Isolation Drills: Cliff Hillis

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.

Hillis: It’s crazy how the world changed so quickly right in front of my eyes. When the news started to break about COVID-19 spreading in the U.S., I was in Florida doing some gigs. And washing my hands more than ever before. By the time I returned to Pennsylvania a few days later, I immediately self-quarantined and have been sheltering in place ever since.

All of my immediate gigs have been canceled, including a couple that I was really looking forward to with Rhett Miller from the Old 97’s. Like everyone else, I’m not sure what the future holds for live gigs, so I’m working on a few things I can do when I’m housebound.

I knew I wasn’t the only person affected by a loss of work and income, so in an effort to entertain and help out, I decided to do a Facebook Live show every Sunday where I donate half of all tips I get to a different local charity each week. It has gone over really well, so I decided to make it a regular event, 12:30 p.m. every Sunday.

I’m also using this time working on my own music and have been writing and recording songs for an alter-ego project I have called the Inside Passenger

Luckily, since I have a small studio at my house, I’ve been able to finish some ongoing mixing and mastering projects, including a new record for a fantastic singer/songwriter from Minneapolis: Hayley Lewis and her band Corzine. Check her out! I have some other projects that I can do remotely, so that helps, too.

Isolation Drills: Joy Ike

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.

My name is Joy Ike, and I’m a singer/songwriter writer who lives in Germantown. The last six weeks have been a bit surreal for me. I think everyone can fairly say that they have to blink a few times each day to remind themselves that all of this is real. At the same time, as someone who is on the road a lot less than I used to be, I’m used to working from home. So being home for long periods of time is familiar and welcomed. However, I have to regularly remind myself that so many people aren’t experiencing this season in the same way. This is a very difficult time for so many people in so many ways. That grieves my heart. I’m reminded of how important it is to check up on my loved ones, friends and people who pop into my mind randomly.

90% of my income comes from performing out, so that’s on hold for now. However, I’ve been so grateful for the support of my fans this past month. Their donations and purchase of merch through my online store has been sustaining me single-handedly. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for them.

I’ve also noticed that I am way more creative then I’ve been in a long time. The time and mental space to create without distractions has been priceless. I recently wrote a quarantine-related song and put out a music video just a few days ago. While sitting at my piano several weeks ago, I was considering the fact that I had spent my first week of quarantine reconnecting with friends and family that I hadn’t talked with in such a long time. That’s the spirit that this song was written in.

This time has also allowed me the space to launch a consulting component to my music that I’ve been wanting to do for years. After running a music marketing blog for a while and doing contributing writing for Bandzoogle and Indie On The Move, I started this year with the plan to do more artist coaching for young artists and those trying to cast a better vision for what they do. This down time has given me the space to formulate and launch that. Any artists who are interested in the free group chats can sign up for Cultivators and consultations.

Last but not least, during this time I’ve put together a page on my website where my fans can contract me for assisting them with the skill sets I’ve learned from running my music for the last 15 years. So I am also doing graphic-design work and website setups for those who would like support in that.

Even though its been a highly creative time for me, I am trying not to fill all the moments of the day with productivity, which can often be a distraction. That can be hard for me, but I know that if I don’t leave space to take in what’s happening to the world, I might as well be living in a bubble. At the end of the day, we are in a new normal, and I’m trying to be ready for that on all fronts.

Isolation Drills: Fire In The Radio

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.

Hey everyone, my name is Rich Carbone, and I sing and play guitar in Fire In The Radio. When we were planning to release our new record, Monuments (Wednesday), we could not have predicted we would be doing so in the middle of a global pandemic. And while this has caused use to cancel record-release tours and a performance at Montreal’s Pouzza Fest, those things seem small when placed against the backdrop of friends and family who have been lost and the people who are risking their lives each day to help us get through this. 

