Sask. artists come together to form ‘We’ll Be Free,’ a response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Eighteen artists came together to spread a message of love in the music video ‘We’ll Be Free 2020,’ which began as a collaboration between Saskatoon’s Lyn Besse McGinnis and Terry Hoknes. (Lyn Besse McGinnis/Submitted)

Saskatoon singer/songwriter Lyn Besse McGinnis describes a recent collaboration as an anthem of love she hopes spreads across the world in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Besse McGinnis and Terry Hoknes—also a singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist—reached out to their musical friends to create ‘We’ll Be Free 2020.’ 

The music video was released on YouTube on Apr. 21. It features 16 other artists, including Prince Albert’s Larry Krause and LJ Tyson.

Each recorded themselves singing a line and the chorus of the song on their cellphones, which the pair bound together to form a positive response to the global pandemic.

Besse McGinnis wrote the lyrics while Hoknes composed the music.

“When I first saw it, I cried,” she said.

“I love writing songs, but to hear 18 people sing your lyrics to such beautifully composed music and all on cellphones, for me it was pretty magical.”

Based on Saskatchewan’s population, they hope to reach 1,174,000 views.

Besse McGinnis said as a songwriter, she’s often inspired by things she reads or overhears. In this case, she overheard a conversation about essential workers throughout the pandemic, including grocery store and health care employees.

“Basically what they were saying is we’re not the only ones afraid. They’re afraid too, but they’re still doing it. They’re going to work every day and so it’s like courage is fear walking,” she said.

The line ‘courage is fear walking’ appears in the second verse. That’s the line Besse McGinnis said she built off of for the rest of the song, which she hopes serves as a reminder that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Even though we’re in this valley, we’re going to come out on the other side,” she said, although “it’s not going to be the same, we will have lost people.”

The response to the video has been overwhelming and quick, she said. Many of the artists don’t know each other, but they all hope to spread the same message.

“It was a labour of love for us to gather up people to send a singular message,” she said.

“The more we got into it, the longer we spent reviewing the video and the audio to make sure there were no issues.”

According to a news release, Hoknes pitched the idea to try songwriting where one writes the lyrics and the other the music, much like Bernie Taupin and Elton John. The music video style was inspired by ‘We are the World.’

Other artists involved include singer and bassist Jay Semko, folk-rocker Glenn Sutter, Cree/Métis singer, dancer actor and musician Krystle Pederson and vocalist Heather Desjardins.

The artists of ‘We’ll Be Free 2020’ are also asking for donations to Food Banks of Saskatchewan as they respond to high demands as a result of COVID-19.