Isolation Drills: Dondi

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area had been staying at home over the past year, learning to adapt to a “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’d been doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Dondi: March 13, 2020, was the beginning. I was at Hard Rock Hotel And Casino in Atlantic City with my band when we found out that all gigs were canceled until further notice because of the coronavirus. It was like a body blow—not knowing how we would survive and support ourselves and loved ones.

The music industry had been my life in one form or another since I was a child, so this pandemic was devastating. Life as we knew it ceased to exist. I remember rushing around looking for masks to wear so we could be safe. Going to the supermarket only to find empty shelves and long lines of people in a panic. Not knowing what to do, what to expect or how to feel. Chaos! The whole world was on lockdown. The outlet I used to keep me sane was creating music.

I sat in front of my workstation for hours on end. Sometimes until two or three in the morning banging out new songs. Some about love and social issues, some about the pandemic. Not all of them were keepers.

I’ve never been the doom-and-gloom type, so I remained hopeful we’d find ourselves on the other side, feeling grateful and maybe treating one another better.

Last summer, when there was no known end in site, I released a single called “When The Whole Thing’s Over.” It’s about how happy we’ll all be when we can start living a normal life again; “We’re gonna party when the whole thing’s over.”

My new album, Swim In Your Skin (out August 6), was written totally during the lockdown, and the first single, “Live It Up,” is a call for us to wake up and enjoy our lives as much as possible while we can. “Only Human,” the 10th track from the project, is a call for social justice and equality for all. 

Love has been described as “life’s only valid emotion.” During the pandemic, that became increasingly clear. Without it, I believe none of us would find true purpose. Take time out. Love someone. Then let them “swim in your skin.”