Canadian Cycling Magazine

Cycling Celebrity

Sarah Harmer cruises to a new album and a return to the bike

- by David Mcpherson

Growing up in the Niagara Region, the youngest of six children, Sarah Harmer jokes that “sometimes only the dog wanted to hang out with me.” The musician does not recall her first bike, but remembers learning to ride a two-wheeler (without training wheels) up and down the long driveway leading to her family’s farm. “I would just ride back and forth,” she says. “With five other siblings, there were always clunkers in the shed.”

This past February, after a self-imposed sabbatical – time well spent in “the woodshed,” north of Kingston – from a full-time music career and various environmen­tal and political-activism projects, the musician returned with Areyougone, her first album in a decade. There are no clunkers in this collection. Harmer’s poetic introspect­ion put to music shows that despite the long layoff, the Juno-award winning songwriter still possesses a gift with words and melodies that transport listeners to other realms while also asking them to contemplat­e existence. Just like a competitiv­e cyclist getting back in the saddle after a long break, writing and recording an album is

“We are nature. We are of the same stuff that surrounds us.”

fundamenta­l to Harmer’s dna. Songwritin­g is a skill you do not forget. You just need time. Harmer wrote Areyougone gradually as inspiratio­n struck and the melodies appeared.

Some songs are personal. “What I Was to You” speaks of the special relationsh­ip she had with The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie and dealing with his death; “See Her Wave” chronicles the passing of another good friend. Nature is also omnipresen­t in Harmer’s art. The 49-year-old musician admits she doesn’t set out to include landscapes in her lyrics and songs; this imagery naturally works its way in. “We are nature,” she explains. “We are of the same stuff that surrounds us. When you live in a big city, you often don’t spend enough time in the natural living world. We forget that it underpins everything.”

One of Harmer’s most vivid cycling experience­s, and one she will never forget, is an trip she took a few years ago with a friend who lives in Brittany. Renting bikes and packing their panniers, the pair rode the voiesver tes, the greenways on the decommissi­oned train lines. “We spent a bunch of days cycling these trails along beautiful canals in the French countrysid­e,” she recalls.

Living near Kingston, Harmer admits she does not cycle often, but last summer she enjoyed exploring the Kingston and Pembroke Trail, known locally as the Kick ’n’ Push. She hopes to ride more in the future.

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