Isolation Drills: Jesse Gimbel

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.

Gimbel: In mid-March, we confirmed a summer date for a release show at World Cafe Live for an album I’ve been picking away at between gigs for years. A week later, the world started to shut down. I’m not sure what will happen at this point—I’ve heard all the conjecture about live shows, but with so much uncertainty, we just have to let things fall where they may and see what happens.

Similarly, I’m not sure about the festivals we were planning on playing, or attending. The folk music community has been devastated by the loss of folk legends John Prine (who was slated to headline the Philadelphia Folk Fest this year) and Gene Shay (who helped found the festival in 1957). We don’t know yet if it’ll still happen this year. Everyone is stuck in this dichotomy, both being prepared to snap into action whenever the time comes with little preparation, and mourning possible loss.

Without the emotional outlet of playing shows, I’ve been taking time where I can to keep my head on straight and lose daylight in music. I’ve finished up the last of the songs I’ve been pushing on, and now I’ve moved on to recording them in my home studio set up, which people affectionately refer to as “Jesse Gimbel’s Basement.” I’ve also found some unexpected relief in the livestreaming world. Since everyone is home, there seems to be a huge surge of people watching livestreams who never have before. I’ve been streaming a couple times a week on Facebook, and I’ve been amazed at the response, especially in the Delco Quarantine Open Mic group, which has managed to gain more than 12,000 members in a month. It’s awkward while we all figure out the best way to stream, but at this point, it really feels a lot like playing a show, with the ability to reach new people who otherwise may not have seen us live. We’ve made a lot of new friends, and made headway in looking for some additional musicians to tour with us once this is all over. Getting to play for all these people and interact with them has done a huge part to lift some of the weight on musicians’ shoulders right now.

This is a good time to make sure you’re considering people outside of yourself and what they’re dealing with under these circumstances. Some are stressed finding new ways to work from home, with spouses and kids around 24/7, while others are in full desperation, potentially losing their entire business almost overnight. I’m so fortunate to have a roof over my head and be able to do mixing and mastering work remotely, but since all of my potential clients are affected, the risk isn’t alleviated even with the ability to work remotely. We’re in a time when the casual choices you make under normal circumstance—choosing who you hire for a job, taking a gig away, supporting a large corporation vs. a small business—can literally be choosing who is in business when this all finally ends. It’s heavy, but the reality is we can make a difference by being conscientious about where our money is being spent.