As most of you know, I was on a journey where my aim was to spend each month in a different city, exploring some of my favorite music scenes, connecting with local musicians, and making as much music as possible.
That plan totally got sidelined with the rapid changes that swept the planet in response to the growing threat of a pandemic. For me, the first thing to go was live gigs, then meetings with friends, then pretty much leaving the house altogether.
It became clear to me that it would not be wise to attempt to continue on my path, which was about to take me to New Orleans at a time when broadcasts were saying it was one of the hardest hit cities and an epicenter for infectious spread. Plus, live music (specifically Jazz Fest, which of course was cancelled) is pretty much the whole reason to go there, so to go to New Orleans without live music in the middle of a pandemic seemed pretty pointless.
So I stayed in Austin. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay here long. The house I’m in belongs to some friends of mine who were able to let me stay here because all their Airbnb guests had bailed, but now, fortunately, they’re going to be able to find renters to move in at the start of next month.
It was so vital to have a safe place to land and refocus during what certainly felt like a full upheaval. Of course, for me, this was already the 2nd time this year that I took my whole life, tossed it in the air, and put the pieces together in a new way, so this time I have full faith in my ability to make something great out of an interesting situation.
For me, the news that I’ll have to be moving on comes at a perfect time. I had been starting to feel a little depressed. No live music (and no money from gigs), no physical touch, eye contact, or any distraction from spending all my time alone for a full month was starting to become hard to handle. I know many of you are feeling this way, and I am right there with ya. However, the realization that I was going to have to figure out what to do next was precisely the puzzle I needed to bounce right back into go-mode. It’s time to dig on down and get to work on how this next few months might pan out for a lone drummer out here in the great unknown.
Some of you have probably noticed that I haven’t been posting or updating my social media very much, that I haven’t done any Livestream sets, that aside from a video check-in last month I’ve been mostly silent. There are a number of reasons for that, so I’ll address a few of them. When the lockdowns started, I watched pretty much every musician I know go into collective shock. Some people responded with an immediate pivot to virtual concerts, which I loved to see and which gave me so much inspiration and joy. Others turned their attention to moving their music lessons online, which is a great move and something I had started doing as I hit the road this year. I saw some really clever new songs being written, videos made, art created, and an outpouring of so much creative energy as well as community support and activism. Among all of this, I felt a pressure to do the same, that an uptick in online video content and music was expected of me. But I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know what to say. I felt like it was better for me to watch and observe, to support my friends however I could, to turn my focus in on my own reality and take care of myself. I decided not to force anything on myself, to just pay attention to what I felt like doing and to give it some space. Plus I wasn’t ready to address the inevitable question: the “What’s next?” that I was utterly at a loss for how to answer. “I don’t know, a world without live music hadn’t really factored into my plans when I set out for a year of playing live music all over the country”.
My sleep schedule turned upside down. I’m traditionally a stay-up-till-4am, wake-up-around-noon kind of guy, but with no outside schedule making demands of my time I ended up in this weird pattern where I couldn’t fall asleep until 6am, then 8am, then 10am, then eventually “well maybe if I stay up till the next night it’ll reset”. It didn’t, it just popped me into a few days of sleeping for 10-12 hours, waking at odd times to do nothing but eat and watch Twin Peaks or Portlandia, until finally for a few days I had gone fully nocturnal, sleeping from afternoon until it was dark. But I didn’t fight it. I didn’t try to make myself feel bad, I just let it take its course and allowed my body to do what it had to do. Plus, everyone on my feed was saying they were having similar troubles so I didn’t beat myself up about it.
This past week has been different. I have been waking up in the morning, like the actual morning, like 7am when the sun hits the front porch and all the lizards run around the yard and the birds take turns congregating in the trees. I wrote a song I’m calling “Waitin’ On the Times to Change” (which you can hear in my Launch Team portal if you’re one of my monthly contributors). I have been shedding on the drums, taking videos, getting my recording setup dialed in so that I’ll be able to produce my own content and record remotely for new projects and collaborations.
