner on “Toxic.”
Those songs come from lived experience. Sharing them, JupiterReign says, has been “scary.”
“But that’s what music is—you have to dig deep [if] you want people to connect with you; they have to know that it’s genuine,” she adds.
And while there are some butterflies about the ANSMA Awards—“I’m extremely nervous, but honoured,” JupiterReign tells The Coast—the ride doesn’t end on Thursday night: She’s planning to release a new single in early November. A music video is due for release “in a couple of weeks.” There’s another album in the works, due in 2025.
How does that feel for Gray?
“I’m busy, as I wanted to be,” she says. “So I’m not complaining.”