This morning I woke up at 10:30. I turned over and looked at my phone, scrolled through TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, put it down, looked up at the ceiling and in my head roared obscenities.
Guest writer Leon C reflects on the effect weeks of lockdown has had on the career-driven
grass-roots artist and shares his coping mechanisms with the new and unfamiliar
post-corona world we live in today
I have stopped counting the weeks of lockdown as it has just seemingly blurred into one long, arduous day. The pubs, clubs and venues of the past are gone, and the last few nights have been hard for my self-confidence and my understanding of all things music. But bizarrely, through this musical low, it feels like the best time to begin to document and address the strange journey that music is taking me on. A week ago, I’d be telling you how career-driven I am, how mightily much I want a sustainable career in music. I’d be providing tips and help for how to get your contacts and your gigs, but there are already plenty of those wonderful resources lying around. One thing I fear we miss, as a tool for musicians, is an ability for the public to understand the work we put in, and something that provides us calm and reassurance at the mental and emotional struggles that passion and such a bizarre industry brings.
When lockdown started, I was really upset. I had played gigs regularly and purposefully. Throwing every little snowball I could make at every venue, promoter, or pub I could find, trying to find a method of payment that worked correctly and applying a line-up to that. I’d had an incredible year and had come a long way. A record was needing its final parts recorded, trumpets and strings, and my producer and I were doing jumping jacks about it. I’d done so much and lockdown hitting just sort of, stepped on all that work like a giant’s leather boot telling us: “Nah, not right now”. As artists we’d never had such a thing. We looked at the giant, the giant looked at us, and we just had a stare-off for a couple of weeks.
Of course, all of us lost; all those live streams and their popularity have whittled away, despite our best attempts. And sure, that giant has helped us and made us realise so many ways of going about our practice, for example making video’s, partaking in podcasts, the importance of playlists and radio. But he has also picked us up by the scruffs of our necks and put us in a seemingly endless maze.
But that giant is an absolute stinking idiot and I hate him. The maze has no money in it. Nothing. And what you realise is, everyone has their own stupid maze and some of them have similar maze occupants. We all share the media and the politicians. But what do us musos have in particular, the ones who were digging as fast as they can for a career or just trying to make the good sounds for the people? We have the devil on our shoulder yapping on about all the stuff we should or could be doing when really, we just want to sleep or to have a cup of tea because we’ve already spent most the day recording or sending emails. Add the music industry coming to us to help the system keep on its feet, the bandmates missing us, us missing the bandmates, the records we want to finish, the fans and friends we’d play too and you realise we’re in foreign emotional territory. To be a musician is to be social after all, and we’ve lost that in the way we know best, everyone has, just us in our niche way.
So, what should we do? How should we approach this new normal and all things overwhelming? In my mind it feels in some ways we almost shouldn’t. There are times in my, admittedly short, career where I’ve just had to step back and go, okay, well now isn’t the time, I’ll just stick to doing nothing too strenuous. Relax, play my guitar, drop a couple of emails here and there. But it’s been weeks since I came up with that idea. Ideas have grown, most of which cannot formulate and it’s just proven to be the worst place for a creative to be. EP to record? No budget. A new song to put through the band? No time or garden big enough. Playlist application? Barely enough patience from all those distractions we’ve built up. And you can’t even meet up with a friend for a pint to wash that anxiety away.
I just think now, of all times, is the most frustrating time. I don’t have a solution. There’s a reason this morning I went through the alphabet trying to find swearwords for each letter. But even though there’s a little glimmer of light in the distance for all the amazing things we once did to come back, I think we just need to look after ourselves as much as possible. Keep doing the little things we love and maybe just sit down and play our guitars a bit more and enjoy the songs we’ve written in the past. And if we get up and swear a bit (probably a lot), that’s okay, because it is shit to no longer have the opportunities we once had so regularly, and it is shit that the giant is here and the devil won’t shut up and we have all these cool projects we want to get on with but can’t. The journey of a musician isn’t a race against the other musicians. It’s an iron man against our ego’s, but that ego is learning one hell of a lesson along the way, as are you. It’s okay to be pissed off and frustrated, let it roar; it’s one of the few things we’re in control of, just don’t hurt anyone.
Take care of yourselves out there, do your best. One thing that reassures me is our mind’s ability to adapt, though this takes longer than the mind wants to. Kinda trippy if you think about it too much, even more trippy if you keep thinking… quantum…
Stay safe, stay cool