Scott Nolan wasn’t mentally prepared to hear David Suzuki say his name.
"It was a real energizing moment for me," says the local singer-songwriter. "I got a real kick out of just hearing him say my name."
That moment came during the credits of The David Suzuki Podcast, a new venture by the 84-year-old environmentalist and science broadcaster that has a significant Manitoba connection.
Nolan created the theme music and contributed to the soundscape of the podcast and local musicians Andrina Turenne, Richard Inman, Leaf Rapids and Carly Dow are featured prominently in the five-episode show.
The opportunity came by way of Jason Arkley, a podcast producer and former Winnipegger.
"One thing (David and I) are both passionate about is music and musicians’ abilities to educate and tell stories," Arkley says over the phone from Toronto. "It was really important to me that we didn’t just license a 14,000-song library of generic music… especially now, because so many artists don’t have venues to perform in and they are really hurting."
Arkley reached out to Nolan, a longtime friend, about creating the theme song — a soothing, repetitive guitar riff — and some instrumental interludes to add to the production value.
"I’ve never really done anything like that," Nolan says. "I’m not a jingle guy… so it was very new for me."
The pair also brainstormed about other musicians who would fit the themes of the show.
The first season of The David Suzuki Podcast discusses the pandemic as an opportunity to connect with the environment. Each episode centres on a basic element of life: fire, air, water, earth and spirit. Suzuki interviews activists, journalists and thinkers alongside celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Winona LaDuke and Neil Young. Each episode closes with a song by a Manitoba musician.
"There’s this huge spectrum of things that he talks about in the podcast and at the end of absorbing all that stuff, we thought it would be best to give everybody a moment," Arkley says. "And why (the musicians) are from Manitoba? It’s because Scott and I are from Manitoba — it’s as simple as that."
For Andrina Turenne, a Métis francophone singer-songwriter and former member of Chic Gamine, contributing to a David Suzuki project was a bit surreal.
"I’m honoured because I’ve always looked up to him and what he’s putting out into the world," she says. "And for what I’m putting out into the world to be welcomed on his platform is a very big deal."
It also brought back fond childhood memories of watching The Nature of Things on CBC and attending a presentation at Pantages Playhouse where Suzuki talked about the wonder of earthworms.
"I remember it illuminating my knowledge of how important they were in the ecosystem," Turenne says. "It’s little things like that I remember distinctly learning from David Suzuki."
Her song, When the Smoke Clears, caps off the podcast’s first episode about wildfires and the fiery anti-racism protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. Having her music included in that conversation was a major opportunity, especially amid the pandemic.
"To know that… artists’ voices are still valuable and still very much tied into social movements and the world around us is a good reminder," Turenne says. "It can be pretty isolating to not be able to work the way we are used to working."
Nolan agrees. Getting to share a sliver of Suzuki’s spotlight was a special milestone, personally and professionally.
"It’s been a dark year for everyone," he says. "I would hope that for some of those songwriters, it might give them a little boost."
The David Suzuki Podcast is available at davidsuzuki.org/podcast and on most podcast-listening apps.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.