It was a cold day in Ontario, but Sarah Harmer shows her northern mettle in the video for “St. Peter’s Bay,” premiering exclusively on Billboard today (March 18).
“It was surprisingly a beautiful window of time,” Harmer, who shot the clip during a quick three-hour visit to one of the province’s Thousand Islands, says. “The temperature was about zero. We took the 3:30 ferry over, the 6:30 ferry home. The next day just dumped tons of snow up there and all that beautiful, frozen ice you see was buried. We were lucky to get a good day.”
The video is certainly chilling as Harmer treks around the island, ice skates and sits in front of a small campfire. “I was really bundled up; I look more like the Michelin man than I normally do,” Harmer says with a laugh. The “St. Peter’s Bay” song, meanwhile, was written with the Thousand Island in mind, according to Harmer, even though she placed and titled it after part of the Prince Edward Islands.
“I wrote it for a particular event — Hockey Day in Canada, which takes place in different towns where the community comes together and plays a lot of shinny and pick-up games,” explains Harmer, who played hockey as a youth. “A bunch of musician friends of mine organized a musical component. Our task was to write a song about hockey, and I had agreed to go and do this, and I wrote this [song] in a short amount of time. It’s not specifically about hockey but it evokes that feeling of being on the bay and the frozen ice and that part of our culture.”
The track is from her latest album Are You Gone, which came out Feb. 21. It marks Harmer’s return to recording after a decade-long gap, which she says was not intentional. The most daunting part of music for me is how to commit to making them sound right in the studio,” Harmer says. “I usually have pretty good confidence in the songs with just me and an acoustic guitar, and then I get halted by the idea of perfection in the studio. Once I get the ball rolling I’m pretty loyal to a process, but the starting of it and committing to it is the hardest part.”
Harmer recorded the album in Toronto and Montreal with producer Marcus Paquin, though she sat on the rough mixes “for about a year” while she began restoring an old Victorian house near Syracuse. “It was hard to come back to [the album] because it was the hardest kind of realm of decision-making,” Harmer recalls. “I liked being a dumb laborer bashing windows and scraping wallpaper and putting on putty. I can do that forever, and I love that. But making creative decisions was something I kept putting on the side. But I finally came back to it and was happy with what we did.”
Because of the novel coronavirus, Harmer, like everybody else, is waiting to find out when she can play live again. But she’s also hopeful that it won’t take another 10 years to release her next album. “I think momentum is everything,” Harmer notes. “I’ve got a wonderful band right now. I feel like being around those guys, there will be some chances to work on some new songs and just be a full-fledged musician for a while and put the little side hobbies aside. Hopefully the next collection of songs and recording will piggyback on this one.”
The video for “St. Peter’s Bay” is below.