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.
Weaver: How hasn’t COVID affected me as an artist? I, personally, feel like it’s harder to work on my music even when I have all of the time in the world at my disposal. There’s a fire in me when I’m trying to budget my passion in my weekly schedule. But the lack of that challenge sucks a little bit of the air out of the room, making the creativity flame shimmer a little smaller than before.
This year’s gift of time and simultaneous curse of loss made it possible for me to complete my first EP. I’m very proud of it. But it wasn’t supposed to be made in my apartment alone, celebrated by only a few. I wanted to book a show and have a party where we all got goofy on beer and gin. (Not mixed together. That would be terrible.) COVID gave me my EP and took away most of my income. What a wild thing to hold pride and suffering in your hands together.
Before it all happened, I was pretty on fire. I had just pushed off the dock in late 2019 to finally start my own musical journey. I had released a few singles, started a social-media profile and website and even started getting a modest following. I had a gig every weekend, and every week I emailed prospective bookers and followed up consistently with event planners. I was starting to see things happen. I felt like I was in my zone. I was just getting started and loving it.
Then one fateful March weekend, everything changed. All of my shows were canceled, and about 60% of my income was put in limbo to eventually taper off into the ether.
What a year for us all.
In a world of uncertainty, I have had one certain thing that I think a lot of folks in music have had: a sprite pulling on my ear every morning to whisper, “So what are you now?”
It’s been a heavy year.
It is said that the hardest thing to know is yourself. Arguably, every philosopher is trying to complete the quest of “knowing thyself.” It is the search for God. As a creative person who has tried to build a life of music, I have had a terrible time trying to answer this question. Usually, my inner tantrum goes something like this:
I put the responsibility on the pandemic. It’s the reason I don’t know myself, don’t you know! It has pulled out the threads of my tapestry and left it in a pile of lint and silk. It’s formless now, and it’s not my doing! It’s all COVID’s fault! I’m not an artist anymore. And It. Is. COVID’s. Fault. And Trump! That loon.
If anyone has a similar tantrum, I hate to tell you something I’ve recently discovered: That line of thinking has a good amount of horse shit in it. Let me specify.
COVID has taken away a lot, yes. It took away jobs, opportunity, excitement, happy hours and seeing friends’ teeth. But identity? That’s not so easily taken away. In fact, it might be the hardest thing to take away because it’s something that is always being uncovered and discovered. And sometimes we’re thinking the wrong thing when we think of the word “identity.” Follow me for a bit.
COVID has irrevocably changed my life, and I had to pivot careers. I’m sure it’s the same for anyone reading this. It’s painful, exciting and weird. It’s kind of like when you get a haircut you’re not sure your significant other is going to like. It’s like buying a fedora in 2006 we’re not sure we want to keep but want to try it on for a bit to see if it has the “it” factor we thought it did when we fatefully saw it on a shelf at Marshall’s.
I have found whatever stock I had in being a new “artist” didn’t really hold up. Because not only is it a self-imposed title, it’s easily taken away. So I would mope, drinking a boozy beer after teaching the minimal lesson schedule that I had, file for unemployment, whimper in my room, search for jobs and whine to my girlfriend. Writing in my journal one day, I had an epiphany.
The sprite kept asking, “What are you?” as I would stare at myself and brush my teeth in front of the mirror every morning. But it intentionally asked that question so that I would confuse it for something else that would be more detrimental to me and maybe even destroy me.
I was confusing the question for, “Who are you?”
Those are vastly different questions. The “what” can be taken away and replaced; the “who” simply cannot because it’s mine, and I get to keep mining for it. It’s me. I’m the only one who has the responsibility to “Know thyself.” I’ve read tons of books on the subject of self-discovery, and somehow, I always confuse the “what” for the “who.”
I’m not a what.
You are a who.
COVID affected me by taking away something that I desperately wanted and still chase even though I am now distracted and divided in my time. COVID also affected me as an artist by harshly giving me a lesson that was sorely needed in time of strife. I don’t mean to come across as a silver-lining guy, but I do want to share the lesson I’ve learned.
I lost my dream to last year. I’m hopeful I will see it come to fruition one day. I’m writing about what I’ve learned so I can remind myself and you. We’re all going up the mountain, and we just lost some really valuable stuff along the way. But we’re still on the mountain with working legs.
I’m turning to you to say, “I see you. Let’s keep going.”
COVID affected me, as it has everyone, but COVID does not get the final say. We get the say because we are the heroes climbing up the mountain together with our truths in our hearts and our friends at our sides. Our identity, job title, role, etc., can be easily snuffed out but our selves aren’t so easily moved.