Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area had been staying at home because of the pandemic, 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.
Jamison: By the beginning of March 2020, I felt like I was just beginning to hit my stride musically. I began playing bass guitar in early 2019, so I was still a baby bassist. But my confidence was growing, I was playing at open mics and open jams regularly to develop my skills, and I was meeting so many other dope musicians, who would later become good friends. I had even set an ambitious goal for the year of 2020: Put together a band—trio or quartet—and book my first paying gig.
Well, we all know how things turned out once COVID hit: bars, clubs and other music venues closed—some temporarily and some permanently. (R.I.P. Connie’s!) Booking a gig, let alone just playing at an open mic, was an impossibility for a while.
Once I was sequestered at home day and night, I decided to turn my focus away from live performing and over to recording. I purchased a Focusrite Scarlet 2i2, a few XLR cables and an Arturia MicroLab MIDI keyboard. I actually opened up Garageband on my MacBook for the first time. I had developed a few rudimentary bass lines pre-pandemic, and I figured now was as good a time as ever to explore those even further. With the help of YouTube, I learned how to actually record my bass at home, add some chords and overlay some programmed drum loops.
What emerged from that experiment was Heat Check, a five-track EP I released in September 2020. Other than some guitar and synth parts added by my friend Nick DiGiacomo, all other instrumentation was mine and was recorded right in my basement. It is admittedly a pretty amateur project, but I was and still am very proud of my little pandemic baby.
Fast forward two years, and I have now released my second full-length LP (and first studio album), Late Bloomer. It’s a nod to my “late arrival” to the Philly music scene in my mid 30s as a bass-guitar player. I even had—you guessed it—an actual paid live gig! And even though this pandemic was and continues to be an absolutely terrible thing, I am glad that the experience opened up a new avenue musically along with a new set of skills.