Thunder Bay

Imagining the audience, finding ways to connect: Ontario musician on challenges of sharing songs in pandemic

Back in January 2020, Thunder Bay-based musician Nick Sherman had plans for a busy summer of touring and promoting his new album Made Of, but due to the global pandemic, "life is very different" for the northwestern Ontario musician.

Singer-songwriter Nick Sherman had just released new album when COVID-19 hit, meaning he lost tours, festivals

Nick Sherman, a singer-songwriter based in Thunder Bay, Ont., says he 'life is very different' for musicians during this pandemic because they can only perform online. (

Back in January 2020, Thunder Bay-based musician Nick Sherman had plans for a busy summer of  touring and festivals to promote his new album Made Of, but due to the global pandemic, "life is very different" for the northwestern Ontario musician.

"One day we were planning a spring and summer full of shows and only a few days later we were watching all our shows and plans get cancelled, so it was a really fast adjustment."

For Sherman, adjusting has meant "taking every opportunity to perform and keep the music going," but he admits "it's a scramble to figure out how to do that now."

"It's really challenging to figure out ways to connect with an audience and people and find ways to play music and share stories," said Sherman.

However he said he has been very fortunate to be invited to share the virtual stage with other musicians on different social media platforms and will sometimes just go online by himself and give an impromptu concert.

Online performance 'a whole new experience.. more intimate'

"It's a whole new experience," said Sherman. "It feels a little more intimate, but it's a different level of intimacy altogether because you're just by yourself," 

"You don't realize how much you rely on that audience interaction for when you're telling you're stories, for when you're sharing your songs," he said. "You really have to imagine the audience there and you have to imagine there's someone there hopefully enjoying it. Or not, who knows?"

Sherman said the silver lining of the pandemic is that it may be offering some shyer musicians a chance to share their art with others.

"I think a lot of artists have to work up [the nerve] to to these moments where they get in front of people. It's a challenge to get there, it's not easy to do and now we're in this world where that's not even necessary so there are good things and bad things about it [the pandemic]."

'We live in a different space now'

Sherman's big regret is that the pandemic is preventing him from sharing his music with young people in remote communities, something the singer-songwriter from Weagamow Lake First Nation has done in the past and was planning to do even more of with his new album

"I'm really disappointed that that part of what we wanted to achieve isn't possible in the way we had envisioned it" he said, adding that "isolated communities are more isolated now than ever and young people still want and need that connection to music."

How to engage with young people in those First Nations is "something I'll always have on my radar, even if i can't be there physically, we still have to find ways to connect and that's one of the most important things we can do as artists is utilize that technology to keep connecting, especially to people who are further away and more isolated."

With Ontario entering phase three of the economic re-opening Friday, Sherman may have the ability to once again start performing in person to a live crowd, albeit a small one, where people will sit two metres apart and won't be allowed to dance, or sing along.

"From now on, getting on stage is all about safety" for everyone in the venue, he said.  "We don't live in the same world anymore, we live in a different space now."

You can hear the full interview with Nick Sherman on CBC's Superior Morning here.