A year’s worth of touring income is no longer available, but musicians have tried different methods to maintain their craft and give back to their communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected London musicians’ ability to perform, tour, rehearse, and record. Local musicians across genres shared how COVID-19 has reverberated throughout their lives.
Taking a Pause
Sarah Smith is a London musician who was preparing to tour. In March of this year, she was ready to head out for a week-long tour in Roatán, Honduras, with a blues band. She explains further cancellations, “May was going to be a whole tour of Germany, Holland, and Austria. And that got cancelled, and right now, I’m supposed to be in Brazil. So it’s been a lot.”
In April, Sarah was commissioned to write a song for Marilyn MacMillan, a local writer with ties to Brain Injury Canada and the Schizophrenia Society of Canada. The pair had worked together previously to make a song called Never Say Never, a piece about Marilyn’s life after a devastating car accident. It is currently available on Bandcamp, with all proceeds from the song going to The Brain Injury Association of London, ON. Tragically, before Sarah and Marilyn could finish their newest collaboration, Marilyn passed away due to COVID-19.
Since Canadians and citizens of the world won’t be attending live music events anytime soon, Sarah says she had to shift her perspective for the time being. “I learned how to record in my home studio during this time, and I’ve learned how to edit music videos… I’m just living my life with my partner. I’ve never had this time off the road just to be at peace. It’s been an absolute gift for me.”
In March, Sarah raised $9000 for local musicians when she held two live-streamed concerts.
Pivoting for the Times
Doug Eyre is the Secretary-Treasurer of the London Musician’s Association (LMA). The organization handles work dues, agreements, and contracts for musicians in London.
Doug says that “a lot of [the bands they represent] have lost a full year of touring dates, 35 to 50 dates in some cases.” In response, the Association worked on behalf of artists, lobbying the federal government to extend the Canadian Emergency Response Benefits (CERB) qualifications.
With events for the summer cancelled, the LMA is trying to pivot with Drive-By Live, a proposed drive-in concert series. Locals could listen to a live concert in a parking lot, with audio broadcasting through the audience’s vehicle speakers. Doug says they are still working on the specific details and regulations.
Regaining Some Normalcy
Moore Ave Underground is a band from Aylmer, ON. For the last seven years, they have held and organized an event, the Food Bank Festival, on Father’s Day weekend to support Aylmer Corner Cupboard. This year, the live event was cancelled, alongside an entire summer of touring events for the band.
Josh Gaudette is the vocalist/guitarist for the band, which includes Joe Gaudette (lead guitar), Jack Gaudette (Bass), and (Shawn MacDonald (Drums).
Josh says the band chose to live-stream the festival this year, with proceeds donated to the Corner Cupboard Food Bank. “We tried to fill the weight of that benefit…with about an hour and a half live-stream, where we asked people if they were generous enough to donate some money for the food bank and see what we could do.” Moore Ave ended up raising $400 in donations.
The band considers themselves lucky because three of the four members are brothers who live in the same house. Since phase two, they’ve been able to record more for their new album.
“It was good to get back into the studio with people that we like and friends and have a good time and laugh, and just feel a little normal,” says Josh.
Launching a Career in Quarantine
Darren Powers released his first-ever album, False Bravado, during the pandemic. He decided to shift from fretting over tour cancellations towards writing a book. He also says he was able to commit his attention to launching his album online. Darren has played for charities virtually to promote False Bravado, including the Brain Tumor Society and Andie’s Fight for a Cure.
“I did tons of merch. I did music videos – I learned how to do that in my spare time. So, yeah, I did a lot of things that I never would have done if it wasn’t for COVID-19.”
Unable to tour, Darren launched the album through a live-streaming event on Facebook on June 20th. It was challenging to do with only ten people.
“We’re allowed to have ten people gathering in a room…seven of them are helping with cameras audio, video… There’s so much. I learned so much by doing all this like all the different pieces of the puzzle.”
It’s unknown when musicians will perform music for crowds again. Until then, they are continuing to do what they do best – creating and performing music for their fans, no matter the obstacles.
Featured Image by Elizabeth MacDonald