Isolation Drills: Hemming

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.

Candice Martello (a.k.a. Hemming): I feel very lucky to have my girlfriend and her son with me during all of this, but I’ve never experienced this much lack of personal space or alone time. That’s what I’m struggling with the most.

I love my time alone. It allows me to think and process things at my own pace. It’s when I can be the most productive musically, partially because I’m not held back by anyone listening. Being alone also helps me recharge my mental state to function as a more easy going person.

Anyone living with a kid will know that personal space is almost impossible right now. Songwriting has felt difficult. I can’t force creativity to happen in the moments I find to sneak away. In the meantime, while I’m not writing, I’ve started to record and post cover songs just to keep me singing and creating music in some way. I put a small collection of covers on my Bandcamp for open donation; all money earned by these covers is going to equality/community organizations. I also have a more-produced cover on this awesome compilation; any money donated goes to support immigrants not getting from the government.

I think in isolation, it can be easy to get lost in a dark place. I’m sure many people are having a hard time with this feelings of helplessness while everything is uncertain. When it’s difficult for me to write and play music, I whittle. This is a hobby I didn’t expect to pick up until I was old and retired. It’s something I have never really done before and requires hours of concentrated work. My girlfriend does not understand what I get out of carving one spoon for days, but it’s really just a way to distract myself. The one thing that always makes me happy without fail is creating something out of nothing. I just throw on a Hank Williams record, put on my apron and slowly chip away wood, attempting not to slice my fingers more than I already have. It almost makes me feel like I’m somewhere with wide-open fields instead of a South Philly basement.

The rest of my time is either spent cooking or trying to help entertain Mars, my four-year-old BFF. He’s a hilarious, energetic kid who fills all possible silence with questions. Right now, he’s really into wildlife and insects, which I’m very excited about. Most of the day is spent drawing bugs or catching a snake that’s actually a shoelace. We even started a band where he bangs on the drums while I play guitar and he yells facts about reptiles.

Every day seems the same, but every day is different. I’m so grateful to be locked away with people who I love, even though we have our rough patches. If I can manage to pull myself out of my head enough to not be a jerk, I consider it a good day. If I can record a cover someone requested and get it posted or get some carving done on a spoon, it’s a good day. I’m trying to focus on the little victories to keep myself positive and sane.

I’m very interested to see what kind of music and art comes out into the world after all of this is over. Isolation is difficult but can also be a catalyst for creativity, even if it presents itself in wooden spoons.

I hope you’re all doing as well as you can be doing right now. This won’t last forever—it just feels that way. Be good to yourself.