I've taken a bit of an unplanned hiatus since the holidays, in part for some much needed time for reflection and healing, but also to deal with the minor but unseemly process of dealing with some pre-cancerous spots on my face (not-so-subtle sub thread - wear your sunscreen!).
I suspect I'm not the only one mentally and emotionally spent from these last many months since my career essentially evaporated. I am not complaining - I am extraordinarily grateful to have my guitar and songwriting students, the occasional livestream concert from home and the new album and book project to help keep my family afloat.
But, this profound event of global significance has been largely an intimate and often singular experience for each of us. While many of the impacts are similar within various different societal groups, we are in large part facing them within our own households or pods. I've never been home so long in my adult life. My kid finished 7th grade online, turned 13, and has done every day of 8th grade online. Day after day goes on, and we do what we do, and we tread water, grateful not to be sick, but bewildered by how we've gotten here.
Of course, even in this dark winter thanks to the miracles of science and a lot of hard work developing vaccines, we are closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning. In addition to everything else in my head, I keep returning to the notion of "build back better," not as a political slogan but as an aspiration for my own career. The calendar will need to fill again in some way, if not in late 2021 then surely in '22.
But of course, there are so many questions. When will my audiences be willing to return to sit close together in intimate venues? What will performing look like for me? How will what I've learned as a "Self-broadcaster" translate to the stage? The van sits idle and ready, but what future will I be driving it into?
This isn't the first time I've had to adjust my career to better fit the circumstances of the world. I essentially gave up touring the west coast when the airline industry reorganized itself in the late 2000s, charging for checked bags, overselling flights and of course, the unpredictable long lines at security. The economics of flying tours became too unpredictable for me, so I essentially shifted my focus to the eastern and central 2/3 of the US, where I could bring everything in my van and be gone a week or two at most.
This pandemic has brought West Coast and European family, friends and fans into my living room, and I'm not only grateful, I want to maintain that more frequent contact! Truthfully, while I'm eager to see people in person (and yes, the hugs), touring brings a lot of economic uncertainty that had gotten steadily worse before the pandemic.
When venues begin having in-person shows with regularity, tons of hungry artists will be competing for those same opportunities. Those artists will be hoping that a lot of the same people will come out to their show when their one big night in that town happens, and that there won't be some catastrophic event that stops the world in its tracks.
It's a lot to think about, and a bigger challenge than anything I've experienced in more than a quarter century as an "independent" artist. There never was any grand promise that life as a performing artist would be easy or lucrative. Most people who want a career on stage don't get one. I've been lucky, and I've also been a little bit prepared when opportunities have come along. It has never been harder to know how to plan for the uncertain future we face. There will be one, to be sure, but what will it look like?
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, I was an engineer and a scientist. My first instinct in planning is to collect data and try to understand what it means for the future. What changed temporarily, what is likely permanent, and what have we learned all seem like important questions, so I evaluated the benefits, losses and uncertainties (please read and share your thoughts here if you'd like). I haven't figured out any answers yet, but I figure it starts with understanding the questions, and the parameters around the problem.
So my spontaneous hibernation and healing period draws to a close with a virtual visit to a favorite venue, the Vanilla Bean Cafe in rural northeastern Connecticut, Sat. Feb. 20th. Come on over, and bring your favorite dessert. My living room is both where I live most of my waking hours and my make-a-living room, and I still love having you over to visit.
But I do feel different, somehow unexplainable. I imagine we all do. We've lost a lot, and we have a lot to figure out going forward. Perhaps I just needed some rest, and the universe eased me onto the offramp for a few weeks to do just that.
I guess I'm just wanting you know that if you've been struggling with that too, there's room for millions more of us on that boat. We've been experiencing a lot of that in physical isolation. But you're not alone in enduring that experience. Neither am I. Shine on. Pat yourself on the back for getting out of bed. Enjoy a too-long hot shower. Fix yourself some good food. Feed the birds. Tell somebody you love em. You might never know how much they need to hear it, right then in that moment.
Most of all, and first and foremost - be gentle to your own good self. You deserve nothing less.