Coping with Coronavirus, Part II.

Songwriters Weigh in on how the Crisis is Impacting Their Musical Lives

This is our second installation of accounts from songwriters in and around Los Angeles about how they’re coping during this crisis time, and how their songwriting, creativity and musical endeavors have been impacted. Thanks to all who contributed for sharing what is a truly rich range of responses to this moment. Which, in California at this very moment, is tantamount to house arrest, but with no ankle gizmos. Some view it as a great opportunity to slow down, reflect, breathe, and allow the ideas to come. Others, not so much. They’re counting all gigs cancelled, as well as sessions for recording, rehearsing and writing, now all suspended.

One aspect of this crisis which can’t be missed is the power of community. Simply being able to share all this with each other, and understand we’re not alone, is helpful. The power of song has done a lot for us our whole lives, and it’s as powerful now as ever. To inspire, to unite, and to make sense out of a world gone wrong. If we don’t give up hope, we can make it right again. Or at least, write some new songs trying.

Thank you all for taking the time to do this. Stay healthy.

Videos by American Songwriter

It’s a strange time indeed, love that we can communicate on the internet, but it’s also imposed some pressure to “hurry up and do a Live Stream ” etc. and “keep your business going strong” – good ideas but also how about the idea of a reconfiguring and healing time. Going inward is very important. Discover things about yourself and who is your true tribe and what your true feelings are; these can all lead to meaningful songs.

The downtime goes in and out of creative for me, there’s a lot of “left brain” stuff that has to be taken care of with daughter, finances and living situations, etc. Also had to cancel seven shows in Texas and NorCal this April, and the future is uncertain, so it’s a little Doomsday feeling.

But on top of that we want to build hope as artists, so we create and want to deliver, maybe even a song about the times and how the global village is feeling currently. Our mistakes as a society and ideas or inspirations to make them right. That balance of telling what needs to be done in a song, but also doing it in a way that is cool, is an interesting task.

Social distancing itself is almost a comedic term, Of course we understand it, but it is almost a job of the songwriter already to be an observer, with social distancing.

Also, there is some interesting collaborating among people I know where we are already sending tracks to each other to work on at our home studios. Also some long distant writing of songs, even via text, line for line back and forth etc. So there’s still some co-writing.

I’m staying in this weekend and designing my VISION BOARD.

The impact of the virus came quick to this corner of the music world. In Chicago all the bars and restaurants are closed, which had the obvious immediate consequences. All the weddings in town are being canceled and postponed, which is a huge chunk of my income personally. In addition to the loss of the local gigs that provide most of my income, my upcoming record release tour is being postponed. The record is still coming out though, and I am currently trying to make the most of the release. I will undoubtedly do a live streaming performance of the record around the release date, but that is a particularly daunting undertaking with the current inundation of the internet by out of work musicians.

I have seen hundreds of posts from local musicians here in Chicago expressing anxiety and concern, performing online, asking for tips, offering their services. I have also seen just as many posts from international celebrities like David Crosby, and music industry legends like Brent Mason, doing the exact same thing! If I were to live stream my show on a Saturday night when it would have been, it will probably be going up against, for example Willie Nelson, who already put on a live streaming event this week.

The internet is the only venue of the foreseeable future. It’s always been a big pond with a lot of fish, but now it’s the only pond with all the fish! However, I have noticed a few friends, who I’ve seen playing to empty barrooms in Chicago week after week, live streaming to audiences that numbered in the hundreds on a weekday afternoon. So perhaps there is a silver lining in there somewhere.

Almost finished with new album, Under the Radar. I will be posting some songs pretty soon. I have one I would like people’s thoughts on of what Genre they might think it is. It’s called, “Time Will tell” As far as songwriting life, I might add that this pandemic is causing a lot of us musicians/singer/songwriters to work at overcoming the negativity floating in the airwaves, and finding a way to push through the madness. To help us focus on putting some music out there to help relieve the pressure of the world in chaos. Hoping to make a vinyl album very soon as well.

