Musicians trade life on the road for family time during COVID-19 — and they’re loving it

Despite the doom and gloom associated with the COVID-19 pandemic when it concerns the live music scene, there is one thing that self-isolation has allowed musicians to do.


No longer slave to the hustle and bustle of racing to airports, intermittent sleep, adrenalin-driven late nights, criminally early mornings and forced time away from loved ones for weeks if not months, Canadian recording artists are finding time a commodity that is rich in discovery.

And they’re loving it.

“I’m hearing about a lot of people talking about this silver lining to this incredibly dark cloud,” says Barenaked Ladies co-founder Ed Robertson, who under normal circumstances would be in the midst of a 38-date tour with Gin Blossoms and Toad the Wet Sprocket.

“For me it came at a perfect time in the life cycle of my children, who are not children; they’re adults now. My youngest is just turning 18. I’ve got an 18-year-old son, another son who is almost 21 and a daughter, soon to be 25.

“And I just never would have had that concentrated time with my kids. It was really fantastic and continues to be fantastic.”

Although he was speaking from a Toronto studio, where he, along with the rest of the band, is putting the finishing touches on a new album, Robertson has been spending time with his entire family at their Hastings Highlands cottage a few hours northeast of the city.

Although there were “growing pains” with everyone being under the same roof, “my wife and I mandated quality family time,” he said.

“We’re all going to take 20 minutes and go for a nice walk down the road and through the forest. Then everybody would kind of break off and do their thing: my son would go fishing, my other boy would go for an ATV ride and my daughter’s been working full-time up there, but then we’d come together at night and have a family movie and rotate through who chooses the movie.

“And it would be anything from me choosing some artsy new documentary film to my son choosing to rewatch all the Avengers movies. We ran the gamut: everybody got a choice, and everybody had to sit together and honour each other’s choices. It was really good.”

This pandemic-generated hiatus has been an adjustment on another level for Robertson.

“I’ve been in one place longer than I have since 1989,” he says. “There’s some getting used to that. I’ve always been between gigs since I was a teenager, so it’s a different headspace to say, ‘Oh, I’m here now. I’ve really landed. I’m not going anywhere. And I’ve enjoyed that … The pace and the motion of my life has downshifted and … it’s nice!”

Singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk would also have been on the road this week to promote her just-released album “Get to You,” but her promotional duties have been restricted to online, including an appearance June 21 on

Instead, she’s spending time at home with her husband, Our Lady Peace singer-songwriter Raine Maida, and their three sons.

“There’s been a lot more dinners together,” said Kreviazuk, whose family owns homes in California, where they’re currently ensconced, and Toronto.

“Almost every day we sit down at the table together. With our schedules of travels before it was wonderful if we sat down for dinner together. But it wasn’t every day, that’s for sure.”

Life at home hasn’t been that much of an adjustment for Kreviazuk, who’s spent a lot of time there writing songs for other artists, from Avril Lavigne and Gwen Stefani to Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Christina Aguilera.

Where Kreviazuk does notice the transition is with her kids.

“What I do think is really different is that the children’s lives have been shut off,” she says. “That’s what’s changed more than anything, I think.”

Having them at home has meant that “they’re more immersed while I’m doing my job than they normally would be,” and it’s also allowed them to engage in unusual family activities.

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“We took the kids out on a boat on the ocean last week and we had a blast; we saw hundreds of dolphins,” Kreviazuk says. “We never would have done that: gone down to the marina, rented a boat and done something like that.”

Kreviazuk says she also appreciates “the creativity in the house” — son Rowan is recording his first album — and the connection being forged by deeper conversations.

“What I’ve learned about my children and the way that they think and feel has been really enlightening. I feel like I’ve gotten to know my family better. We’ve all been able to grow in a way that we would not have if this hadn’t happened.”

Songwriter Donovan Woods, who averaged about four-and-a-half months a year away from his loved ones, has also savoured the time with his family.

“This is the longest I’ve been home for like a decade,” says Woods, who described missing his 16-month-old daughter’s first steps when he was away as “par for the course.”

“But I’m not missing any of her first words, which is great,” he adds. “It’s very fun.”

Woods, who also has two children from a previous marriage, says the hiatus from travel has also enabled him to become a better parent.

“When you’re a part-time parent, there’s so much pressure,” he says. “When you’re an everyday parent, there’s always another moment to try to improve your parenting and be better.

“The fun part for me is now we can have days where nothing happens. And it’s very fun because I’m not under pressure to get a million things done … I’m going to be here tomorrow again anyways, so there’s no big rush.”

Woods, who often ventures to Nashville to write songs, also says the break has allowed him to realize how much travel was exhausting him.

“I’m trying to make a change in my life in general that I will try to fly less if I possibly can. I wasn’t really appreciating how much the stress of going to the airport and doing all that stuff was taking out of me. I was dreading those moments. And not having to do it for several months now, it is so much nicer.”

All three performers have also had spare time to pursue longer-term projects or hobbies they’ve otherwise neglected due to their busy lives: Robertson has solved some sleeping issues with his CPAP machine; Kreviazuk is practising her piano for leisure and indulging in home renovation; and Woods is working on his production chops.

Although they all miss entertaining on the road, they believe business will eventually return to some semblance of normal.

“At the end of the day, I don’t want anyone shedding tears for these changes in my life, because for me it has been really more of a blessing to spend all this time with my family,” says Robertson.

“Incredibly luckily for me, I will get back to my career when it’s safe to do so and it will still be there.”