When music gigs screeched to a halt across the Island last March, musician Maxine McLennan (vocalist with the group Treble With Girls) put herself out into the virtual world in a way she never had before by live streaming solo shows on Facebook. The results were bigger and better than expected.
Not wanting to get rusty or into a COVID rut, Ms McLennan was also looking for a way to connect with others.
“It was pretty quiet times,” she said, referring to March 2020. She was staying home for everything but essential errands and her husband Steven was stuck out west at the time.
“I had to come up with some kind of a plan to get up for,” she said.
“I was so nervous at first,” she said, adding since she was 11 she had always performed with a band. Gathering restrictions in place she stepped out on her own.
“I gained a lot of confidence from this. When you go out on your own there is no one there to pick up any of your mistakes or to encourage you along.”
Ms McLennan’s shows took off. She drew a regular following of people from England, Australia and across the United States and Canada and her CDs started selling faster than usual.
“I had to order a new batch because I sold all the CDs from the batch I had on hand,” she said.
Ms McLennan also started to make connections with some of the regular audience members tuning into her Facebook shows. She even met up with one who lives in Pictou when the Atlantic bubble was open.
“We need connection as musicians and as humans,” she said, and her regular shows seemed to provide a bit of connection for those who tuned in.
She said it wouldn’t be unusual for her shows to be viewed 10,000 times according to Facebook data.
Beyond connection, the shows helped Ms McLennan find a routine and a reason to keep her musical chops up to her regular toe-tapping or heart-gripping standards.
“I had to learn new songs and keep practicing,” she said.
Throughout the pandemic she has kept working away at music, taking piano lessons when possible and writing new songs including one she is working to record as soon as travel restrictions ease.
While she is looking forward to a time when shows can be scheduled with more certainty and with no COVID-related risks, the year didn’t lack in personal growth. She is happy she was able to provide some entertainment and a way for some to connect during a relatively quiet time.
For Tim Chaisson with the East Pointers the pandemic definitely put a hitch in the group’s plans to tour and play festivals in Australia.
But for him a silver lining was the ability to spend a bit of extra time with his family and explore one of the places he had only played shows in the past.
When the pandemic first hit, Mr Chaisson was stuck in Australia for few weeks while he sorted out a flight home.
“Funny enough we ended up having a good time. We had a friend with a camper van so we said ‘why don’t we make the best of this.’”
Mr Chaisson and his family spent a few weeks waking up by Australia beaches before flying home to the Island.
Now that things have evolved, the band members Jake Charron, Koady Chaisson and Tim Chaisson have all arrived on PEI and they‘ve been able to spend time together simply working on music. This is something they hadn’t really been able to do in the past unless they were on tour.
“Before, with Jake being in England, and Koady spending a lot of time in Australia, we wouldn’t see each other a lot unless we were touring. It has been pretty cool to be able to meet up in Charlottetown and just write.”
Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic