Music on Lockdown: 5 Artists on the Impact of Lockdowns on their Livelihood - Part 2

5 tales of resilience and survival; we talk recording at home ( and how to remain sane while doing so)  getting the most out of these sessions, making ends meet, utilizing social media and more.

Featuring Ruth McGinley, Emma Langford, Kerri Watt, nimf, Jordan Run 

( this article is the second part of Musicngear's "Music on Lockdown" series, you can read part one here )

By Eimear O SullivanMusicngear Editor

Article photo - Music on Lockdown: 5 Artists on the Impact of Lockdowns on their Livelihood - Part 2


Ruth McGinley

Pianist (BBC Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the RTE Concert Orchestra) / Artist 

Article photo - Music on Lockdown: 5 Artists on the Impact of Lockdowns on their Livelihood - Part 2
Photo cred  @ glennnorwood

What is your setup for writing or recording at home?

I have a music space in my Belfast home with a Yamaha C3 Grand Piano and a Korg SV2S Stage Vintage Piano. It's where I practice, rehearse and teach piano. Before the pandemic I had no experience in recording at home at all....but realized that it was something I had to be open to and learn so that I could keep up with the way music is being created and shared at these times. Being a classically trained pianist, home recording is not something that I've had to do in my career this far. But everything is changing... so I've had to adapt or be left behind!! 

The Korg is a recent new addition to my music space and I love it. I have never owned anything but a real piano up until this year as I've started experimenting with different feels and sounds. I use it mainly for writing purposes. My home recording set up is pretty simple as I'm just starting out! I use SE Electronics Stereo Condenser Microphones for recording the piano and a Shure SM57 LC for my son’s guitar recordings. Both recorded through a Universal Audio Interface  - I also use a Blue Yeti USB Microphone for online teaching purposes. 

Lockdown has done many things for me creatively. Most of all, it has given me time

Time is so precious in this busy world! We all get caught up in life and the next gig, the next performance....but rarely do we take the time to stand back and look at what we are doing versus what we would love to try to do if we had time. This is my experience anyway! I've always been curious about different styles of music. But it's only as I've got older have I got a little braver to venture out of my comfort zone. I'm finding such a freedom in this. I'm allowing myself to enjoy the process of experimenting, instead of just being concerned with the outcome.

Perfection is overrated. I call myself a recovering perfectionist!! At the start of lockdown I was in contact with fellow Derry musician Ryan Vail who is well known for blending the worlds of electronica with other genres. I was asking his advice on a recording set up for my piano at home. We got talking about our musical tastes and realized that we both love the musical sound world of artists such as Olafur Arnalds and Max Richter. It got us thinking about collaborating. Just by chance, I got contacted by Moving on Music here in Belfast... a wonderful independent, not-for-profit organization that promotes music from a wide range of styles and genres. They have been amazingly active in supporting musicians throughout 2020 in trying to keep creativity alive and helping musicians adapt to this ‘new normal'.

They offered support for a collaborative project between Ryan Vail and myself at the start of lockdown. The outcome of this has been the release of 'Chrysalism', our collaborative single. We produced it all remotely between us... Ryan in Derry and me in Belfast. We only met up in person for the making of the live music performance video, which we had to do socially distanced of course! It's the first time I've collaborated in this way. I loved the learning and discovery in the process. We shared musical ideas and thoughts back and forth on what we were trying to communicate through this one-off track. I also recorded some spoken word that I wrote in reaction to the music video that Ryan shot so beautifully and it was put in the mix.  It is extra special for us as it includes family members. My son Michael plays guitar on the track, and Ryan’s daughter Leia appears in the music video. 'Chrysalism is out right now on Spotify, Amazon Music and other streaming platforms. 

The creative industry needs to be supported. Musicians and all creatives are the soul of society

What were the psychological impacts of the live music section going away almost overnight, and what are some of the best ways in which we can support artists/musicians? 

I think it has impacted people in different ways. For many, it has been devastating as they experienced their 2020 diary completely wiped overnight. With so little support and awareness for the industry initially, a lot of musicians have had to look for employment in other areas just to survive day to day for themselves and their families. This has put such a strain on the mental health of musicians and is deeply concerning and upsetting. The creative industry needs to be supported. Musicians and all creatives are the soul of society! What would the world be without music?! 

