"You're crapping your pants. There are potentially more people standing out there waiting than are in the Northwest Territories at any given time. So you've just got to stop thinking."
Dylan Jones grew up in Fort Good Hope. Last summer, as Crook the Kid, he played to thousands of people ahead of headline act Logic at Ottawa Bluesfest – easily the biggest show of his career to date.
"I took off my socks and shoes," he says, remembering that moment on the Bluesfest stage. "It made me feel more comfortable, more connected to the situation. You're there for a reason: believe in why you're there."
This weekend, Crook the Kid plays Yellowknife's Northern Arts and Cultural Centre on Saturday from 7:30pm. Half the proceeds will be donated to the Fort Good Hope Rec Society, organizers said.
When Jones began using music to deal with "a lot of personal issues" in his NWT community, he found other people started to connect.
"We go through some tough situations in the isolated communities up north," he said. "That sort-of darkness that we encounter with isolation also forms a type of community, and a brotherhood among your group that you don't see anywhere else.
"Rap music has a lot of influence in the communities – not the crazy gang-banger type stuff, I have no association with that crap, but the realism in it. The dealing with more of a street-style life and some of the violence you encounter, some of the social issues that are brought forward. They resonate in the community.
"I delved into things a bit – I started based around my losing my sister – and the support was crazy. It was like free therapy for everyone, but mostly me, and it started improving my life."
Aurora College 'went out of their way'
Performing has become a huge part of Jones' life, but only a part of it. He spoke to Cabin Radio while in Yellowknife for meetings related to northern land and water regulation.
"I'm currently studying environment and natural resources technology development at Aurora College's Thebacha campus," he said, before praising the college for supporting his twin ambitions of careers in music and science.
"They've been extremely helpful in this process. I was a Grade 10 dropout initially, right? They gave me avenues to acquire the level of education I needed to get into the program and actually start my other dream of being a scientist.
"They actually went out of their way to do many things for me to make this possible."
Listen to Crook the Kid in the February 5, 2020 Lunchtime News podcast. (Starts at 3:30.)
For Crook the Kid, it suggests other people can have hope about where their life might lead them.
"Education, like the arts thing, the music thing, it's not for everyone," he said, "but obtaining a better life – I hope – should be for everyone.
"With my music, with the education, with trying to be visibly a better person, I hope it shows someone that there's more than one way off that gravel road."