top of page

Being a Toronto Musician During COVID19

By: Steven Medeiros @stevenmedeirosphotography

Portraits and stories from ten different Toronto musicians regarding how the pandemic has affected them both personally and musically, and how they have been utilizing the lockdown to their advantage.

Alex Southey @alexsoutheymusic

I’m Alex Southey and I make indie-folk music in Toronto. I’ve been very productive during quarantine, as weird as that is to say. I had approximately half of my new album written prior to COVID, but after that is when the mixing and the rest of the writing began. I don't always choose the best 10 or so songs I have written and created an album. I will write new songs if I feel an album as a whole is missing a certain "piece", however abstract that may be. Writing and recording simultaneously is always odd, but at the same time, I have always written the arrangements when I was recording. Very rarely do I ever have an arrangement written as well, and then record. Ultimately, I wanted this to be a very different experience from my second LP. I have an actual outside producer - Juno and Polaris nominated producer John Critchley, and I got the very talented guys in the Water Tower band to play fiddle and other accompanying instruments. It really takes the album in another direction. The album is set to be released mid-Fall, 2020.

The biggest disappointment was that my tour for mental health (a tour where all profits would be donated to CAMH) was cut short due to COVID. We were going to end the tour at the iconic Horseshoe Tavern. I am hoping to resume the tour once restrictions are lifted.

Holly Clausius @hollyclausius

My name is Holly Clausius, I’m a singer-songwriter and part-time music teacher in Toronto, ON. This pandemic put my career on pause for a while. I had big plans this year. Starting with my first Horseshoe Tavern show in April, my debut EP “Sunflower” in June, my first Canada wide tour (from Toronto to Vancouver), and my first LA networking/writing trip. When lockdown began, everything started to get postponed and then canceled. My student numbers began to decrease, and with little to nothing to look forward to, I had to get creative. I pulled myself out of the rut by doing a 30-day songwriting challenge in April. After April, I began planning “Holly’s Apartment Wide Tour” which is a 10-day virtual tour. Each show has two openers and we have a different location each night, for example kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, patio, etc. I also bought myself an interface and audio setup so I could record myself from home. One single “Set Me Free”, I recorded vocals and collaborated with Alex Purcell and Ben Graffam and it will be released July 3rd on all platforms. I will also be releasing my new EP at the end of August and my first single will be released on August 14th.

Katasha James @katashajames

My name is Katasha J. I am a singer-songwriter, pianist located in Toronto Ontario in the west end. The pandemic definitely had an effect on my music in many ways. I dropped an album and had a release party on March 7th. This was the week before basically everything had shut down in the city. I'm glad I decided on that day for my release party because if I had waited, I wouldn't have been to celebrate with all my friends and family. I had about 5 performances lined up after my release party which I was very excited about, so I was pretty sad at the beginning of quarantine. With all the free time I had, I decided to stay creative and work on new music.

I had a few online performances during quarantine and started planning video projects. The studios have opened back up now so I have been creating and writing more for various things. I have a lot of collaborations in the works and a new personal project I'm working on. I am also planning to shoot my visuals from my album "Delicate Dollhouse."

Scott Olgard @scottolgard

I’m Scott and I play guitar and sing in Old Guards. The last few months have been pretty crazy; I think like most, I expected this to maybe last a few weeks. Yet here we are 4 months later with no sign of change. On a personal level, I’ve been lucky to have been able to continue my day job remotely, which has allowed for more time to be able to work on musical endeavors. However, the music scene is unrecognizable to a few months ago; Old Guards were playing regular shows around the GTA, we were locking in festivals and out of town shows for the summer, and we were halfway through recording our debut single with Tim Abraham. All of this came to a screeching halt and we were left reeling for a while there. I guess it has given us a chance to take a step back and focus on our music. We’ve written new material and fumbled our way through the home recording to get a few ‘lockdown demos’ ready for you. In the last few weeks, we’ve been able to meet up in person and start rehearsing again, and hopefully, there is a dim light at the end of this tunnel. I also realize how fortunate I am to be able to do something I love, still have a roof over my head, and have my health. If these few months have taught me anything it’s to be grateful each day for what we have. Stay safe, and thanks for the continued support.

