Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.
Layin’ low in lockdown and haven’t been going anywhere. Staying busy by renovating an old country house in Chester County, Pa., built a recording studio in the garage, a chicken coop out back, rain collector, garden … One day we’ll get to the bunker. The house is close to hiking trails, the Brandywine Creek and a thing called the Stargazers’ Stone that I think has magic powers. It’s such a beautiful area, but I have a lot of family that I miss, friends I’d love to see and places I’d like to visit this summer, but I’m in no rush to risk anyone’s health.
I had to up my communication practices and try to take advantage of social media in a more personal way whereas before, it was mostly business and bad jokes. I’ve been working on songs bits and soundscapes, slow jamming into the a.m. and just having fun making noise during this isolation, even if it never sees the light of day. It’s good brain/soul exercise, and I’m refining my studio production skills. I got a few decent mics, a computer and an old four-track reel-to-reel tape machine, as well as a large variety of instruments including an old tractor out back that I hit with a stick and sample as drum parts. I’ve been posting a few creations here and there on my Patreon page like early demos, new songs and videos.
Once in a while, I’ll put things on Facebook and Instagram, but I haven’t really been flooding anyone with content. Instead I’ve been doing a livestream concert every Sunday (7 p.m. EST), taking requests and being weird, which has been great, and my fans have been unbelievable. Their donations and tips have helped keep me afloat and allowed me to donate to various charities and tip other artists. For that, my heart is full and the urge to play for an audience is fulfilled (sorta).
All of my shows have been rescheduled for 2021, so I’m trying to maintain a sane level of balance with runaway emotions, basic logic, focused energy, etc. Besides a few gut punches, like the passing of John Prine, Bill Withers and Gene Shay (among others), things haven’t been too heavy. I’ve been inspired by watching friends’ live shows online, loving Dylan’s new record, watching old movies, learning survival tips on YouTube. If I get a little stir crazy, I’ll have some coffee and weed and go for a walk or throw a ball and watch my dog explode with joy. Since no touring musician, manager or venue worker will be going back to work anytime soon, getting back to that old normal is off the table. It’s time to get creative or just wait it out.
I also think many of us are waking up to a new voice inside of us, too, a new consciousness even. COVID-19 limited our distractions, and we were forced to live with ourselves and left to our own devices. We all saw the brutal murder of George Floyd and could not turn away. We had a different presence with it after that long period of lockdown, and we absorbed the full nature of what was going on and how deep the problem was rooted.
It was a wake-up call to the fact that far too many innocent lives have been killed by the hands of racist authority figures; destroying systemic racism throughout our beautiful American landscape should’ve been our first priority as a nation all along. It’s been amazing to watch millions speak up and speak out against this injustice with their newly found voices. Taking it to the streets was also necessary and worth the risk of gathering in large crowds.
Another spike is on the rise as predicted, so gathering for a live show (or a rally) seems pretty obtuse and ignorant at this point, because these types of gatherings are not a reason to keep spreading this thing. For now, I’ll continue to stay hunkered down, balance my extremes, diversify my vices, express my voice when I can through whatever medium is available and do my best to better myself through love. I may even go touch that Stargazers’ Stone and see if a portal opens.