It took us a minute to decide that making music at a time like this was even appropriate. What we concluded is that with self-isolation, finding ways to communicate and stay connected is now more important than ever. We are reminded music provides a sense of community and hope. By engaging with others (even remotely), we are doing something to help people find comfort. As a result, we’re more strongly embracing our friends by offering livestreams, unreleased demos and videos to stay in touch. Each member of the band has dedicated a space in their home to write, record and stream online, allowing us to be more interactive and responsive. We’ve also set up the Fire In The Radio Friendship Society. It’s certainly not the same as being together in a live setting, but it’s a way to stay connected in the interim, and we look forward to doing more in this direction in the coming weeks and months.

My wife and I continue to work through this pandemic, but it’s clear how the line is being further divided between the haves and have nots. The gaps we have in resources, information and overall stability is staggering. Social distancing still remains an important preventative measure, but there are many ways we can still help our communities. Non-profits have been hit incredibly hard by the reduction in donations, and I encourage folks, if possible, to please consider supporting the local non-profits in your community that are making a difference.  While not directly related to COVID response, one charity that’s important to us is the Ronald McDonald House. They provide meals, housing and support for families who have children with serious illnesses and must be away from home for long periods. Also, please consider supporting your local restaurants and cafes that have had to reduce or close operations. You can donate to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.

We look forward to seeing everyone on the other side of this thing. 

Isolation Drills: Adam Weiner (Low Cut Connie)

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.

Weiner: After sitting around depressed and anxious for the first few days of this thing, I got up and said, “I gotta do something.” I’d never done a livestream before, so I didn’t know if anyone would tune in, or if it would be possible to give people the kind of body-and-soul experience that I like to facilitate at my live performances. By the end of the hour broadcast, thousands of people had tuned in, and I was mostly naked and essentially crying. It was really cathartic for all involved.

Once I saw pictures and videos of doctors and nurses watching it in hospitals with the phone in a plastic baggie, and parents dancing to it with their kids, and people of all ages making out to it, I vowed to keep these things going as long as people want me to do them. Anything I can do to help in some small way, that’s what I wanna do. These are unprecedented times, and we all need to pitch in. If singing songs from “Annie” while rolling around in my underwear on a livestream from my bedroom can help, then naked and showtuning I shall be.

Low Cut Connie’s new double album, Private Lives , is out later this year via Contender Records/MidCitizen. Here is the video for the title track:

Isolation Drills: Ellen Siberian Tiger

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.

I’m Ellen from the Philly band Ellen Siberian Tiger. Obviously, all our shows have been cancelled, including the album release show we had planned for May, and all of our rehearsals are on hold since the band doesn’t live together. While that’s been tough, it’s not a serious hardship. I do really miss performing, though, so I’ve been doing live solo shows using the @ellensiberiantiger Instagram account for anybody who wants to tune in. My next one will be this Thursday, April 16. I’m fortunate because a lot of my income comes from teaching private cello, guitar, voice and piano lessons, and most of my students were willing to continue with our lessons on FaceTime and Zoom while we’re all stuck at home. That’s been helpful both financially and because I still have some sense of normalcy from seeing all my students each week. 

Since I’m fortunate enough to have a place to live that feels safe and a relatively reliable income, I’m left with a lot of time at home to consider how those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic must now worry about eviction in addition to their own health and safety. “Unfair” is too tame a word to describe being evicted because you aren’t able to work during a global pandemic, and yet it’s the reality many people will face. I encourage people to organize with their neighbors and fellow tenants to fight for rent and mortgage forgiveness in our city during this pandemic. To help feed people in need, I recommend donating to local organizations like the Unity And Survival Program and Philabundance. I also encourage people to donate to the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and to think about those unable to isolate and “stay at home” because they are incarcerated or currently being detained. 

I was asked to write a little bit about how COVID-19 has affected me. This pandemic has made it clear to me that the systems we have in place are not good enough to get us all safely through crisis. We must support one another and work to create better systems that provide better support.