Music scenes don’t happen automatically. They must be nurtured, week after week and month after month, by disciplined and passionate individuals who offer their energy to the community. They might be musicians themselves, leading a jam or bringing out crowds to a regular residency, or they might be venue owners opening their space to artists. As one of Bobcaygeon’s most active songwriters with a full-time music teaching schedule, Kelly Burrows easily qualifies as a prime mover in the Kawartha Lakes scene.
“I have a little bit of a—not a monopoly, I’m not going to say that for sure—but there’s not a ton of people in Bobcaygeon that do I what I do,” Burrows admits, laughing. Having grown up in Bobcaygeon, as a younger artist she was eager to head to the big city. After studying music at Queens University, she made the leap to Toronto to form her folk rock band, The Maevens. She still plays occasionally with the group, but the lure of quieter spaces and rural landscapes eventually drew her back home.
“I swore up and down I would never come back, but I’m so happy I did. It’s so nice here, and when I decided I wanted to have a family this was where I wanted to do that,” she says. The music degree gave her the formal skills to set up shop as a music teacher, offering lessons in piano, guitar, ukulele, and violin. Her personal inclinations, however, run less to the classical side.
“When I was growing up it was very heavily influenced by ‘the three Sarahs,’ so Sarah McLaughlin, Sarah Harmer, and Sarah Slean. Canadian gals,” she says. “When I moved back I just kind of started playing wherever I could. The Kawartha Coffee Company did a lot of music nights… Then it just kind of kept going.”
One of Burrows’ favourite venues in town is Kawartha Settlers’ Village, a living museum and site of over twenty historic buildings preserved to reflect life in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s an evocative place for acoustic music, but Burrows’ connection runs even deeper. “I actually worked here, in between my years at university for a summer job as a tour guide. And I always loved it,” she says. “I’ve played here for all their beer festivals. They do a festival of trees in the winter and my students will come and do a little Christmas recital in the church, and it’s adorable. Some of my favourite performances have been my barn shows in the Murphy barn. It’s just so beautiful.”
Burrows played an annual barn show at the Village, and would have six under her belt if COVID hadn’t forced a hiatus in 2020 and 2021. She’s hopeful that summer 2022 with bring audiences back out to live music, but in the meantime, the Meet the Musicians series gave her a chance to get onstage in the Murphy barn again. For Burrows, the knowledge she might bump into members of her audience at the local grocery store the night after an emotional performance influences her songwriting—but her recent song “All I Have to Say” pushes back against that feeling. In it she expresses a drive to speak meaningfully and without comparing herself to others. Soft fingerstyle guitar and a clear, direct vocal underscore the theme. It’s a lovely tune that sets the stage for many more musical nights in Bobcaygeon’s small but spirited music scene.
Hear more from Kelly Burrows by visiting her Bandcamp page
Discover more local musicians through the Meet the Musicians series, released regularly through Spring 2022