Vince @vincentisvince

Being a Barbadian national and a full-time musician, I make my living traveling and playing music. I’ve worked with cruise lines for a while and the pandemic hit just as I came to Toronto to work on some original music and check out the scene here.

As we all know, things came to a halt and I resorted to livestreams and recording covers then I hit a low. I can say though that after losing faith and feeling down about being off stage with no work to return to, the isolation guided me to learn how to cater to the sound that I wanted for my own music and how to achieve it.

Within the past few months the amount of emotion and thought I’ve put into my writing has been based on the time I’ve spent with myself with no escaping or censoring. It was very uncomfortable, but the worst of the rain has since past and the sun is birthing new roots. All in thanks to quarantine for some needed tough love.

Kunle @kunloskola

My name is Kunle, a Nigerian born - Toronto based guitarist, singer, and songwriter. I could confidently say as a full-time musician, performer, and an international touring act that, the effect of COVID 19, lockdown and travel ban definitely had a heavy negative impact on finances, artistic growth, wellness, and development. However, I was also able to use the time to take stock of what truly matters to me, relationship with my core, my career, family, friends, community, and I definitely revisited old hobbies and picked up some new ones such as woodworking, video editing, and photography.

Just so you know, I never stopped working particularly as a musician through online streams, online studio sessions, songwriting, music supervision, regardless of the restriction. It is definitely a tough time for me and so many other people but you know one thing is for sure, life will always throw curveballs, we can either sit and complain or reinvent and evolve.

Chelle @_chellemusic

I began planning for 2020 at the end of 2019, determined to make every second of every day dedicated to my career. I had two major goals set out for myself: rebrand and release new music. In order to do this in the most efficient way possible, I decided to attend Canadian Music Incubator’s Artist Entrepreneurship course in March and April. This course is held at Coalition Music and is designed to help musicians build their businesses and create more sustainable careers. Due to COVID-19, it was abruptly canceled after its first week. I scheduled my entire year around participating in this course, so when it was canceled, I felt completely lost.

Prior to the pandemic, I was in and out of the studio working on my debut single. Once COVID-19 hit, I was no longer able to go to the studio and finish off the song. My producer, Indigo Son, gave me the idea that we should try doing Zoom sessions. He would share his screen and I was able to see everything he was doing. We finished the song in quarantine and I put myself to work over the next couple of weeks. I completed an at-home photoshoot with the help of my sister, I created my own lyric video, filmed a couple of live videos, and focused on the marketing of the single. Releasing that single forced me to use all my free time productively and I am very proud of the hours of hard work I put in. Unfortunately, I was unable to do live shows to market my single, and a major part of my income suffered.

Through this pandemic, I also gained a lot of inspiration to write new music. I am currently in a long-distance relationship, and I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to see my boyfriend again. This grief gave me a lot to work with and I poured myself into making some great (although sad) songs. I think releasing these songs can help others who are going through this and send them a lot of strength through this tough time. Writing these songs helped me cope with my emotional state and strengthened me with faith and patience.

Phillip Vonesh @phillipvonesh

Like every artist, COVID has had a huge impact on my 2020. It started with canceling my first East Coast tour as well as a few other high profile shows, such as a Saturday night at The Cameron House in downtown Toronto. I made an effort to adjust on the fly, using the time to write and work on my craft. I released a new demo EP 'Cold Hands / Warm Heart' in March, launched my Patreon page, and released my latest single 'Noa-Grayce' on my Bandcamp. This summer I have been working on a new record with my band 'The Spare Parts' which is due for a Spring 2021 release.

COVID and 2020 have thrown the world for a loop. I am looking forward to being able to play shows again and just trying to make the best of it. Looking forward to singing for you soon.

