Bahamas was a star on Toronto’s Queen Street West before he made his first solo record. As the guitarist for Leslie Feist during the peak of her commercial success, Bahamas played Saturday Night Live and the Grammys and understood the spotlight before deciding to step out on his own, and stepping into it. Playing with local legends like Jason Collett and his first band, Paso Mino, who became Zeus, Bahamas, born Afie Jurvanen, lived many musical lives before introducing himself to the public—inventing a new persona, a new sound, a new lane.
“I was lucky to be part of these things without a huge spotlight on me through my growing pains and so when it came time to play my own music, I felt comfortable with who I am,” says Bahamas, who decamped from Toronto to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2018, where he’s begun recording personal videos on his social media channels to promote his new album, Sad Hunk, in lieu of touring. “As a creative person, it’s a nice place to get to—you don’t take it for granted, but you can count on it: that you can just get onstage and be yourself.”
Everything Bahamas has done has been unique, and the triumvirate of his genre, career path and persona is one of a kind. Lately, the personality that’s emerged behind his promotional cycle for the record Sad Hunk—a nickname bestowed by his wife after noticing one too many brooding promotional appearances—has been one of ramshackle dad and would-be athlete. Whether skipping rope or jogging along the Nova Scotia shoreline, Bahamas has leaned into his role as goofball father and the results have been as charming as every track on his warm and touching fifth disc.
“I never thought in a million years I could put out a record and not go on tour, but this is shaping up to be the best year of our family’s life,” says Bahamas, adding this his kids—at 3 and 5—are now at the age where they can go out exploring “with minimal crying, for everyone, including mom and dad.”
Bahamas says, “I grew up fishing and hunting, getting lost and riding my bike and we can do that out here in Nova Scotia. We live on the ocean and it’s nice to wake up and be part of the earth’s energy.”
For an artist whose last album was called Earthtones, the notion of being connected to something certainly larger than commercial success or stroking one’s ego looms large. As every runner knows, and Bahamas is learning through his explorations in movement, happiness isn’t something that someone can give you. Often, it’s something you have to find on your own.
“If I fantasized about anything as a teenager, it was less about being a rockstar and more about being an artist, which to me means deciding what you’re doing with your time—that’s true freedom, and I hope that everybody has that: something in your life that makes you feel free.”
A fan of the American Navy Seal turned ultramarathon star David Goggins, whose book Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds should be on everybody’s holiday must-read list, Bahamas has been playing with limits, both in terms of artistic ambition and his own workouts. In one recent video, Bahamas is seen running in a rainstorm, smiling, and he says to the camera: “Embrace the suck.”
“Goggins’ motivation comes from not being defined by your lowest points and I connected to that, not that I want to be an ultramarathon runner, but I like the idea that success starts in your mind,” he says. “You get up in the morning and it’s cold and wet and you don’t want to go run outside, but you know that once you do, even for a moment, you feel like the King of the World.”
Bahamas has won Junos and, in addition to his work with Feist, has toured with Robert Plant and the Lumineers. He’s lived out his dreams, forged his own path in the music industry and today, raising his family and releasing his music during a global pandemic, the musician says he feels refreshed, and free.
“If your kids grow up around music, art, exercise, good food and literature, if they see it’s part of your life, the kids grow up through osmosis,” he says. “It’s a great motivator to live your best life and put work in everyday. When your kids see you living that life, you don’t have to teach them anything.”
To follow Bahamas on Instagram, see @BahamasMusic. To hear the new album, and see him smiling on the album cover, see BahamasMusic.net.