In a more positive light, it has also been a time in which musicians & organizations have shown their resilience by adapting to new ways of presenting and communicating with their audience through online platforms. It has been so inspiring to see people adapting so brilliantly. We can support musicians by connecting with them online where we all are at this present moment. Support new releases, buy tickets for the live stream gigs, gift albums and upcoming shows to family and friends. Show love to them by engaging and supporting the massive effort to keep things going. Not everyone has a big team of people around them.... and musicians have to multitask beyond their skill set at the moment!

Has the pandemic changed your relationship to social media? 

It has changed my relationship with online music sharing through social media. I had no experience prior to the pandemic of Facebook lives or online performances....but I have had to, like everyone, attempt it. Do I think it could become a long term replacement for live performance? Simple answer is no. The concert setting, the buzz of an audience, and the adrenaline in the room can never be replicated online. Live performance is a very authentic and special human experience for everyone involved, both performers and audience. 

There is a huge underlying fear of the future and what lies ahead for us

How you are making ends meet - and advice for anyone who feels overwhelmed:

I am extremely grateful for the support I have received in 2020 from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The funding provided for individual artists through several schemes has been a huge help for me to be able to stay in the industry. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to keep making music this year as I know anxiety and overwhelm are present more than ever in our society. 

There is a huge underlying fear of the future and what lies ahead for us. We still have no idea when live performances will happen again. Any advice I would give to anyone feeling overwhelmed is to try and stay connected to yourself. Turn off the media, the social platforms, etc. It can get noisy on there and exhausting to have to always be ‘on'! Look after your physical and mental well being which is more important than anything. Know that it is ok just to ride the waves of life at the moment. You don't always have to be achieving something great. And breathe..... always remember to breathe!! It is so important that we, as a community of musicians, come together and help each other at this time. There are fantastic organizations such as Help Musicians who offer advice and support. 

Where can we support you and are there any current and upcoming projects you would like us to know about?

Plans for 2021 include more recording projects and exciting collaborations. I am working on some new material which I am very excited to share when the time comes. 

Listen to my music on Spotify: Ruth McGinley Follow me for updates on -Facebook: @RuthMcGinleymusic -Twitter: @Ruth McGinley -Instagram: ruthmcginleypianist


Kerri Watt

Singer / Songwriter / Multi-instrumentalist 

Article photo - Music on Lockdown: 5 Artists on the Impact of Lockdowns on their Livelihood - Part 2

What is your setup for writing or recording at home?

I like to move around the house while writing, but when it comes to getting something down, I move into my home studio. It was basically just a room with all my instruments piled up before, but I used all the time this year to do it up and now it feels really cozy and magical! The stuff I record at home is fairly simple. I use Logic, a Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen, and a Rode NT1-A Complete Vocal Recording microphone. I've got a bunch of different guitars - 2 Martin Guitars and a lovely Art & Lutherie acoustic. I've got a Fender Tele that I got for my 13th birthday (and never played) and a Fender Strat that I got in LA and love. Couple of keyboards and my favourite piece in the studio - A Yamaha CP70 Electric Grand Piano. I didn't do that much recording at home pre-lockdown as I was hardly ever here but this year I recorded a couple of EP's worth of material from the studio. My brother is a producer in Nashville, so I'd get things to a certain point and send them to him to work on. I did end up recording vocals for one of the album tracks during the pandemic which meant plugging into my producer 'Machine' over in New Jersey via Audiomovers. That was a cool experience! 

What is your advice for getting the most out of these sessions?

I find you really have to get into the right headspace to work from home. In the beginning, I was finding it difficult to separate work and home life while they were in the same place. I think what helped was deciding I was going to have the intention to get in the studio first thing in the morning and work rather than just floating around the house waiting for inspiration to hit. Zoom write sessions helped this a bit too because I had a time commitment to another person. I hit lots of stumbling blocks during my work at home due to my lack of experience but Youtube has such a wealth of helpful videos, that really encouraged me to learn and figure stuff out for myself. My advice would be not to give up easily, everything takes time and there's always a way. Just be patient with yourself and willing to push through confusing times! Oh and make sure you take breaks! 

We're still all a part of a community even if we're not singing along together at a venue

What were the psychological impacts of the live music section going away almost overnight, and what are some of the best ways in which we can support artists/musicians? 

