Many people say they have been turning to music to help them get through the pandemic — songs that are uplifting can take people away from the stress of these strange days. Thoughtful songs can help people connect to what they’re feeling. And peppy songs can help get people on their feet and moving around.
Musicians have also already penned many songs about the pandemic itself.
We asked some well-known Islanders what songs have been at the top of their playlist during this time.
The host of CBC Radio: Mainstreet P.E.I. Matt Rainnie notes some exceptionally talented P.E.I. musicians have been releasing new music during this time.
“The Amanda Jackson Band’s new full-length recording Ocean is a powerhouse. Dylan Menzie recently released three incredibly catchy pop tunes as an EP. Dennis Ellsworth has three recordings of new music written during the time of COVID-19, the most recent of which is called It’s Going to Be So Nice When This Is Over. Folk singer-songwriter Shane Pendergast, 21, just released his debut album Place to the Name,” he said.
“Add in recent releases from the likes of Kinley Dowling, Rachel Beck and Rose Cousins and there is a lot of great Island music to choose from.”
But he said if he had to pick one song it would be This Storm by Tara MacLean and Catherine MacLellan.
“Not only is this a first-time songwriting and recording collaboration from these two lifelong friends, it’s also a song that was written and recorded through social distancing and was created as a show of strength, hope and community,” he said. “It’s a great P.E.I. anthem for the times we’re in, and the video has many familiar, friendly P.E.I. faces.”
P.E.I. singer-songwriter Tara MacLean said she has been listening to this piece of music a lot — Nara from the now-defunct group E.S. Posthumus “brings me to my knees. I play it loud.” It’s a sweeping orchestral piece that was used as theme music to the television show Cold Case.
“It’s beautiful and intense and very indicative of how I am feeling right now. Because it is so epic and has the perfect rhythm for running, I can put it on and run forever,” MacLean said. “It hits the sadness, the hope, the endurance, the power required to get through this. This is my current soundtrack.”
MacLean runs along the Victoria Park boardwalk wearing a mask and said she carefully avoids others. “My sister meets me there and runs ahead. It’s been my sanity,” she said.
The host of P.E.I.’s six-o’clock television news program CBC News: Compass Louise Martin said “my pandemic playlist consists of songs that lift me up, but also might provoke a few tears. I think sometimes a good cry is what we need!”
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is her go-to album, with “both uplifting and thoughtful tunes. And every song provokes a memory.”
She danced with her father at her wedding to Songbird. “Don’t Stop, Go Your Own Way and Second Hand News are other faves on the album, and are timeless songs,” she said.
Two-time Olympian and gold medal bobsleigh athlete Heather Moyse of Summerside said she ended up hunkered down in Toronto during the pandemic, where she is “missing P.E.I. for so many reasons” — like having a backyard!
She’s a motivational speaker, mentor and coach and her business has been “quite seriously impacted” by the pandemic, she shared via email. She was just about to launch an expansion of her coaching business when she said “the pandemic put things on a bit of a standstill. I didn’t want to promote my services when the market was suddenly flooded and feeling saturated with what felt like knee-jerk offers promoted out of sudden economic fear. I didn’t want to fall into that, and I wanted my offerings to be clear and authentic.” However, she said her new coaching website should be up and running in the next few weeks.
Moyse has different playlists for walking (slow and relaxed), running (upbeat), cooking (upbeat, reggae or soca music), Sunday drives (new country), and working (upbeat Latin music).
But during the pandemic one of her top songs has been Dance Monkey by Tones and I — “I don’t often listen to lyrics, so for me this is solely because I absolutely love the beat. I just can’t seem to listen to it without moving or bopping around.” Her other fave is Meghan Trainor’s No Excuses which she said she loves for both the beat and the lyrics. “It’s great, and it talks about no excuses –— that ‘your momma raised you better than that!’ And that makes me smile.”
Music P.E.I. executive director Rob Oakie has seen the P.E.I. music industry turned upside down the last two months, as performers have had to cancel live shows. There’s no date in sight yet when large gatherings like concerts will be permitted.
“I listen to a lot of new music as part of my work so when I want to relax I usually turn to my old vinyl collection, some of which I’ve owned for almost five decades!” Oakie said via email from his home office. “They have been getting lots of play since I’ve been working from home.”
Oakie said it is hard to pick one song or album, but that Bruce Cockburn’s Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws “is always something very familiar and consoling. Wondering Where the Lions Are, Incandescent Blue and No Footprints always resonate and somehow speak to today’s surreal times.”
Chef Michael Smith
Chef Michael Smith and wife Chastity have been teaching their kids around their kitchen table, where they run the Inn at Bay Fortune in eastern P.E.I.
Smith said the music that’s been helping him through the pandemic has been the 12-times platinum selling 1969 album Led Zeppelin II, while Chaz’s is ZZ Top’s Eliminator, both for their “positive vibes,” the couple said. Rock on, Smith family!
As for the inn and restaurant, “We have decided to dedicate the inn to Islanders this summer,” Smith said. Since tourists may not be allowed, the couple had a choice of this, or simply not opening.
“We will be open for takeout June 4, and July and August we intend on being an affordable and fun destination for all of the Island.”
Jenna Mae Ellsworth
Just two short months ago, Jenna Mae Ellsworth of Charlottetown helped power the UPEI women’s basketball team to a bronze medal at nationals — earning her the award for women’s player of the year in Canada.
A couple of weeks later, the 21-year-old science student found herself home with her family, social distancing from teammates and classmates — but music is helping her cope.
“I’m a big Drake and Beyoncé fan, so I’ve been listening to them a lot,” Ellsworth said via text. Her favourite song lately, though, is by Khalid and British DJ-production duo Disclosure, called Know Your Worth.
“It’s a fun song that is uplifting and has a great message behind it. The song emphasizes keeping your head up and knowing your worth, which I feel is a great message for everyone at this time. I think it’s essential to stay as positive as possible and remember the importance of good mental health.”
Ellsworth shares that during the pandemic, she’s been doing her best to stay busy, whether it’s working out or going outside to enjoy fresh air.
“I’ve been doing a lot of shooting [baskets] and skill work outside my house. I just finished writing exams a few weeks ago and will be taking a few summer courses, so that will undoubtedly continue to keep me busy. I’ve found a new love for cooking and been trying to learn some new skills/activities as well.”