Isolation Drills: Micah Graves

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.

Graves: Before COVID-19 hit, I was getting ready to take a residency in Slovenia, had a handful of shows for the summer and had some original music ready to share to the world. The immediate impact is that it took me out of campus; in-person academia and the rest of the semester was now digital and through Zoom. For the artists and performers, this was detrimental. With performing artists at school, a lot of our “networking,” “internships” and “connections” comes from having that in-person relationship with our peers.

With that now gone, the rest of the semester was challenging. Though that was hard, I wanted to use the time and space given to finish up some songs, write some new ones and arrange in different manners. For the first month, I really dedicated myself to practicing and finishing up broken ideas. It was a joy connecting all the pieces together. I was able to get more into a more “storytelling” type of writing, where the lyrics were extremely personal and the instrumentation followed the dynamics of the lyricism.

I made Word docs and lead sheets and put them into separate folders so I knew where everything was. I was only missing one thing: the musicians to play these with. I then resorted to logic and built each song. I used bass presets, made keyboard tracks, played the vocal melody, crafted a groove underneath it, and although it was fun, it didn’t quite capture the euphoria of playing with people.

I think what I missed most was the different interpretations a person brings to a song, the unknown, the unexpected. When you record by yourself, you already know what you’re going to play. You might play something differently one time, and it might actually be exciting for a minute. But then after a while, that becomes less exciting and more of the norm of ideas.

During this season, I feel like my playing has vastly improved. I have had more time for contemplation, repetition and exploring. I have learned some music that once used to frighten me, worked on weaknesses to the point where I feel strong in those areas now. That being stated, these personal goals and successes are nothing like playing for an audience, sharing a moment onstage, the general camaraderie of playing with your peers.

This last month, I have spent more time outside protesting, being around friends and being out in nature. The music will always be there; the biggest thing right now is keeping my personal well-being and mental health intact. My worldview has changed quite a bit during this period, thus the way I play and perform music in the future will also change.

I look forward to sharing the music created during this period. I look forward to engaging and giving audiences my heart and soul. Performing in the future will be a personal experience I look forward to sharing. 

Click here to help fund Graves’ debut album.