Having resurrected "light" through her music after a dark period in her life, Kristen Martell isn't about to let the ongoing pandemic put a blanket over her progressing musical career.
Forced to shelve some of the live performances she had planned for this spring and summer, the Mahone Bay singer-songwriter has take her stage to the internet, and released her first album, Coming Home.
"I want to be able to hit the ground running when things open up again," Martell told LighthouseNOW. She added that music has become such a part of her life now, "it just didn't feel right to hold it back."
The need for self acceptance and healing are among the themes that pervade the album's six songs. "The world needs to hear the messages in these songs now more than ever," said Martell.
Fade Away describes disappearing into a cabin in the wilderness and re-emerging with a new outlook, while Thoughts of You reveals an inner struggle of putting one's needs above those of others.
Martell shows another side of herself with Ain't No Obstacle, a funky blues-inspired ode to self-confidence and progress, before closing out with the cathartic Home.
"Either solo or with a band, her evocative voice, thought-provoking lyrics, catchy rhythms and dreamy guitar riffs are reflective and inspirational. Reminiscent of Sarah Harmer and Kathleen Edwards, her songs speak of love, loss and the human relationship with nature," according to her website.
Born into a musical family in northern New Brunswick, Martell launched her love of music at the age of 10 with piano lessons and went on to learn the trombone and fiddle as swell.. Eventually she found her way to the acoustic guitar, the instrument which, she says, held the key to finding her voice.
Songwriting became a form of meditation, allowing her to tap into her subconscious and fully understand and express her emotions. "This form of connection is what I thrive for." she explains on her website.. "Music fills the spaces where words fall short."
Martell spent her early 20s on the local singer/songwriter circuit. But her music faded into the background of her life as she spent time in her career as an environmental scientist and mother with two children.
Her life reached a turning point a couple of years ago.
"I won't get into the details, but it was a pretty life-altering, life-changing kind of event issue that spanned a few years and everything kind of came to a head in 2018," she told LighthouseNOW. '"I just wanted a better way forward. And I found a lot of healing through music - in writing, and playing and composing...
"And it's interesting, a lot of the songs when I was going through a really dark, really toxic kind of time in my life, a lot of the songs that came out of it were very positive and uplifting. Because it was the way forward. I didn't want to continue being in that space. I wanted to rise above it."
She described the album's songs about coming home "to yourself. Coming back to your centre, your truth. Finding your light again.
"And I think it had been a long time since I was living the life I wanted to live for myself. And being at peace with that. I think, to an extent, we all go through periods like that."
Since then, she had been performing locally and in Halifax, and had a series of shows lined up for the spring and summer.
"My whole intent was to get out there and play. I really enjoy connecting with people," said Martell.
The COVID-19 pandemic's social distancing laws have closed the curtains on audience attendance at live performances. So, like many musicians, Martell has turned to the internet.
It's given her an opportunity to play on online shows, festivals and song circles and connect with musicians and audiences from other parts of the country that she might not have otherwise. "It's kind of neat. There's definitely some positives."
She's also conducting short, live FaceTime performances in a tiny house in her back yard every Tuesday night "to just try and stay engaged with my audience." While on May 23, Martell is live-streaming a performance at The Carleton in Halifax on Facebook.
The musician, who now calls Mahone Bay home, had lined up a number of performances in New Brunswick, where she has "a fair following." However, that province is intending to keep its borders closed until at least July. "It's really tough to plan," Martell lamented.
Nonetheless, she's hopeful people will be able to gather in small numbers and she's reaching out to her social media followers to see who might be interested in a house concert tour. in the fall or spring or whenever it's safe.
"Yeah, house concerts are gaining in popularity. They're usually smaller, 10 to 20 people, intimate. I'm really looking forward to that," said Martell.
For the creator of an album called Coming Home, going into people's homes to sing its songs may just be a bit of poetic justice in the aftermath of a pandemic.