How y'all doin'?
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Hi friends. Hope you're all doing well, whatever your personal circumstances are. I just want to share a little bit of what's going on in THE HESH INC.'s universe during these strange and scary times.
First of all, I am well, and so is my wife. We are holed up in our modest domicile up in suburban Englewood, New Jersey (which I affectionately refer to as "Shmenglewood" in my various online postings). Neither she nor I have developed any symptoms of the coronavirus, thank G-d. Whenever anything resembling a symptom crops up, we kill it with the appropriate over-the-counter remedy, and so far it seems to be working. We only step out to do things like buy groceries and take out the garbage, and we consolidate everything so that no more than one foray out the front door is needed every couple of days, if even that. Fortunately, I have been able to work my regular day job, sitting in my second-bedroom home office. Although I do get stir crazy at times, I'm actually quite thankful that I don't have to commute to and from the city, and I have more time in the morning and evening to pay attention to my various creative endeavors.
I was due for a two-week paid sabbatical at my job back in March, and I had made plans to hit the road and go back to all my beach-town haunts in New York, New Jersey, and possibly even Delaware, revisiting my exploratory picture-taking jaunts of the early 1990s with a better car and upgraded photographic equipment. I would also take the opportunity to work on some long-dormant songwriting, inspired as I imagined I would be by being in these places again. And the whole thing was to have culminated on the weekend of March 27-28, when I was all set to participate in the annual Singer-Songwriter of Cape May conference, as I had done in past years.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 thing ramped up right before I was to take my much-anticipated time off. Musical events across the country were being cancelled — the first and most prominent of which was Austin, Texas's famed SXSW — and venues everywhere were suspending their schedules. It was only a matter of time before the Cape May conference was cancelled as well, and at that point I made the decision to cancel or at least postpone my sabbatical. Thing is, I had to use those days before my next work anniversary, which is in May. So I took the sabbatical days and superimposed them over Passover, and cancelled the vacation days I had set aside for the holiday. So now I have a whole bunch of extra vacation days that I'll use later on, hopefully in the summer when we can all emerge from our shells and I can go to the beach (yes, I know that I'm probably being optimistic).
So I had two consecutive weeks off in April, rather than two weeks in March and a handful of days in April. However, seven of those days were either taken up by Passover or Shabbos, days on which I refrain from creating. That left seven other days, which I decided to use well and not waste by sitting at the computer and Facebooking the time away — a very tempting pitfall. I set a number of creative goals: (1) continue working on my novel; (2) resume editing my lyric books / songwriting anthologies; (3) work on actual songwriting, i.e., at the piano; (4) compile all my song snippets from cassettes that I had dating back across at least two decades; (5) record a video for NPR's Tiny Desk Contest; and (6) pay some attention to several other writing endeavors that have been waiting patiently on my shelves.
In prioritizing these goals, I realized that I couldn't very well do (2) or (3) without actually doing (4) first. In other words, in order to edit my songwriting anthologies, I had to complete my outstanding songs, and in order to complete my outstanding songs, I needed to collect and collate my assorted song snippets. So that's what I did — and the work took up most of the waking hours of six of those seven available days. It was a lot of painstaking work, akin to searching for the proverbial needles in the psalmodic haystacks. I did it until my cassette-to-mp3 device broke down; I got a lot of it done, but by no means all of it. I had to order another device (thank G-d for online ordering and door delivery!), which I expect to receive this coming weekend, and at that point I'll resume going through the old tapes. Then I'll edit the raw files and convert them to mp3, and then categorize the snippets by musical style. Then I'll "marry" them to each other stylistically, and then go through my assorted lyrics so I can marry the lyrics to appropriate music. I have literally hundreds of these snippets, and this is a job akin to archaeology ... digging through my own musical past and sorting it all out. This is what happens when an artist's "life gets in the way" and the creative things he or she wants to accomplish get set aside for domestic or economic considerations. In this sense, being at home for weeks on end has been a blessing.
Needless to say, though, my assorted nonmusical writing projects stayed on their respective shelves. This was clearly a time for paying attention to the music. There is only so much time in a day, and so many days in a week!
Re: (6), I succeeded in making a video of myself performing one of what has become a signature song, "There's A Voice," and submitting it to the Tiny Desk Contest. Wish me luck!
As for gigs ... many musicians, especially those who depended on performing for a living, have moved their performances from live venues to online. I decided to do the same; in March, I began a series of Facebook Live shows, playing the piano and singing to the world from my living room. After several such shows, even though you could hear me play and sing clearly enough, it became evident that I could stand to benefit from some enhanced equipment to boost the sound and broadcast quality. With none of the brick-and-mortar stores in operation, I began doing some online research to see what I can do to upgrade my podcasting/online-performing capability. Meantime, I'll keep on playing; while I started playing on Saturday evenings at 8:30, it made more sense to shift to a Sunday-evening slot, and so, beginning on Sunday, April 26, I'll start playing at about 7:00 pm (US Eastern time).
With the sabbatical and the holiday ended, I am back at "work" again, at my desk in my home office. Keeping me company while I work are my assorted playlists that I created on Spotify, specifically one that I created shortly after the work-from-home thing became official, which consists of songs that in some way relate to the current crisis without resorting to the usual suspects or clichés. The whole idea was to have some music that could keep the listener engrossed through most of the equivalent of a working day — songs that help you get through a plague with your spirits and sense of humor intact. I think I succeeded ... give a listen and let me know what you think.
Also, several weeks ago I was confronted but not completely surprised by the news that CD Baby, which had been the place where I made my albums available online, has discontinued its online store. This means that if you're looking for my music online, you won't find it there, alas. I've been doing business with CD Baby ever since the early 2000s and seeing it fold, especially in the wake of COVID-19, has been a sad thing. However, my music is still available online on my Bandcamp site. And of course, if you do the streaming thing, it's available in a whole host of places, particularly Spotify.
That seems to wrap everything up for now. I don't know what else I can add about the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic that you haven't already read a million times and as many ways. I'll just say that I wish, hope, and pray that this pandemic will end soon, with cures discovered and implemented, and for all who are sick to make a complete and speedy recovery. And for all those who have lost loved ones ... I offer my deepest sympathies and sincerest condolences, and may they not have any further reason to mourn.
Stay safe, well, and healthy, everyone. And be sure to support your local musicians and artists, especially those whose sole means of making a living may be online.