COVID-19 downtime has led to new creative output for one Salt Spring Islander, whose songwriting abilities are being released to the world beyond the local community for the first time.
Landscaper Mark Nordine is now also recording artist Mark Nordine, with a complete album of original songs called Just Breathe available on Spotify and YouTube.
“When I’m playing music, everything’s better,” Nordine told the Driftwood. “For me, everything’s perfect. Whether I have aches and pains — I could have been sore, I could have been in a bad mood — when you’re playing music all the pains, all the stress goes away.”
Nordine describes his album as “kind of easy listening, singer-songwriter stuff; songs to have your morning coffee by.” As a 49-year-old family man whose kids have recently finished high school, he deals with themes of breaking out of old patterns, finding peace and coming into acceptance of oneself.
Playing music is indeed a fairly new pattern, since Nordine has been focused on his labour-intensive business for many years. He bought his guitar around three years ago and was strumming on his own until his wife Mardon Dary bought him a guitar lesson. According to Nordine, it took his teacher around five minutes to declare the student was hopeless — but he was impressed by Nordine’s songwriting skills and suggested he focus his time in that direction.
“I thought, ‘That’s a great idea, because it would be fun to have something to offer in the context of a band, because I’d rather play with people.’ I thought, ‘Well, I can’t play guitar that well, but let’s say I can sing and write some of my own songs, I could have something I could share with people.’”
Nordine’s live performance experience started at the Salt Spring Legion’s open mic night, which he decided to try after reading about it in the Driftwood. He found himself right at home with a group of fellow “middle-aged wannabe rock stars” and was soon sneaking in a song or two at the end of the night while everyone else was packing up.
“It would be generally met with a laugh and a smile and a couple of claps,” he said.
After a couple of years of this, the experience morphed into a band after Nordine overheard the Legion’s booking manager was looking to fill a Friday night slot. He immediately volunteered his (non-existing) group and then went on to create Rough and Tumble, bringing in his friends Mark Laberge, Theodore Trout, “Bongo Jerry” Jones and “Big Al” Lyons.
“Once a month we’d wow packed audiences with our zesty renditions of ‘70s ‘dad rock.’ Then COVID hit and everything ground to a halt,” Nordine said.
It was Laberge, a professional musician, who suggested they record some of Nordine’s original songs for something fun to do in their downtime. The album was recorded under COVID rules at Dave Vollrath’s Road Case Cafe Studio, which meant only two musicians were allowed in at a time. Nordine plays rhythm guitar and sings, while Laberge plays lead guitar, dobro and some background slide guitar.
“I named the album Just Breathe after Mark saying that to me every time before I had to sing, to calm my nerves,” Nordine explained. “I also thought the title reflected the spirit in which the songs were written.”
“Writing and singing has brought me a lot of peace over the years, and I hope listening to the songs can bring a little peace to others,” he added.
In addition to digital platforms, Nordine also has some physical CDS available. Call him at 250-537-4245.