Lindsey Tribble "TRIBBS" @tribbs_

I am a self-described whimsical jazz r&b singer/songwriter. Quarantine, if nothing else; has offered me a space to learn, create, and connect, both in my personal and musical journeys. I have learned so much about myself as an artist and as a creative in the past few months and it makes me excited to see how much further I can go if I dedicate myself to my craft. I have entered contests, applied for online open mics, and registered for distribution platforms to begin sharing my music worldwide. I have really taken this time to dedicate myself to my music and finding my true sound. In my personal life, I believe quarantine has taught me a lot about the importance of our time and how valuable it is. I’ve learned music truly makes me happy and that is what truly drives me. Music is my life, my work, and my passion. I must put in the hours, put in the care, and prove myself for that time I’m choosing to dedicate to it. Lastly, I’ve really learned the true importance and amazing feeling that comes with connecting with other artists. Music is meant to be shared, and there is a whole world that caters to the desire to connect, share, and support other musicians that I had never known the way I do now. Quarantine came with moments of beautiful inspiration, tough mental roadblocks, and many days of soul searching; and I am thankful for all of it. I’m grateful for those who support me and I'm excited to continue my journey.

Markus "Aurelyus" Jackman @mjackman1212

My name is Markus Jackman, my artist name and persona is called Markus Aurelyus and I am a full-time singer/songwriter/arranger. Born and raised in Scarborough, it has been an amazing gift to be an artist doing what you love, in a city you adore and grew up in. I have been an artist for the last 7 years and actively pursuing a career in the last 3 years. I have performed all of the GTA from Oshawa to Hamilton, Markham to Downtown Toronto. I perform with hip-hop/ soul artist Quincy Morales as a background vocalist, a vocalist in the Powerhouse Fellowship Soul Choir as well as a solo artist. As the year started I was performing with bandmates and Quincy Morales for the Obama event put on by Economics Club of Canada, singing and performing with my new group Soulful Noise, which was made up of six singers from around the GTA and getting ready to perform a duet at a festival with another artist Katasha J later in the year. As the Covid-19 Pandemic set in around the world my immediate fear was my ability to continue my momentum in my career and make an income during the pandemic because most of my income derives from paid performances. The inability to interact with old and new fans, work for the stage and crowd, showcase my songs, and gain compensation for my passion and hard work really took a toll on me mentally & financially. It was my bread and butter in terms of earning money to live and pay my bills. It’s a struggle, up-and-coming R&B artists are familiar with as there aren’t many avenues or outlets made specifically to engage artists and fans of this particular genre and that’s without COVID-19 causing venues and most things related to music and performance to shut down. Going through this delicate time in our society with regards to the pandemic as well as the riots and protests being organized and led all over the world it due to severe accounts of abuse of power and police brutality by the hands of the police, I have found different ways to operate in my passions by being involved in some protests online and supporting the justice for Regis movement locally while supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in the states. I had to acclimate to the season and use new innovations and platforms to perform such as Instagram and Facebook Live as well as using remote areas and studios to record performances for others to stream. Though compensation has been very little, eventually all musicians in the city are hoping for some return to normalcy and be able to work our careers again. My writing process has also changed due to the closures of parks and the mall. I have been writing in the mall by myself for years as it has been a secret place for me to write. The white noise of the mall people walking around and the micro-transactions between people help inspire many of my lyrics and themes for songs and poetry. Even though most of my writing spots are public and easily accessible, they are also oddly private because no one is paying too much attention to what you're writing. One thing that was hard to do was to learn to channel silence and quietness into my creative process. For a while writing at home felt like a chore due to my roommates trying to do their own work from home and other projects they are completing in a shared space. This time has been very hard for me personally and as a black artist. There is so little support for my profession at the moment that there are more than a few of my artist friends genuinely contemplating jumping to other careers. I have decided to continue to pursue my dream and survive this pandemic, being an artist apart of the new music industry born from this historic year.


bottom of page