I’m going to keep reading this thread, it might give me a boost! You’re inspiring me. You see, for the past 1 1/2 years, I’ve been on a roll, musically speaking. Lots of momentum, performances, workshops, writing, recording, website, distribution, even events, lots of music, lessons, new friends and fun.

I woke up every morning and smiled at the artist in the mirror saying, “Whaddya know? I’m happy. Really happy.”

And then, in a shockingly short span of time, the whole damn world has come to a stand still.  And now I’m worried. I’m worried about my little sister in NYC. I’m worried about venues closing, friends who are now out of work, all the displacement, the kids, the old folks, those who are isolated or alone. I miss the house concerts and open mics and jam sessions. I do hope to adjust over the next few days to this new reality, and join you in your burst of productivity! Perhaps I’ll jump back into the scores of “seeds” in my notebooks and files, and bring a few new songs into the world. But for now, man, I’m just sad. 

The virus has not yet affected my songwriting. I’m hoping it will, in a positive way. I have more forced down-time now, so I’m hoping I’ll use some of that time to write something. I do very little co-writing, so that’s not likely to be impacted too much.

Gigs, of course, are a different story. All cancelled. I have bookings in May and June, two local, one out of state, and I’m hoping that they don’t cancel but I fear they both will. And my “day job” income has fallen by 80%. It’s too soon to know what the long term impact will be. Just riding out the storm for now.

I’m still internalizing, sort of like visualizing before a painting comes. Sometimes it can be a long pause of silence.

I’m still winding down off the clock and calendar. Been so long since I’ve had my time.

Do I count as an L.A. songwriter anymore?

If so, so far it has been a strange little shot in the arm. I’ve been writing a bunch. Part of it is the thought that I have extra time (I really don’t – I’m working from home, but I think the hours of relative solitude seems to be key).

I definitely have fantasies in my head that if this goes on long enough, I’ll end up collaborating with other writers a bunch. Who knows?

But the thing that really seems to be driving my creativity right now is pondering the melancholy of unwanted solitude. The idea that a species like ours – so tribal and social at an almost DNA level – has to fear basic human contact. How do you take that in without something poetic following?

Having so much fun collaborating with others, recording tracks back and forth. Let’s pray the Internet doesn’t get some other kind of virus!

Every one of my live gigs, including ones coming up in the foreseeable future, have been either cancelled or postponed.

A deadline I had to finish orchestrating an original musical of mine that was set to open in April, is now pushed back indefinitely. Where I would normally have a meeting at my studio about a project, now they’ll be done on Skype or Zoom.

Clubs and other performance spaces which have been key for many of us who regularly perform are in danger of disappearing if this lasts too much longer.

The college I teach voice at, Los Angeles College of Music, has cancelled classes for the rest of the term. However, I will be completing some of the students’ private vocal lessons by Skype or FaceTime.

This is a time to work on longer-form projects, and I may try Marty Axelrod’s idea of collaborating virtually, but I will probably try to use Zoom instead of FaceTime, because Zoom will record the session.

Though I miss going out to events, I don’t mind the solitude, and I have my wife and daughter around to keep me company.

But damn, I do miss going out to restaurants. I had an appointment in Santa Monica this morning, and stopped at Bagel Nosh, which was my usual habit. I had to eat my lox and bagel on my friend’s patio because you can’t eat at any restaurant anymore, not even on an open outside patio.

Small price to pay to ensure herd immunity, but takes some getting used to.
I’m guessing any day now there will be black market toilet paper pushers.

Am so grateful I’ve been feeling better, making good recovery with the new hip. A few cool music gigs I was really looking forward to either playing at, sessions I was planning to schedule to 1) master my new song that Ed Tree mixed at end of December; 2) to start recording new song that I co-wrote with good friend Jeff Kossack, and 3) to sing background vocals on that same song that Jeff and I co-wrote, that he’s done an awesome recording of.

