Sarah Beatty brings her science-minded music to Black's Pub 

The Hamilton-based singer-songwriter found herself in the middle of B.C.'s fire zone

PHOTO SUBMITTED - Tour Sarah Beatty performs in Whistler and Squamish as part of her first visit to B.C.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • Tour Sarah Beatty performs in Whistler and Squamish as part of her first visit to B.C.

Singer-songwriter Sarah Beatty was supposed to play 100 Mile House in B.C.'s Interior this week.

But then catastrophic wildfires took hold of the area around the town of 1,800 and it was evacuated.

Speaking from Prince George, where a lot of the refugees from the fire were told to go, she says the sky is clear.

"There's a fire west of town here but it's not having much of an impact," Beatty says.

"I just got word from 100 Mile House that they cancelled. Quesnel (another town she is due to perform in) isn't concerned because they aren't under threat, but I think they are keeping an eye on it. And cellphone coverage has been wild so it's hard to get the information. There is long stretches where there isn't any coverage at all."

This is the Hamilton, Ont., performer's first-ever tour in the province.

"We've put about 6,000 kilometres on the car so far, driving west," Beatty says.

"It's a mix of all these great places you go to and you know them on a map, but you don't know them personally. Then you see them and find out if they align with your imagination.

"You see how some are more special than you've anticipated, and are way different."

That said, it is unlikely that she would have expected to be in the B.C. Interior during a period of such drama, and then she says something surprising — she has a PhD. in environmental science from McMaster University and her specialization is how soils are impacted by wildfire.

"I was looking at different chemical and physical changes in soil in the presence of fire," Beatty says.

"It's amazing that I'm here. Right now."

She is also involved in science communication, which paid the bills while she completed her doctorate.

Unsurprisingly, she uses her knowledge in her songwriting.

"I started to write these science songs spontaneously," she says.

"I realized I was analyzing the ways that I grew up learning science and I was analyzing the ways society reacts. There's a gap between the science that is happening and how scientists are reaching out to people, and how people understand it."

Beatty's album Bandit Queen was released earlier this year, and peaked as No. 1 on Canada's Earshot national roots music chart.

"It started out with a collection of songs and my wanting to develop as a songwriter. I was thinking of songcraft and stories, those two things came more into my conscious awareness together," Beatty says.

Her songs are full of character and stories, stemming from people she had met or tales she heard while growing up.

There are also, perhaps unsurprisingly, tunes about prehistoric geology, millennial graduates, and truck drivers.

Beatty is performing at Howe Sound Brew Pub in Squamish on July 14, and Black's Pub in Whistler on July 15.

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