2 Years On - Life In A Sort of Post Covid World

So here we are, April 2022. It was 2 long years ago that I had to cancel all my gigs. I had a very full schedule for the next few months into the summer. March 15th, 2020 was the last gig I played. It was a Sunday, I came home realizing that I had to call all my future gigs (I had 4 in the coming week) and let them know I was canceling everything for the foreseen future. 

Back at it, February 2022

Little did I know that the lockdowns and Covid would go on and on. I had hoped to be back in action in the fall of 2020. As it went, I did one outdoor gig in September. That was it. It wasn't until April 11th, 2021 that I got back on schedule. Even then, there were restrictions as to how many people each place could have. I managed to play 24 gigs the rest of the year. I also had 13 gigs canceled, mostly due to the fact that people didn't want to go out and possibly expose themselves to Covid. It was a strange year.

2022 has been a rebound year, having already played 13 gigs. Things seem to be getting back to normal, but…there's always that spectre of Covid in the background. So far my wife and I have managed not to get it.

So what have I learned in the past 2 years, because life is always a lesson? It's been interesting for sure. At first, it was a drastic shock, as I was busy playing 2-4 times a week, then abruptly, nothing. I found that difficult to adjust to. I love what I do as a musician, so there was no, "Thank god I get to stay home now," sentiment. I was literally lost.

I took a couple months off and didn't really do anything—a big part of this is I kept thinking Covid would be done, the world would get back to normal, and I'd be back at it. So I binged a lot of Netflix, read a lot of books, and just hung out at home with my wife watching the world at large.

As time went on, and I realized we were all in this for the long haul, I decided to shift my focus and get back to work on other projects. I took the idea of, "If you had all the time in the world, what would you do?" to heart. I started writing the books I always meant to (one will be out shortly, the other is a hard slog of research and is taking a while as it goes deeper and deeper into my chosen subject. Hmmm, maybe next year will see it come out—fingers crossed).

I also have always wanted to record an album of my idea of a sort of Western Gamelan music—all the years I've listened to Gamelan filtered through my Western mind and understanding. So I spent all day in my studio meticulously writing and recording the intricate parts of what would become the album, The Sea We Swim In. I started on a follow up project and worked on some one off remixes of other artists. It was a very fertile time, but I missed the immediacy and energy that playing for real, live people only a few feet from you provides.

I also got a lot of new instruments. This meant a lot of time spent getting to know them, learning how to play them and integrate them into my set up. It was an exciting time.

So I played a lot of music for myself in my studio. It was my meditation. It was my connection. It was something I could hold onto while the world outside was in uncertainty. My art was indeed my spiritual practice. And it made me realize how much it meant to me. I remember that March day, packing up my gear thinking, "I don't know when I'll be able to do this again." The words of one of my teachers from long ago came to mind, "Play every gig like it might be your last." Maybe this was my last one. I always took that to heart and never gave less than 100%. I was always thankful for being able to do this as my job.

But back to that spiritual part. I worked a lot while waiting at home. I played, I recorded, I read, I immersed myself in my art. I gained both a deeper understanding and a deeper appreciation for what I do. I was determined that whenever things opened up again, I would be a better version of the artist that I was before April 2020. While not quite a reinvention, it was more a reimagining of who I am and what I do. And it was actually nice to have the time to dream and explore like I did all those years ago when I started out as an artist.

So here we are, April 2022. Things are happening again, life is looking more normal, and I appreciate every every gig I get to play even more than before, because I realize it could all be taken away in an instant. Let's hope we are past the worst and our world can move into a new, better normal. As we move ahead, remember to keep your art as as spiritual practice, because it may save you. It saved me.

~ MB


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