Like everything for everyone else, these things must now wait. But I’ll continue looking forward. I’m now feeling the need to find my focus, reflect and spend time writing. And I’ll count my blessings, as well as the ways I’m grateful for all of you in our wonderful songwriting community. We’ll get through this.

Virtual songwriting session and jam session—something I intend to set up.

I’ve just been trying to regain some of my routine with the whole family home all the time.

As long as I’m healthy, it has no effect on me whatsoever, since I almost exclusively write solo. What this situation should point out is what I think is an important part of songwriting: isolation. Writing is a lonely occupation but that solitude does wonders for the mind’s ability to wonder and invent.

I always liked how Tom Petty explained that songwriting was a lot like fishing, in that you find a nice quiet place to drop your fishing pole line in and you just wait for the fish/inspiration to come. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

The thing is to let it come to you more than you chasing it. Patience. Solitude. Things start to emerge and ideas and stories are created. The more a songwriter embraces that concept, the less likely they would need a writing partner to finish their thoughts and songs. 

For now and the immediate future, there are no gigs. There are no rehearsals. There’s only the objective of safety and good health. In the meantime, imagining a quiet palisade above the crashing waves. A delicate mountain creek without a soul in sight.

Magic happens when I turn off my brain and allow my heart to listen. Then the conduit flows with ideas and sounds for those creations I have patiently waited for. Collaboration has never been my strong suit. So dreaming the soundscape or playing until the joy materializes is my sole method. So, in reality, nothing has really changed outside the physical

Gigs all cancelled, and a Double Naught Spy Car record is on hold–we’d finished one song, felt in the zone, and then had to bail on all sessions. Drag. But the isolation has finally kicked on the creative switch, and Rob and I from I See Hawks in L.A. are suddenly cranking out the song ideas. It’s a whole different thing when you wake up to total free time. Like having a record deal, minus the weekly salary.

I’m not really an L.A. songwriter anymore but my songwriting soul was born there! I’ve been at an Airbnb since last Tuesday night (after seeing Patti Smith at the Fillmore the night before, probably not the best idea but we were all paying a different kind of attention ten days ago).

I’m up in the mountains about an hour and twenty minutes northeast of Bakersfield. I came here to write, finish songs, noodle on my guitar, retreat and read, eat healthy and stare out the window. I’ve done a lot of that, and I’ve rediscovered Ray Bradbury, and, okay, Sour Cream & Onion Potato chips, rediscovered them too.

I’m driving home tomorrow and have not felt all that creative, jumpy as a flea really. But I’ve tried to move the needle on finishing some songs. I’m in a great online songwriting class, taught by Craig Carothers and it was a mind-blowingly fantastic feeling to dig in on Sunday and do the assignment, and then see and hear everyone on Zoom on Monday night. Truly saved my sanity and I think that even though it’s a dark one, I might have a keeper.

Oh, and I’m heartbroken to have had shows cancelled, including McCabe’s for our 30th anniversary. But I’d like to have 30 more years, so it’s worth it! Okay, I’d be really old…

I’ve had to cancel rehearsals with my band. We couldn’t perform last weekend. I’m working on some new songs, but miss being able to perform as that motivates me more!

When she calls, I answer. No matter what is going on.

I have been writing songs and finding it to be a mighty fine coping mechanism. I specifically wrote an upbeat song to address the sad international Coronavirus pandemic. It’s actually a song of hope and positivity. I recorded it at the studio today and I’ll likely have it up on social media sometime tomorrow. It’s called “To The Top Again.” Wishing you and yours all the best.

Writing and rewriting lyrics alone has mostly been my practice. Mostly staying home IS not a problem, since I don’t gig or perform. I did get very sick in February, but lungs were clear. Just getting my energy back and needing to get back to recording soon.

I think songwriters are the lucky ones, to have an outlet at a time like this. I am lifted by the notion that more than a handful of classic, enduring tunes will be born in the coming days and weeks.

Leave a Reply

Behind the Song: Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”