Prior to the widespread fear of Covid-19 I was moving freely through whatever city I was in, staying with friends for a few days at a time, making new connections every day. Now that’s no longer a safe or socially responsible way to move about. So my focus is shifting from where can I meet the most people to where can I stay safely isolated? From playing live music to recorded music. From finding the busiest music hubs to turning my focus inward.
If I can continue to find places to self-isolate with my drums, this time will be a time of immense growth and development for my abilities as a drummer, songwriter, and even as an engineer/producer/content creator. I left Seattle on this journey for a whole range of reasons, but one was to jump outside my comfort zone and throw myself into new places where I’d be caused to step up my game and expand my skills. Now that playing live music, connecting with musicians, or even meeting new people has made a temporary pivot to the virtual realm, my goals and needs have to adapt as well.
Here are some things I’m working on to adapt in this new situation: 1) developing a recording setup so that I can do remote studio work 2) transitioning to online lessons and coming up with new methods for connecting with students 3) working on new video content 4) writing and recording my own original material 5) working on fun new ways to develop my Launch Team platform
If there’s one thing I have found, it’s that if you ask for what you truly want and you really go for it, chances are you’ll probably find yourself in a more interesting place than if you settle for whatever you can get easily. So here’s my big ask.
I’m looking for places anywhere in the country where I can live for a couple weeks to a month at a time where I can safely isolate myself away from other people. I’m looking for places I can set up drums to record, bonus points if there’s no restrictions on hours to make noise. Extra bonus points if it’s somewhere beautiful. I know it’s a very interesting time to be seeking temporary housing, however I know places are always opening up or in-between tenants, and my thought is that it just might be possible to keep making music while still moving slowly about the country. To start, I would probably look for somewhere within a day or two drive of Austin, I had considered Santa Fe or Colorado, or heading towards Nashville. My original plan was to be in Atlanta for May, so I’d definitely consider that too. But really, at this time what city I’m in is less important than finding myself safe places to create while also abiding by the current measures in place to avoid transmitting a deadly virus.
This change is a huge blow to every industry, and musicians are feeling it in our own way. We’ve had to step back and really evaluate how we provide value, how we hope to be compensated, and what it really means to be an artist today. Personally, I see the ways I can best provide value and am prepared to keep doing what I can to enrich the lives of others all over the world. These upcoming months are a crucial time to develop the skills and pathways necessary to ensure your art or your business can thrive, and I intend to do that while getting creative about what my path will be moving forward. When I set out on the road I wanted to see how well I could rely on my network to help link me up with people in other places. Now it’s time to see how tight that net is and what kind of options might arise out of the murky uncertainty that is the upcoming few months. I figure if I can find a spot to stay for a few weeks I can always find another after that. I’m learning not to think I can predict too far into the future…
So here’s what I need from my friends, family, new and longtime fans: do you know of anyone who might have a place where I could stay for a few weeks at a time? Anywhere in the country, any “it’s a long shot, but you could try…”, any “my friend has a big property, you could park your van there and use the outdoor showers”, any fully-operational recording studios abandoned on top of a mountain (hey, you never know!). I’ve accepted the fact that my original plan is not sustainable (or even legal) in the current environment, however I also know that it’s not time for me to come back to Seattle, not at a time when there’s no possibility of playing gigs or seeing my friends and loved ones. So for those of you who wanted to know “what’s next” for me, this is it. I don’t know what’s next, but I know I have to keep making music and I have to keep relying on my intuition and setting my intentions and reaching out to the support of my community to create a path that inspires hope and models the resilience inherent in all artists, all people.
Before I left Seattle, I had written to myself: somewhere along the line you may lose everything. And you won’t have to start over. You will only have to keep going.
I hope you all find the ways in which you must keep going. Remind yourself what you care about, what matters the most to you, what you want to see carried on into the future. If there’s something in your world that is endangered, invest the time and energy, or the money and activism you can to save it. If it’s important to you, it’s worth your attention. Don’t give up, buckle down and do what you can, and find others who share your passion and work with them, encourage each other, ask for help and offer it.