The COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns have pushed many to find new hobbies or pursuits.
The quests people undertake to come out of the lockdown as a better version of themselves can sometimes lead down unusual paths.
For Campbellton-based musician Adam Baxter and wife Tia, that path led them to a sailing channel on YouTube about a couple who lived off the grid.
In the innumerable hours of empty time, the pair consumed those videos. The lifestyle enamoured them so much that the couple did a bit of saving and bought a sailboat.
“We don’t know how to sail yet, but that’s what we’re going to do,” said Baxter. “This spring and the summer, we’re going to get our boat to the Lewisporte marina and get it ready and get out on the water,
“We have a couple of people who are willing to teach us.”
Finding love for sailing and the freedom it offers wasn’t the only side of himself Baxter explored during the pandemic.
Calling it an ability to revamp how the musician looks at things, the Nova Scotia native started and finished writing a new record.
He has named that record "Connections" and it is a name that serves as a sonic representation of what's been connecting people through the pandemic.
The title is also a reflection of the record and how it was produced.
Each song has a different roster of musicians. Baxter wanted to get as many musicians involved in the production of the record and its songs as possible.
“I just musically want to express this,” he said. “That even though there is a pandemic on the go, we don’t need to let that stop us from making music and connecting through the music.”
The record's latest single, "As Long As Nothing Gets Hurt," was released Feb. 4 and has been well-received.
It’s currently sitting at No. 3 on the CIOE East Coast Top 30 and the music video has racked up thousands of views since it was posted. A previous single, "These Days," landed on the station’s Top 100 tracks of 2020 list.
Drummer Stuart Gallant and bassist Rick Waterman have both been a consistent part of the distanced recording process for Baxter’s album.
Often, Baxter will send them his already recorded guitar and vocals. From there, the pair will add what they think will work with what they’ve been sent.
From there, it gets sent back to Baxter and he distributes it to others playing on the track.
“Recording via distance has been great so far,” Gallant wrote in an email. “In a perfect world recording as a group and hearing everyone's input would be the best-case scenario, but that's not always possible.”
He attributes the skills of Baxter as a producer and a writer for making the process as smooth as it has been.
“It’s been pretty problem-free,” Waterman said of working with Baxter on his latest project. “The people that Adam gets to record with, they’re all people that he’s established friendships and partnerships with over the years.
“Luckily, they’re people that I know, so there is a thread of familiarity there.”
Baxter and his collaborators are working on the fifth single from the record. After that, there will be a short break before the rest of the album is released as a completed work.
“I have a great relationship with the people that I’m playing with,” said Baxter. “It’s just been going great.”
Purchasing a sailboat wasn’t the only thing Baxter knocked off his list during the pandemic.
Recently, he was awarded the MusicNL Alternative Artist of the Year award for 2020. A four-time winner of the Music Educator of the Year award, this was the 15th time the music he creates had been nominated for an award.
Despite that impressive number of nominations, he hadn't won for his music until this year.
“To receive this award with this association means a lot because it is all voted on by the members,” said Baxter. “The Newfoundland and Labrador musician body saw the list of people and decided to pick me as the recipient for alternative artist of the year. It is humbling, it feels really good and it was a huge goal of mine to achieve.”
The sailboat won’t be the only thing he will release into the world this summer.
Baxter doesn’t have a set date for when "Connections" will be released as an album, but if he had to do the math, it will be sometime this summer.
When it is released, it will be the culmination of the creative revamp he found during the lockdown.
“I love to create. I live to create,” said Baxter.
Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network. [email protected]