Making music during lockdown kept me sane and kept Cabin Fever at bay.
Updated: Aug 7, 2021
Sounds like one of a thousand cliches to come out of the last year right? Sadly there's big dose of truth to this. I'm pretty robust as far as people go, but living in a small flat with 'Work From Home' being the government's absolute instruction for nearly all office-based workers and my trusty Labrador Crixus as my only pal, Cabin Fever would often set in.
Of course, we had Zoom video calls, WhatsApp and email, and in truth, I remotely saw more of my colleagues than I ever would in normal times. And that came with its own special dose of 'exhausting' in terms of the toll the huge change took on people's mental health and wellbeing across the nation.
Friends would often message in group chats about boxset recommendations or the horror of the Netflix hit 'Tiger King'. And while of course I was as equally intrigued and amused to watch these things, watching TV has never really been my thing beyond the odd movie here and there. The thought of watching TV all hours of the day horrifies me, as I'm sure it does thousands of others. But then again for many isolated people, especially the elderly or those shielding, it was also a friend. The only company.
I'm pretty optimistic as a person. I try to mostly see a glass half-full and that many disappointments or negative changes can nearly always be a catalyst for something good or positive change (even if unimagined). The thought of sitting down watching movie after movie, week after week on top of a demanding job filled me with dread. Beyond walking my dog two or three times a day, how was I going to fill my days? I needed a focus. My day job was demanding for the first 9-12 months. I can honestly say that I don't think I've worked as hard I have done during lockdown for years. There was no 9-5 hour shift for me, my boss or my exceptional work colleagues when small business owners were terrified of how they were going to pay their bills or staff and calling us for help late at night and an immediate response was required or when self-employed people needed help fighting red tape with local government to get the money central government had already paid the local authority to support such people... or dare I say it, one of my strengths is that when the chips are down, through frustration is to unleash the inner fire inside of me at the right over-paid people to get them to do their bloody jobs and get help to those people who need it. But in the end, it all takes its toll. I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm proud of the very small role that I played in helping those who desperately needed it, but I won't pretend it didn't leave me emotionally and mentally exhausted at times. I'm not sure any of us have truly recovered from that yet.
And it was during that time that late at night I'd take to my piano. I wasn't feeling particularly creative or even in the mood to make music, it was just a 'go to' in my small flat and something that wasn't the bloody TV or had a 'are you still watching' prompt from a subscription service.
Over the coming months I'd find I'd write half a song here, a bit of a song there... a chorus, a bridge... but all half-arsed, but noted down to come back to at a later stage. Often I'm guilty of being fully well-intentioned to go back to those ideas... but pre-covid, I rarely did. But now, stuck in my flat with just me and my dog I found I would go back to old ideas and gradually about 30 songs took shape. Some good, some very good, some I'm releasing now and some that aren't that great (and are in the vault). I hate writing lyrics. I'm not a poet, I'm not really a singer. I always think of myself as a musician and music producer... but a song needs vocals and over the lockdown, I've grown to be comfortable with my vocal ability and dare I say I'm not ashamed to say 'my vocal limitations'. I have to work at everything. The thought of doing 15+ vocal takes for just a sentence is the norm and it fills me with dread. However, when it all comes together, there's a sense of accomplishment and pride (as well as picky critique as to what could still be improved). And I also learnt that learning to say 'That's enough. That's finished'. Leave it alone." was a good way to complete work and to move on to the next song.
My poor dog would be my constant companion. Hearing every song take form. From piano chords to full production. From every dodgy vocal take to nailing it as best I could. He endured it. I say endure, as it can't of been easy for him either. Being stuck inside when you're a natural sprinter and an animal who loves a good 5-10 mile daily hike has been hard on him too. Although he always seems to just be happy to be 'together' with me. Small mercies I guess.
So now here we are in August 2021... it has been 17 months since the pandemic began. And it is only now that we're in a place where things are re-opening and returning to a bit of normality. There's still quite a way to go. But I feel like we're coming out of the other side. Like most of the country, I feel like I desperately need a long holiday. Preferably with sunshine and a bottomless bar, but for now I am just thankful that I did indeed have the opportunity to create some of (what I think is) my best work as a musician.
So Far Away was born out of the frustrations, cabin fever and frustration of wanting to see my friends, to party, to go to festivals (which we are next week), to surf in the Atlantic, to drink beers with the sun setting over the beach with my mates. And now feels like a good time to be thankful for all that is good around me. My new single and LP 'Spectra' definitely embodies a positive vibe, in spite of the longing and frustrations of the past 17 months.
If you've made it this far, thank you for allowing me to indulge a little and tell you about what led me through the past year to where we are now.
Stay safe and it is my hope that we'll see each other all soon in the real world!
Will and the Starlight.