The summer is a time when artists, fans and industry people would normally be gathering at summer festivals and catching up after months of not seeing each other. That’s just one part of the summer festival experience we’re missing out on this year, but we’ve decided to do something about it here at Roots Music Canada. We’ve started calling up friends and colleagues in the music business to see how the last two months of have gone for them. We’re featuring clusters of their responses in these columns. So without further ado, here is this week’s edition of How’s Everyone Doing Out There?
Matt Patershuk – Western Canadian Music Award-winning Americana artist
“I feel really lucky,” Matt told me on the phone from La Glace, AB. “I’ve always worked full-time while I’ve been in music, and I’ve been really fortunate to keep my job for the last few months.”
His family too is happy and healthy, he said.
Like everyone, Matt’s seen his musical career take a hit on account of COVID-19. He released a new album in the fall and was hoping to tour it in the spring and summer. He had a couple of festivals he was particularly looking forward to, but of course, all of that is off now.
So instead, he’s been doing some co-writing with his regular producer, Steve Dawson down in Nashville. Steve will send him some music in need of lyrics or Matt will send Steve some lyrics in need of music, and they’ll work on projects that way. Matt normally struggles with in-person co-writing, he said, but this system works for him.
He’s set up some recording gear in his living room and is doing a bit of recording too.
Apart from that, Matt said, he’s been out riding horses, and he was ski-dooing earlier in the year when there was still snow on the ground. Recently, he bought an outdoor pool for his kids, and Matt is building a treehouse with his youngest.
Population density is low where Matt lives, so there are relatively few cases of COVID-19 in the area, but he’s happy to see that people are still being careful and thinking about others, he said.
“I really just wish everybody well,” he added. “Things are nuts. There are some difficult things going on out there that can be hard to sort out, but I just encourage people to be kind to each other … for whatever my opinion’s worth, I guess.”
Kelly Bado – Western Canadian Music Award-winning world music artist
For Kelly, COVID-19 closures resulted in concert cancellations and also slowed down work on her next album.
“The clock stopped,” she said.
But instead of getting down about it, Kelly wondered if in fact this was just what she needed: a chance to stay close to home so she could spend more time with her 10-month-old son.
“It was difficult for me,” she said of having to take him on the road earlier this year.
“I wonder if this would’ve been hard for him as a baby.”
While she’s been home, Kelly has been working “the other side of music,” she said, working on her web site and social media channels, getting to know her fans and reaching out to potential new ones.
She also released a single called “Ahora” from the album she’s working on. It wasn’t the song she wanted to release, she said, but it was the only one she had ready.
She’s back in the studio now that restrictions are loosening and hopes to release more singles while planning for a full album release and hopefully a ticketed streaming concert to support it.
Meanwhile, Kelly took part in the Black Lives Matter protest in Winnipeg and said it’s been nice to see all the support for anti-racism around the world.
“I was surprised in a good way to see how the world reacted,” she said.
It’s frustrating that this is still going on, she added, but she’s happy that so many people have spoken up.
“That’s how change begins,” she said.
Chris White – folk artist, coordinator of Canadian Spaces on CKCU FM, Ottawa
“I’m doing fine, and I’m busier than I anticipated being because I felt, and I feel, that it’s important to keep people connected,” Chris told me on the line from his home in Ottawa.
As if to illustrate the point, we had to cut our call off before I was done asking questions because Chris had to go set up his Sunday night Canadian Faces broadcast, a weekly Canadian folk music talk show he hosts on Zoom.
He launched the show after CKCU, the community radio station that broadcasts his weekly Saturday program Canadian Spaces – which was founded by the late Chopper McKinnon – suspended its operations due to COVID-19.
The station is now broadcasting pre-recorded programs, so Chris has taken to recording a Canadian Spaces broadcast each week AND hosting the Zoom show.
“I see it’s meaningful to people,” he said, explaining why he’s taken on the added workload.
For Chris, as with all artists, COVID-19-related physical distancing requirements have thrown a wrench into his revenue streams, but it’s not a life or death situation for him, he said.
Much of what he does, such as playing music for a church and leading community sing-along groups, has moved to Zoom.
“In a way, it’s absolutely bizarre,” he said of the fact that nobody in the Zoom groups can actually hear each other thing. “We all agree its better than not doing anything … People literally all want to see each other.
The biggest loss for him, he said, is two groups he was involved in for people with dementia. While those have also moved to Zoom, there’s a lot you just can’t do online, Chris said.
“Basically, I’m spending a lot of time on Zoom, a program I didn’t know existed three months ago,” he said, Chris said.
That said, Chris has started leaving the house more often after spending the first two months of lockdown staying indoors, making radio and baking – “It reminds me of my childhood,” he said of whipping up batches of chocolate and oatmeal cookies.
He and his partner, Mary, are now going for bike rides and walks every day, which should help offset the impact of the cookies.