For me personally, it was a welcome break at first. I've been touring since 2010, first as an actor and then as a musician. I never realized how badly I needed this time at home to reset! Having said that by the time August hit, I was feeling really antsy and definitely missing the buzz of a live show. It's been worse through the Autumn and Winter months as I can usually use touring to distract from the miserable weather! But on the flip side, these new ways of connecting with our audiences in a really personal way online have also been really positive. I started a Patreon account so I could really get to know my fans and what kind of content they wanted to hear from me. Patreon is one of many ways to support the acts you love, buying their music and merch is another. Engagement is something I really appreciate - if my listeners comment and respond to questions I've asked on my social platforms it really helps feel like we're still all a part of a community even if we're not singing along together at a venue.

Has the pandemic changed your relationship to social media? 

It changed things for me massively. My Instagram following doubled over the summer because I had so much more time to cultivate my audience and develop a little family. I was able to create new content every day and when people responded well I was inspired to come up with more. I did everything from a weekly live stream that ran for 3 months, to 2 unplanned EP's, a fashion sale to raise money for Stop The Traffik and lots of other fun nuggets of content. I don't know if I'll be able to keep that up once I get back to touring but I'm definitely going to do my best to stay connected. 

My fiancé sold his motorbike and we sold our car. But overall I feel fortunate to have my health and a place to live

How you are making ends meet - and advice for anyone who feels overwhelmed

Many of us have just really had to adapt. My sister runs a take away cafe that's been able to stay open all year so I worked with her for a while. At one point, I started a little 'hamper' business and was selling homemade hampers that people would buy and gift to others. My fiancé sold his motorbike and we sold our car. But overall I feel fortunate to have my health and a place to live. It's tough to give general advice because there are people in very difficult circumstances and others who are getting by, but I would say that human connection is key - even if it's just a walk in the park or catching up with a friend on Zoom. 

Where can we support you and are there any current and upcoming projects you would like us to know about?

Loads coming up! On 15th January, my debut album 'Neptune's Daughter' comes out. It's been years in the making so it's a really exciting time for me. I would love you to check out the record! It's currently available for pre-order and there's some merch and physical copies too via my website http://www.kerriwatt.com

You can find and support me on all streaming and social platforms by searching 'Kerri Watt' - and I hope one day you'll find me at a gig!


Emma Langford

Singer / Songwriter / Musician

Article photo - Music on Lockdown: 5 Artists on the Impact of Lockdowns on their Livelihood - Part 2
Photo cred: Ava Holtzman (thephotodork)

What is your setup for writing or recording at home? 

Article photo - Music on Lockdown: 5 Artists on the Impact of Lockdowns on their Livelihood - Part 2

At the moment I don't really have a space, which is challenging. I'm at home with my parents and they're ridiculously obliging in letting me use the kitchen table, but I'm excited to have my own place and space to write and record as much as I want. I recently invested in a great vocal mic - an Aston Microphones Spirit condenser - and an SSL 2+ interface. They don't play nicely with a standard Intel laptop so I also had to go hunting for a MacBook. It's been an expensive year! 

In terms of DAWs, I bounce between Garageband and Logic but I definitely find Garageband to be quicker and easier to work with for straight-forward vocal takes. 

My creative process, such as it is, really relies on having all the time and space I need and both of those have been in fairly short supply during the pandemic. The only writing I've done really has been co-writing, which funnily enough is something I was pretty allergic to before the pandemic!  I've been doing it over zoom or just the phone - we hang out for a few hours and talk rubbish and get stuck into some of the half-ideas I've had rattling around my brain. It's like therapy. 

For a while at the start of the year, lots of us had to go cap in hand to our fans and ask openly for their help which was hard.

Your advice for getting the most out of these sessions?

I'm not sure I'm in a position to give much advice - the only thing I can say is it's really helpful to have a good relationship and clear communication with the people you live with. If you can give them a sense of your work hours, they're less likely to intrude on to them, and you're less likely to get frustrated at them for just going about their day. 

What were the psychological impacts of the live music sector going away almost overnight, and what are some of the best ways in which we can support artists/musicians?

