Isolation Drills: John Faye (Caulfields)

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.

Faye: As I write this, it’s both easy and difficult to believe it’s been more than nine months that we’ve all been living in the world of COVID. Three full seasons of a year—long enough to gestate a fetus. I’ve watched the events of 2020 bring out the worst and the best in people.

I’ve seen both extremes in my own mirror. I like to think of myself as being an even-keel kind of person, but when you spend a little too much time within the same four walls, scrolling the comment section in an election year or feeling way more than your normal levels of anger and schadenfreude, you know you have to watch out for yourself.

I guess what I tried to do to navigate 2020 starting in March was to try to focus on things that keep me out of trouble and on the right side of being a positive person.

For me, that means keeping it simple. I had been living a fairly minimalist lifestyle even before the pandemic, so in some ways, I don’t think I felt the shock of the “new normal” as severely as some may have. I had planned to spend a good part of the year in relative seclusion anyway.

I’ve been working on writing a memoir for the past three-and-a-half years and gave myself a deadline to have the principal writing done by the end of December, which I managed to do. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would be getting back into music in 2020, after being in a self-imposed “semi-retirement” since 2017 to focus on the book.

I did about 15 themed concerts online, and never having “gone live” on Facebook in my life, I was surprised at how much I took to it. Most of the shows were completely bare bones in terms of visuals—just me sitting on black recliner with an acoustic guitar while singing in the general direction of my phone—but they turned out to be incredibly rewarding experiences.

Of course, everyone will tell you it’s not the same thing as playing for an audience you can see, but these livestreams actually made me feel connected to the people who were watching in a way that was, perhaps, more intimate than a traditional show.

I felt like people really saw me, and I opened up about some things, which I probably would not have done at a club or at the open mic I was hosting at the Khyber Pass before everything shut down. The reaction I received was unbelievable because it indicated that the people watching felt connected to me, too. They were tuning in from all over the place, and these people were really generous to me, which allowed me to pay a lot of that forward to help some other musicians and service-industry folks, who were also unable to work. This was a real silver lining.

While I had plans in 2020 to do a string of 25th anniversary reunion concerts with the Caulfields, my old band from the ’90s, the cancellation of those shows actually prompted us to go back into the studio, which was never part of the plan. We didn’t want to retreat quietly back into our collective shell just because our tour dates got scrubbed. We got our feet wet recording an old original that we didn’t even really put out, just sent it to our friends and people on my mailing list. 

We had so much fun playing together again, we decided to record our one cover song from back in the day: “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain & Tennille. We did all this remotely, with guitarist Brett Talley and I recording socially distant guitar tracks at his studio in Philly and Ritchie Rubini and Sam Musumeci recording drums and bass down in Delaware, which is where the band originally formed.

Releasing the song as a benefit single for Philabundance at the beginning of December brought our long-time bond so much more into focus than just recycling our old songs at a handful of shows. It’s been a great chance to utilize our music to try to do a little bit of good. That’s really what gave me my best sense of purpose during this isolation.

As an Isolation Drills bonus today, MAGNET is proud to premiere the brand-new video for the Caulfields’ cover of Captain & Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Not only does the song benefit Philabundance, its video benefits from an abundance of Philadelphians:

Reece Ratliff Alara
Jeffrey Attakorah
Jacky Bam Bam
Mod Betty
Richard Bush
Todd Carmichael
Sug Daniels
Jenn DeSantis
Joey DiTullio
Erin Fox
Alyssa Garcia
Dylan Graff
Lauren Hart
Cliff Hillis
Paul Jaxon
Candice Lee
Annie McCauley
Darnell Miller
Jace Miller
Andrea Nardello
Sara Parker
Samantha Poole
Olivia Rubini
Angela Sheik
David Uosikkinen