This past week Christian artist Steve Bell has much to celebrate including releasing a brand new album, book, and milestone birthday. 

With Winnipeg in lockdown, Bell offered his ever-growing fan base an online concert on the night of his birthday that incorporated his brand new songs from the release.

Bell just finished releasing his new album, Wouldn't You Love to Know, and it comes with a 147-page full-colour book that includes explanations and musings of each song. 

"With the COVD shutdown, normally I'd be out on the road and doing concerts and telling my stories. That's not going to happen obviously. We thought, how could we do that? Then thought, why not write some reflections of each song, the kinds of things I'd be saying at concerts."

This way, listeners can have a concert-like experience minus the concert. The album includes 12 songs.

"This is a very different project. Because of COVID, I all of a sudden had time. We got into a zone and stayed there for three months to record the record. It feels like a flowing river to me. There's truth-telling, there's sorrow, there's angst but there's still a peaceableness about it, a worshipful quality too."

Bell's favourite song on the album, called 'Because We Hunkered Down', is a relevant song during this COVID season, even though Bell says it wasn't written in light of it. 

"Malcolm Guite is an English poet who I've worked with a fair bit and he wrote the poem. He wrote it coming out of a crisis that threatened to fracture a beloved community he was apart of. Essentially they hunkered down, weather the storm, and survived as a community."

Bell says when he read the poem he could relate. He was going through a similar personal storm, roughly two years ago. 

"I wrote the song about that, but then COVID hit. It seems as though the song was written for COVID. It's about having a hard time breathing and getting through a long winter."

Bell experienced this before when he writes a song and finds great meaning for it after the fact. 

"Often my songs know more than I do. My own songs become my mentors, which I just find endlessly fascinating," he says.

Bell has also reached a milestone during the pandemic, celebrating 60 years of life on November 17. 

"It was a very quiet night. My wife and I had meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I had put a concert up online and so we watched it that night. Then a zoom call with my friends. It was not the same."

Bell says that we as people have to relearn where we're going to get our energy from. As an extrovert, this time isolating from people has been exhausting to the artist in many ways.

"For myself, I find that I have to go to the river and be quiet. I'm always walking down to the river near my house and I have to pray."

This time spent in nature, talking with God is restoring and re-energizing Bell. A question Bell has been pondering relates to where God fits into the pandemic. 

"What's the mystery of suffering, of separateness? Where's the gospel in it? What I mean by the gospel is how do we find a way of imitating Christ in this somehow?"

Bell shares how he sees wearing a mask at this time as a sign of loving others. 

"I don't wear a mask to protect me, I wear a mask to protect you. There's something of the gospel in that. I will do this thing because I love you."

As hard as it is being away from his loved ones, especially his grandchildren during the holidays, in this quiet time, Bell has understood something meaningful.

"We have to realize that we're in Christ. I'm in Christ, you're in Christ and nothing can keep us apart. Not even distance. That's where our true identity is. There is a togetherness there that nobody can take away from us."