It's hard to measure the psychological impacts really but there's an old saying I've heard a bit which is that every dog needs a job. If you take away the live music sector, an awful lot of dogs are without jobs, and that leaves a person feeling listless, useless and worthless to varying degrees. For a while at the start of the year, lots of us had to go cap in hand to our fans and ask openly for their help which was hard. Many artists weren't used to virtual concerts, to the technology and hardware involved in taking a live show online. It's been really challenging.

It's woken me up to just how much I took the opportunity to play live for an audience for granted. 

If people want to support independent artists, if they're not flush and can't buy merch or join their patreon; they can simply show up - click in to the virtual streams, give them a share. It's really hard making things happen right now so when you see a music video or a single release just like, comment and share, and acknowledge that however hard it was to make those things happen before it is exponentially harder right now. 

Has the pandemic changed your relationship to social media?

I think I'm a little jaded by social media now... I've always had a pretty good grasp on it, I've used it as much as I can to expand my reach and connect with people, but I'm weary from having to rely so heavily on it. If anyone would be up for moving to smoke-signals or messenger pigeons let me know? 

How you are making ends meet - and advice for anyone who feels overwhelmed

I'm taking deposits for next year's bookings - weddings, corporate gigs, general gigs where possible. That's helping. I'm also very grateful for Patreon, as it means I have a guaranteed monthly income. 

If anyone is feeling really overwhelmed it's completely understandable. There's a new mental health helpful for artists called Minding Creative Minds; I haven't used it yet myself but I gather it's a great resource. If the overwhelm is coming from workload, reach out and ask questions. I'm always willing to answer questions and help out if someone is feeling stuck. 

Where can we support you and are there any current and upcoming projects you would like us to know about?

I'm on Facebook and Instagram at emmalangfordmusic, and on Twitter at elangfordmusic. I'm also on Patreon.com/emmalangford if any of your readers can spare a fiver a month to keep me making lovely creative things! And of course, I'm on Bandcamp where you can pick up CDs, records, doggie high-vis vests... I'm always dreaming up new fun merch ideas, so keep an eye on that! 

It feels like wishful thinking right now, but all going well I'm hitting the road in 2021 - I'll be playing in Limerick, Sligo, Kerry, Dublin, the UK and Germany, so I guess I'm just going to focus on staying healthy between now and then. I can't wait to see everyone somewhere along the way at a live show. 


Jordan Run

Musician / Producer / Songwriter / Singer

Article photo - Music on Lockdown: 5 Artists on the Impact of Lockdowns on their Livelihood - Part 2
Photo cred: ufhoee

What is your setup for writing or recording at home? 

Article photo - Music on Lockdown: 5 Artists on the Impact of Lockdowns on their Livelihood - Part 2

I converted my attic into a home studio. My setup consists of the following:

Usually, I’ll sing some melodies in the car, or over a chord progression on the guitar in the studio. I’ll record my idea on my phone, then structure the lyrics, music and record it properly. Sometimes it’ll be ready to go quite quickly, if not - I might restart the whole music in a different style, or use different lyrics from a previous session over it.

Then I’ll spend a while mixing and mastering and will then test out the song on different speakers e.g my car, a Bluetooth speaker, phones etc. 

I’ve been gigging full-time for the bones of 10 years (...) I was panicking and worried about my livelihood but I grew to accept it. 

What were the psychological impacts of the live music section going away almost overnight, and what are some of the best ways in which we can support artists/musicians? 

I’ve been gigging full-time for the bones of 10 years. It was a huge shock to adjust to the change at the beginning. I was panicking and worried about my livelihood but I grew to accept it. I now survive on a lot less and have looked at new ways of making money. I took the time as an incentive and an opportunity to explore and broaden my skills in writing and producing. 

Some of the best ways to support artists and musicians are buying their music and coming to their live shows. Engaging with them on social media and showing support go a long way too - people have been incredible this year. 

Has the pandemic changed your relationship to social media? (e.g did you find new ways of utilizing it, have you found an increase in traffic to your page etc)

I’ve definitely discovered patterns, systems that work, and a better sense of analytics and algorithms. I focused a lot on Instagram this year, but I have really found that TikTok is where it’s at for musicians. It’s a heavy traffic fueled, whirlwind platform, especially for musicians, and it takes serious commitment and consistency to make any sort of influence. I’m slowly getting my head around it, and beginning to enjoy posting content on TikTok.

