With her scheduled performances cancelled due to COVID-19, Nanaimo singer-songwriter Laura Kelsey has had time to finish off a project that she’s been working on for the past three years.
“It’s made life even more uncertain,” she said of the pandemic. “And you might as well get the things done that you want to do.”
On March 31 Kelsey released Singing for a Mate in the Shadow of Merlins, a book of songs, poetry, stories and drawings inspired by her observations of birds dating back to 2017. She also put out an accompanying EP, Three Bird Songs.
“Some people say that I have more bird experiences than most people but I think I’m just looking out for them more, maybe,” Kelsey said. “I think everybody can have a lot of different natural experiences if they just have their eyes open to them.”
Kelsey said most of the work in the book and on the EP is based on real experiences, like the time in spring 2018 when some pesky merlins nested in her yard until a raven came to eat their young. Kelsey includes a recording of the merlins’ “last stand” with the raven on the Three Bird Songs track Just Nature.
“They were really loud, annoying, they were eating all of the birds in the yard and I wanted them to go away. But when the raven came and raided their nest I was heartbroken for them,” she said.
But the project isn’t all sombre realism, Kelsey said, noting that the stories in the book are “a little bit silly, too.” She said there’s one story about a hummingbird getting stuck in someone’s leg, and in another, someone puts a bird’s nest in their hair to hide it from their mother.
Kelsey said she’s long been interested in birds and has even been compared to one on many occasions, but she never really thought about it until recently.
“Throughout my life, even in elementary school, people would say something like, ‘You eat like a bird,’ or, ‘You sing like a bird,’” she said. “And then just in the past few years I thought, ‘Well, maybe I should relate to them more.’ Maybe there is something there.”
Among the events Kelsey expected to perform at was the Shine 2020 Nanaimo Regional General Hospital fundraiser, which has been rescheduled from April 11 to Sept. 26. Kelsey and local musician and producer Bruce Gerrish were going to debut a new song, but in the meantime they collected “uplifting video of people’s favourite outdoor places” to compile into a music video.
“The song’s chorus goes ‘we’re in this together’ and we think it’s a positive message to share right now,” Kelsey said.
Singing for a Mate in the Shadow of Merlins and Three Bird Songs are available here.