Isolation Drills: Christopher Davis-Shannon

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.

Davis-Shannon: Pursuing music as a career, you take the abnormality as solace, the struggle as growth and each day as a simple blessing. This is no different during a global pandemic. I have long been accused of being a blurry-eyed optimist by my peers as we do not do this not out of love but out of necessity. There’s no sense in rueing the things we can not change. What fun would the world be without music, without a haphazardly stitched-together vision for our future?

While I was meant to be on the other side of the country currently playing a string of shows with a rockabilly group, here I sit in Philadelphia with a smile on my face. I couldn’t think of a better place to be stranded or better company than my instruments and a recently reformed street cat. This life always brings uncertainty, although perhaps the current time isn’t one many of us could have ever foreseen, but we make do with the cards we are dealt. 

In a way, I welcomed the breath of the slow down. I’ve been in constant motion for years, from gigs to rehearsals to recordings to writing to teaching, while sheltering in place has given me an opportunity to take a step back from the never-ending work week. That isn’t to say that my work does not continue, but my focus finally has time to redirect. This has given me chance to see which aspects of my life I truly miss.

While my music is my life, it is not everything. Perhaps, stepping back for a moment has made me realize that more than ever. I find myself fortunate enough in this time to be with a partner who shares my passion for the arts and doubles as my favorite ukulele student, as well as a guinea pig for my marginal cooking skills. For that, I count myself very lucky.

I’ve started a new YouTube series and podcast “Checking In” with artists all of the world, and I’m wrapping up writing a new book on the ukulele techniques of George Formby. In addition, I’ve finally been starting to knock out demoes for a new record—something I haven’t found time for in nearly two years.

Yes, gigging is my main source of income, and that loss hurts, but more than that I miss the connection of music. My best friends are my bandmates, and missing the conversations we have in the universal language hurts most of all. We’ve started to jam in parks (with masks, and socially distanced!) recently, and a bit of me had forgotten what it was like to truly play music simply for the joy of playing music. Sometimes a new perspective is a hell of a drug.

Wear your mask, please.