Making ends meet - and advice for anyone who feels overwhelmed

Keep creating. Keep communicating. We need to work and make money to live, but always make sure to give some time to creation. Imagine this time as a preparation stage, and once this pandemic ends you will have loads of music ready to go. If you are overwhelmed, just go with it. Don’t ‘force’ anything for the sake of being creative. When you’re in the current moment it’s important to do what feels natural. Sometimes a break from writing and music is exactly what you need to reset. I like to think of us creatives like cars. We wouldn’t drive 100 miles an hour through every street and road across the country, every time and everyday of the week. 

We might spend a few days a week creating. We might actually spend another few days driving. All at different paces but remembering there’s no pressure. Go at your own pace and make sure to enjoy the ride.

Where can we support you and are there any current and upcoming projects you would like us to know about?

I’m releasing my new single ‘Refuse The Animal’ on January 1st 2021. It’s an angsty rock number about non-environmentally friendly companies. I’m pushing a pre-save campaign at the moment, this system rapidly helps independent artists like me reach bigger playlists on Spotify. 

Around 40,000 songs go up on Spotify every day, so this method really helps curators see if the songs are worth the hype! You can find the link to pre-save it for free here https://ffm.to/vbnbedj

I’m also after booking my first headline show of 2021 in Cyprus Avenue for June 11th 2021. Tickets are available via Eventbrite or use the link here https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/jordan-run-tickets-130428217309

In fact, you can support me by following me through any of the links in my linktree here https://linktr.ee/Jordanrun


nimf

Electronic Singer/Songwriter / Performance Artist

Article photo - Music on Lockdown: 5 Artists on the Impact of Lockdowns on their Livelihood - Part 2

What is your setup for writing or recording at home? 

To be honest, I don't have much of a recording set-up at home, all I have is a laptop and a microphone! I'm hoping to eventually have more equipment, but for the moment I'm making the most out of what I have! 

I really like to have a sense of fantasy in my approach to songwriting, I want my songs to help people escape whatever it is they're dealing with and for them to have a few moments where they're transported to another world. 

Advice for getting the most out of these sessions 

I think the biggest thing for me is to not overthink what you're doing. Letting my imagination run wild is really important to me, experimenting with new ideas and just having fun with it!

Donating, purchasing music/merch on Bandcamp and Patreon are all great ways to support artists at the moment

What were the psychological impacts of the live music section going away almost overnight, and what are some of the best ways in which we can support artists/musicians? 

I think it was quite a shock to all of us to see the industry disappear so quickly, but I think the live streams going on at the moment have really given people hope and as close to a live experience possible. Watching these streams, donating, purchasing music/merch on Bandcamp and Patreon are all great ways to support artists at the moment.

Has the pandemic changed your relationship to social media? 

I have a complicated relationship with social media, I find it very stressful, so I tend to not use it that much. I enjoy seeing the more creative side to social media on the likes on Instagram, and I'm hoping to get more into posting videos/photographs without worrying so much!

Where can we support you and are there any current and upcoming projects you would like us to know about?

You can support me on https://nimf.bandcamp.com and https://www.patreon.com/nimf, you can also follow me on social media https://linktr.ee/nimf

I'm hoping to release an ep this coming spring/summer, so I need all the support I can get! Over Christmas I'll be putting a few things up, covers and whatnot, so be sure to keep an eye on my social media for that!

 

( this article is the second part of Musicngear's "Music on Lockdown" series, you can read part one here )

About Eimear O Sullivan

Eimear Ann O Sullivan is a multi-genre music producer, audio engineer and vocalist. After receiving a Masters in Music Technology from the CIT Cork School of Music, she went on to operate as a producer under the name Blakkheart. Her releases have received critical acclaim from Ireland's biggest music publications, such as District Magazine and Nialler9, alongside receiving heavy commercial radio airplay. She currently works in Cork recording studio Flashpoint CC. Previous clients of hers include the likes of Comedy Central’s Dragony Aunt star Candy Warhol, rapper Darce and Outsider YP. (Photo credit @Fabian Boros)

Contact Eimear O Sullivan at eimear.o.sullivan@musicngear.com

About Music Spotlight

In this blog section we host new music releases, artist features and handpicked playlists by the Musicngear staff.

Interested in a music feature, writing a story as a guest or joining the Musicngear team as a Contributing Author? Contact us at info+blog@musicngear.com