When the COVID-19 pandemic started to take its toll, one Dartmouth-based musician decided to get away — much farther away into isolation in a tiny cabin on Nova Scotia’s North Shore.
Cameron Hawes is a Nova Scotia R&B folk musician. When the pandemic hit back in March, Hawes had to cancel a planned tour across Canada, with possible dates in the United States.
The 32-year-old musician moved back to Nova Scotia from Vancouver in 2019, where the Canadian part of his 2020 tour was scheduled to end.
As the pandemic hit, Hawes ventured out of the city and into the woods.
In his cabin outside Tatamagouche, Hawes had power for only a toaster oven and his guitar amp. In the five months that he lived in isolation, he made friends with nature and drew inspiration from his surroundings while he composed his latest pieces of music.
He’s a seasoned solo camper, but this was the longest time he had spent in isolation.
“Eventually I started to go a little stir crazy,” Hawes said. “I’d sit on the porch and look at nature, and try to figure out what all that stirring was.”
The first song he wrote while he was there was called The Ocean. It was inspired by a river that ran by the cabin he stayed in. Hawes says the lyrics for this song shape a sort of “metaphor” that the river by his cabin would eventually carry him to the ocean. He expects it will be the first single he will release.
Hawes is expecting an EP release first, followed by singles that will lead up to an LP release this spring.
There was also an abundance of wildlife that Hawes drew inspiration from, including some cute and fuzzy creatures.
In the cabin next to his, where his washroom was located, Hawes noticed that there was something in the ceiling one day, possibly a bird’s nest.
“I pried at the ceiling … and a baby raccoon butt slid out,” he said. “So I grabbed a flower pot and caught him in the flower pot and named him Flower.”
He says he left the baby raccoon for the mother to come back, but she did not so he contacted someone to take the baby and get the care it needed.
Hawes says his guitar skills improved while he was in isolation, since he had so much time to practice.
“Definitely beneficial to force yourself to be on that,” he said.
When asked if he would do an isolation like this one again, he replied, “if I do it again I think it would be in the woods with less than I had … and probably not for quite as long.”
Hawes performed in and around Halifax before the start of the pandemic, including New Scotland Brewing Co. and The Carleton. He recently played at The Grace in Tatamagouche.
Dylan Jewers, who runs a Roots Music label out of Dartmouth called Big Turnip Records, is also the entertainment manager at New Scotland and is familiar with Hawes.
“Cam has been one of our favourites since we opened. He always packs the house,” said Jewers.
Jewers says New Scotland has been working to provide a safe space for musicians, including providing the option of doing livestreams with donations until restrictions were lifted.
“We are one of the only venues in town to provide guarantees to artists and I think that is a huge help, especially in these weird times,” he said.
Hawes has a show March 13 at New Scotland Brewing in Dartmouth, and a tour and more shows booked for 2022.
About the author
Antonia (she/her) is a journalism student and classical pianist based in St. John's, NL.