Megan Nash strongly believes that “you can base yourself out of rural Saskatchewan and be a full-time artist.” The singer/songwriter relocated to the Gravelbourg area in 2014. “What drew me to the area was the openness of the land, the vulnerability of the prairies. The geography is what I strive to create in the content and delivery of my songs,” she says.
That same year, Nash wrote, rehearsed and recorded an album, Song Harvest: Volume One, in a nearby 100-year-old church. Verb News wrote that the album “is as much about place as emotion, its sound indivisible from the town in which it was made….emotion and geography converge, forming a portrait of simple human experience.”
In 2016, supported by an Independent Artists grant, she used the church as her studio again. She says her songwriting process has become more structured since the last album. “I began to watercolour. I would hang these paintings in the church or in my bedroom. Anytime an idea would strike, I would write it on a painting on the wall. Another practice is writing song ideas, lines or sometimes full verses, on the sidewalk with chalk. Anything to help me look at an idea from a different perspective.”
The new songs document her experience as a young woman living in rural Saskatchewan. “During this creative process, I began to believe in rural centres more than ever. I believe in the importance of youth in the small communities, the importance of celebrating the agricultural aspect of our province through creative endeavours and the importance of giving rural areas a creative voice,” she says.
Also in 2016, Nash began collaborating with Bears in Hazenmore, an emerging alternative rock band based in Regina, with roots in Swift Current. She met them at the Swift Current Music Camp, where Bears in Hazenmore arranged some of Nash’s songs for a full band for a performance at the Lyric Theatre. “I liked the way it was sounding. It felt so fun and so good that I thought, ‘We can’t do this just one time!’” Nash says. That fall, she and the band crammed themselves into a van for 10 days and embarked on a tour of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, also supported by a Saskatchewan Arts Board grant.
The partnership benefitted everyone. Playing with a full band opened doors to different venues for Nash, and Bears in Hazenmore gained greater exposure in central Canada.
The band served as Nash’s back up and played on their own. Drummer Tanner Wilhelm Hale says, “It’s interesting to switch between styles. I find that I play less—less busy, less complicated—with her because it’s more about her voice, whereas Bears is a mixture of all five of our voices. It’s also really fun to play twice in one night!”
Nash says having the energy of the band on stage with her is a great experience. “When I play solo, people really listen to the music. With a band, the audience is more likely to move to the songs. It’s always nice when people can interact with your music in that way.”
Thanks to the tour, both acts were booked for the Folk on the Rocks music festival in Yellowknife and made other important industry connections. Nash and Bears in Hazenmore are currently working on an album and will begin touring again in July 2017. “We’re booking into 2018 already, which is really exciting. Now that we’re collaborating, it’s opened a whole world of opportunity for me,” Nash says.
Photo of Megan Nash and Bears in Hazenmore by Cody Punter