The Current

Want a song written about your pet? Musician Hawksley Workman might oblige

Pent up at his in-laws' home thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, the Peterborough, Ont.-based rocker is collecting stories about fans' pets to set to music for his upcoming Hawksley Night in Canada live streams.

The Canadian singer-songwriter is collecting photos and stories to set to music

Canadian singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman is asking fans to send him stories of their pets — and he's turning them into songs. (David Leyes)

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If you enjoy singing to your pets, you can now get a tune written about them by Canadian singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman.

Pent up at his in-laws' home thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, the Peterborough, Ont., rocker is collecting stories about fans' pets to set to music for his upcoming Hawksley Night in Canada live streams.

"I grew up in the rurals of Ontario without kids my own age nearby, so my dogs, and all the animals that we ended up having through my life up there, were kind of my closest friends along with my brother," he told The Current's Matt Galloway.

"Even if I tend some days towards a little bit of misanthropy, I can look at a dog or a cat or somebody's loving relationship with a pet and it warms me to my cockles."

Workman says he floated the idea of writing songs about people's pets as a "fun little side hustle" to his management years ago, but they thought "that was an absolute absurdity and completely flew in the place of being a cool rock 'n' roller."

Since first putting a call for stories out on social media, Workman says he's been overwhelmed by the response and has spent several mornings "weeping" over coffee while reading the tales that flooded his inbox.

Many of the stories focus on rescue animals and how people — those living alone during lockdown in particular — are connecting with their furry sidekicks.

Writing about pets comes easy

The first "pet dedication" song Workman wrote is about a dog named Thurman.

"Months after losing our big, fluffy, goofy, soft-hearted girl, we met a strong, stern-faced pup waiting for a home. He was funny. He was wise. He was cool. He was smiley," wrote the dog's owner in an email to Workman.

After reading about the dog's rural upbringing — sparring with porcupines and hunting ducks in the pond — Workman was inspired to dedicate the tune to the Tobermory, Ont., pooch.

"It was written and peppered with all kinds of songwriting nuggets that were just kind of glowing at me," he told Galloway. 

"That kind of a pup that goes on a long journey and gets in a lot of trouble is a perfect sort of rural pup narrative that I could relate to."

WATCH | Workman performs the song Thurman

Even though he only knows the animals from submitted photos and letters, Workman says composing numbers about other people's pets comes naturally to him.

"I grew up in a family that would anthropomorphize dogs. You know, the dog would roam into the room and instantly somebody would take over. They would be idealizing the voice that was going on," he said.

"I feel that I can look into the eyes of an animal and kind of understand what its inner workings are saying," he said, adding dogs provided some of the best entertainment while growing up in rural Ontario.

Now with two cats of his own — Miss and Lola, better known as Oldie and The Donger — Workman says he has plenty of amusement for the pandemic.

"I can look at our cats and they're totally not bothered by any of the earthly burdens that we're all suffering through right now," Workman said.

"They are a living, breathing highlight reel for entertainment most days, so that's, I think, what really is keeping us afloat. Those who have pets know exactly what I'm talking about." 

Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Rachel Levy-Mclaughlin

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