|Orléans country artist Chris Labelle recently wrote a tribute to Canada’s frontline workers called ‘Frontliners’ which has blown up on the Internet. FRED SHERWIN PHOTO
It’s a song that has struck a nerve with frontline workers of every stripe – from ER doctors and nurses to grocery store clerks and truck drivers.
Frontliners has had over 64,000 views on YouTube and more than 275,000 views on Facebook. In a word, it has become an anthem for all those people who put their health on the line everyday so the rest of us can make it through the COVID-19 pandemic and in particular frontline health care workers.
Orléans country artist Chris Labelle got the idea for the song in the middle of the night.
“I couldn’t sleep. I was restless and I literally picked up the guitar and wrote the song in like an hour,” recalls Labelle, who is the former lead singer of the River Town Saints. “It’s was like God gave me a pen and paper and said, ‘Here you go. Take it.’ It just came to me. It was insane.”
The next day he put a video of himself performing the song on Facebook and it took off. “It start getting shares and it started blowing up as the day went on, so I took it down and thought I better record it.”
Two days later, Labelle recorded the song with Steve Foley from Audio Valley recordings and a day after that he shot a video at his in-law’s place in Navan which he then posted on his Facebook page and YouTube and it immediately blew..
The morning after he posted the video on Facebook it already had over 100,000 views. Air play on Country 101 followed along with interview requests from CTV, CBC and the Ottawa Citizen.
At the same time, he invited frontline workers to send in pictures of themselves which he then incorporated into the video, including a picture of his mother Heather and her coworkers at the Metro store in Elmvale Acres.
The one person whose picture isn’t in the video is his brother, Kyle, who works at the Ottawa Hospital.
“I asked him for a picture of himself in his PPE gear and he wasn’t having it. He was afraid I would share it on Facebook and then the video came out and he was like ‘Why didn’t you put in the video. I didn’t know you were doing a video.’ It was pretty funny,” says Labelle.
When he wrote the song, Labelle’s wife Julie was nine months pregnant.
When he drove her to the Montfort Hospital less than a week later for the delivery, a couple of the nurses recognized him from the video and asked him to do a command performance at the front desk in front of 20 of their colleagues who they had summoned to join them.
“It was such a cool feeling that they enjoyed the song so much and then they thanked me for writing it and I was like, ‘You don’t have to thank me. I’m thanking you.’,” says Labelle.
Julie eventually gave birth to their son Grayson on April 27, which is about the same time she first heard the song.
“Julie is literally one of my biggest critics. Sometimes I like to post my stuff on Facebook first to get different opinions, so I never played it for her,” says Labelle. “So she didn’t hear it until I played it for her one of my radio interviews and she thought ‘Oh, that’s pretty catchy’.”
He’s mother told him it’s one of the best songs he’s ever written.
Labelle considers Frontliners a gift to all the frontline workers who, like his mother and his brother, put their health at risk every day.
“I see all these big celebrities giving millions of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars to the cause and obviously I don’t have that, so I just basically picked up my guitar and wrote Frontliners,” says Labelle. “If I never write another song again, I feel pretty proud about this one.”
Proceeds from the sale of the song which is available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music, will go to the Orléans Cumberland food bank. Over $2,500 has been raised so far.
Ironically, the same pandemic that has led Labelle to write a once-in-a-lifetime song, it is also the cause of his having to cancel a number of shows this summer.
Like many other musicians, Labelle has no idea when his next paid gig will be.
“I had so many shows lined up this year. I was going to play in P.E.I and Lethbridge this summer. I was even lined to play the Navan Fair again this year and then (Navan Fair president) Luc Bergeron called me and tolde it was cancelled. It’s really bad,” says Labelle.
On the positive side, he will be able to spend more time with his newborn son and his wife and he’ll be able to spend more time working on his music.
He’s already tried to write a song about Grayson’s arrival with limited success.
“I was trying to write a song but it was just so cheesy,” laughs Labelle admitting it’s still a work in progress.
story was made possible thanks to the generous support of
our local business partners.)