A Day in the Life: Social Distancing with Karen Lee Batten

Photo courtesy of Jason Bennett

A year ago today, I was primed for what I thought would be an incredible 2020.

I had just finished recording some new tracks here at home in Canada at Chad Kroeger’s house with Chad and producers Mitch Merrett and Jeff Johnson. I had recently connected with all of them to create some new music together, and Jeff and I had just begun to write a song called “Too Strong”.

“Too Strong” is a song that developed accidentally when Jeff and I were just chatting about life. Guitars are never far away and before we knew it, we started riffing on the idea of how times aren’t always easy in relationships and they can present a choice between giving up or recognizing the value of our own strength and staying strong. We recorded three other songs and given that this was my first new music since 2018, I was especially excited to release these. But then – as everyone knows – the world changed and everything around me was different.

While writing and recording music is an incredible passion for me, touring and performing it are equally important. The stage is truly my second home and being able to connect with people through the language of music is essential for my own fulfillment as an artist and as a human.

The realization that my biggest passions in life were gone for the immediate future was crushing. As we found ourselves in lockdown last spring, I found myself in my car in an empty parking lot one night, emotionally spent, tears rolling down my face and wondering what was to come from all of this. I felt sad knowing that so many people had their own terrible situations that this pandemic has brought on, and I felt weak – and done. My life was usually crazy and all over the place, and I loved the pressure to succeed, but this was an entirely different kind of pressure. 

Those feelings gave way to a desire to be busy and productive, even if I felt that I couldn’t do it through music. So last April, I put renewed emphasis on an organic product line that I had started prior to COVID-19 and developed it as a side business to focus on, and so Earthya was born.

As we drifted further into the pandemic, I thought back to the music I had been so excited to release before and realized that “Too Strong” had organically taken on a second meaning in “the new normal”. Not only could it be representative of personal relationships, but in present times, it could serve as a message of hope and a call to dig deeper into our own strength to endure and overcome our new challenges.

From there, I brought together an A-team of industry leaders and we released the single this past October. The response has proven reassuring for me to know that others are gaining strength and understanding from the song, and that I can connect with my fans virtually, even if I can’t be on stage to entertain them.

Outside of my musical and professional activities, my journey through social distancing and the pandemic has included spending time with my immediate family, and my two dogs – Lulu and Whiskey – our loyal companions all the way through this. When I’m not interacting with my fans or working on my business, my days now are spent enjoying family, FaceTime WineTime with girlfriends, writing, working on my products and of course play time with the fuzzies. While it’s not how I envisioned life would be at this point, I am – like everyone else – doing what’s needed to keep myself balanced, support those around me and make a difference in any way I can.

As I look forward to what is ahead of us, I am confident that a “better normal” is coming. 2020 may have been intense but it wasn’t all bad. Among other things, I was awarded the BC Country Music Association’s Fan’s Choice Award, which was such an amazing gift to receive in the middle of this yo-yo of a year. 2020 has included many ups and many downs but I am excited again about my art and the promise of staying true to my original vision and sharing new music, however I can, as a means of expression, entertainment, comfort and connection. Cheers to 2021!!

While practicing social distancing, watch my latest music video for "Too Strong":