Circus rock album birthed from COVID-19

Pandemic anxiety and stay-at-home orders spawn Castle Macfarlane’s debut LP

Matt Macfarlane, the singer-songwriter behind the band Castle Macfarlane, found creative inspiration through COVID-19 anxiety.


Some look at multiple COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions as an obstacle. Others see it as an opportunity. That was the case with Castle Macfarlane, which released its debut album, Cosmic Wine, in March. 

The band’s singer-songwriter, Matt Macfarlane, says that, as a worker in the service industry and university student, the pandemic offered a unique opportunity to scratch his creative itch. 

“The only reason I was able to focus on this is because I had so much time," Macfarlane says, calling the year of uncertainty "fuel.”

“The anxiety of it is good for songwriting. It's good for creative ideas ... that’s how you get moving and starting projects and feeling inspired."

Macfarlane said this extra time combined with “talented friends who are willing to help” really made the album what it is. 

The singer credits one “talented friend” in particular. 

“My very good friend (Travis MacLean) who produced the album, who I've been playing with for years, came up with the intro and outro idea. That wasn’t me.”

He says that while he wrote the introductory and concluding songs, his friend inspired him to make his record like a story with a beginning, middle and end.

The LP contains lyrics and subject matter that have a deeper meaning for listeners from Manitoba. When asked about the significance of lyrics such as “it started on a beach in southern Manitoba,” Macfarlane says he previously did not understand the point of shouting out your province in a song. "It never sounded cool to me."

Those feelings changed as Macfarlane began writing his songs.

“It totally makes sense to me now to do the shoutout and set the stage in Manitoba.” He also says he wants to present Manitoba in a different light from what people are accustomed to seeing and hearing. 

“People that drive through Manitoba have no idea what kind of beaches we have ... they see farms, and they think, ‘oh, this province sucks,’ but some of my favourite beaches I've ever been to in the world are here.”

Macfarlane says he wanted to explore seasonal themes on the album.

 “I wanted to make it about summer, because it's so romantic to Manitobans. You get this short, little season up north where you know you can go outside. 

“It’s so cliche to talk about the weather and to talk about Manitoba ... but you know it affects us, and it matters. It should be celebrated.”

Unfortunately for Macfarlane, the pandemic has eliminated any touring possibilities. That being said, when asked what the future holds next for him, the eternal optimist says “album number two.”

An album that paints Manitoba as a romantic beach destination as a debut? Only the artist and his talented counterparts know what’s coming next.

Castle Macfarlane’s Cosmic Wine is available to stream on Spotify and Amazon Music.

Published in Volume 75, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 20, 2021)

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