The Achievers: Life in Lockdown Part III

I decided quite early on not to write a ‘lockdown’ song. I’m no good at writing about things as they’re happening – I need time to reflect. Also, I was worried I’d never find a word that rhymed with ‘Virus’, without mentioning that nice young lady who played Hannah Montana.

Lockdown has been a creative time for most of the musicians I know. Of course, it’s also been a worrying and tragic time for many. But, despite the gloom and confusion, many musicians have used the long days to reflect, write, record, and release new music. I wish I could say the same about myself – I barely picked up my guitar the whole time. I think this might be a reaction to the fact that I haven’t really put it down for the last six years!

Becoming a 'useful man'

By early June, while my guitars sat idle in their cases, I was reaching for my pick-axe, spade, hedge cutters and hammer instead. I’ve always loved physical work, and I’m blessed with a strong back, so when it came to re-imagining the mid-term future I figured being a freelance labourer would suit me well. So, out of necessity and a mindset inclined toward ‘doing’ rather than ‘thinking’, I transitioned from hustling for gigs to hustling for odd-jobs around Gloucestershire. Most of the work I’ve done so far has been for people who know me as a musician – I’ve lost count of the times they’ve asked me if I’ll sing while I work.

I do of course - Power ballads. Every time

I’ve enjoyed the change of routine – it’s refreshing to be at home on a Saturday night with my family, even if I’m forced to watch Strictly for the next few months (secretly excited by the way). It’s also refreshing to say yes to whatever slightly stunted, socially distanced weekend social plans my friends are undertaking. They stopped inviting me to the pub long ago and I sincerely hope the real reason for this was because they intuitively knew I had a gig…Guys?

Adapting to lockdown

The rest of the band dealt with lockdown in their own inimitable ways. Aron wrote and recorded two complete albums of solo material and tended to his garden, Robbie painted and decorated closed-down pubs and music venues and Jack practiced smooth jazz on his bass for some reason. Rufus on the other hand made a series of Harmonica-Fitness videos which you really have to experience to truly understand.

From a creative point of view, I decided to explore some new territory and produced a short series of podcasts and even dipped a very tentative toe into screenwriting. There’s plenty who would argue I should have been practicing my guitar and doing daily live streams, and had it not been for my complete and utter lack of motivation to do either I probably would have! Having said that, I did do one live stream– but it was a 30 minute set of songs from the musical Grease, done in the style of an overly earnest singer-songwriter. It was an overwhelming success, apparently. Thanks for tuning in Mum!

Live streaming for musicians – is it worth it?

The live stream thing worked well for many artists, especially the ones in bands who could do solo presentations of their songs. I know a few who even made a little money, sold a few CDs and enjoyed a small but valuable boost in their profile. But for me, I just couldn’t see the point – there I said it.

For many musicians, the urge to create and perform is so overwhelming that they’ll take any gig in the short term, even if it negatively affects them in the long-term. I understand it, I’m the same with pizza. I’ll have another slice just because it’s there and feels good.

When you’re in an emerging, grass-roots band and you’re making exactly the kind of progress you set out to make, I think you need to be careful at every step. One of the major decisions on your way ‘up’ is knowing when to take a break, and for us lockdown was a perfect opportunity to stop, reflect, listen to each other’s feelings about our next steps, and plan for the future. I can’t for a second say we’re glad that lockdown has happened, but I’m glad we’ve had the good fortune and privilege to accept it. Part of that acceptance is making the most of the situation – and I’m proud of how we’ve reacted. Those plans for the future are now all set, and I look forward to sharing them with you soon – I’d best see if my guitars still work!