For some, experiencing nature is a lot like experiencing art.
Such is the case for one Saanich man, who was inspired to write his first EP after spending nine months experiencing the rugged beauty of the Canadian wilderness.
Nelson Forest, who grew up making music on his guitar, joined the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s (CWF) Canadian Conservation Corps (CCC) in August 2019. With an honours biology degree from the University of Victoria and experience in research, Forest wanted to see, feel and experience the wilderness he studied.
The CCC initiative is a three-stage program designed to engage young Canadians in their natural environment through travel, education and conservation and field work. The program took Forest to Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and the shores of Prince Edward Island, where he studied invasive species removal and the conservation of Atlantic salmon. In the final stage of the program, Forest worked for an organization in northern Quebec.
“I got to travel coast to coast and up north, which influenced all of the songs and created a cool story along with it,” he said.
It was a culmination of his experiences – some of them taking place during the restrictions of COVID-19 – that inspired and provided time for the creation of the album, For the Wild.
“I was in these really wild regions … I was starting to see some really beautiful wildlife and geography,” he said. “I got naturally inspired from those places, I found it a really gradual process.”
Songs such as For You a Song for the West Coast or Without You a Song for the North, were created in homage to Canada’s natural landscapes and the impacts climate change is having on them.
“I hope people take away that we live in such a beautiful part of the world and its such a privilege to be here. It can be a lot of fun to get out there and really enjoy it and make the most of it, but also we have this awesome opportunity to respect it and take care of it.”
Greater Victoria’s Garry Oak Meadows and Douglas Firs partly inspire the lyrics of Forest’s melody for the West Coast, of which a series of yet-to-be-completed education videos will soon accompany the melody.
“How did the salt get under our skin?” he sings in a YouTube performance of the song, recorded from a cabin in Strathcona Park.
“This place is older than you and me.”