What strange times. Covid-19 has brought the world to its knees.
I was just reading about Hart Island, the burial ground in New York City, then I scrolled down the news feed on Facebook and saw someone playing the piano, live-streaming from home.
I must say, I’m having a hard time dealing with all of this. It’s not the fact that I have to stay home. I have always been an introvert, solitary type, and when not traveling, I stay home and work. I’m not too crazy about social activities, big gatherings, late nights out. Therefore, I’m used to stay inside. Really, I’m a bit of a hermit. Personally, the bad part of this pandemic and the forced seclusion is the emotional burden, that overwhelming feeling of uselessness – the invisible void that tears our soul apart. I’m a sensitive man. I guess that’s why I have pursued a life in the arts, in the first place. As an artist, I should be reacting to this madness with a positive outlook on things. I should be live-streaming, collaborating remotely with other people, writing new stuff, crafting my art. And, to a certain, limited extent, I’m doing all of that, including continuing writing for the new EchoTest album. That’s my job: that’s what I do 365 days per year (minus the live-streaming, ha), and I must keep the lights on, in order to survive. The thing is – part of the job requires some kind of a persistent, shameless self-advertising presence, online and in real life, especially when you are (supposedly) an independent musician. Well, I find that to be a dreadful torture, something that I cannot comply with easily. It’s that love and hate relationship that some of us deal with, on a daily basis. Anytime I post anything on social media, promoting my activities, I literally feel like going out in the streets, naked, carrying a sign that says: “Look at me, I have done this and that. Now would you give me some money?”. I know that I’m not supposed to feel that way. It’s dead wrong, because I’m (ideally) doing something that I love, for people who care.
Although, to be put in a position where it is even more necessary to draw the attention, while the world is on its knees, makes it a lot more harder. I do not feel important at all. I’m just one of the many people facing some serious damage. Here’s the point: it’s not time to project the problems of the world on ourselves. I’d rather be aware of the big picture. This is a fucking disaster – not just for me, not just for you. It’s unprecedented. Some will be affected more than others. Lots of people are dying. Lots of people are losing their jobs. In my case, gigs got cancelled, some important projects had to be put on hold. Obviously, nothing can be planned at the moment. But I’m no great complainer. I’m not inclined to ask for donations, start a gofundme, and it’s unlikely that I will do a live-stream (unless I get some serious proposals and people would show a genuine interest). I would prefer to use this time to stand back – Nick Cave wrote down some precious thoughts on the matter. All things considered, I’m just trying to be my usual self, while the house is on fire.
[EDIT]: I rarely do this, but I have something to add to this post, a few months later. I have just read this interview with the great, late Neil Peart. He expressed my feelings perfectly:
My subject matter is drawn from other people, although it’s nice to find a personal parallel if something upsets me. Anger is always a big motivation, and outrage gets me all fired up. But one thing I particularly hate is confessional lyrics, the one where people reach down inside their tormented souls and tell me how much they hurt — that’s really selfish and petty! If you have all that pain, by all means express it but be a little self absorbed about it and look around you at other people, because everyone has pain and frustration and you can find parallels if you look for them. For example, the song ‘Distant Early Warning’ (from the ‘Grace Under Pressure’ LP) contains the line ‘The world weighs on my shoulders,’ which is an expression of worldly compassion that any sensitive person feels occasionally. You feel so rotten, because the world is such a mess, so many people are starving and unhappy. It’s an extreme that represents a feeling most people have from time to time. Yet I certainly wasn’t going to put it in terms like ‘Oh, I’m so depressed.’ I wanted to get across the point of world-weariness and sadness rather than self-pity.
This theme is a recurring one of mine, and even on ‘Hold…’ there’s ‘Turn The Page,’ which expresses the same attitude: how sensitive can you afford to be? If you’re watching the news or reading a paper, how much can you afford to feel? How much can you get involved in the world without wanting to kill yourself immediately?
[And back to what I wrote originally…]
If you have the means and wish to help, you can do it the usual way: show some interest, buy my albums on Bandcamp. You could even subscribe for an annual fee (here I go naked in the streets with that pathetic sign). That would give me some motivation to go ahead.
But hey – it’s perfectly normal if your mind is elsewhere. Don’t even bother.
I hope you all keep sane and stay safe.