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Enduring and Embracing the Lockdown Blues

In March 2020, having concluded the recording sessions for my LP ‘Lines of Desire’, I turned my attention to the live arena once more. With three shows under my belt, momentum building and a profitable St. Patrick’s Day gig lined up I felt I was well poised to attack 2020, until lockdown struck and pulled the rug from under us all. A horror show situation. However after initial misguided anger I began to reflect and reason with the situation. Here was an opportunity to take stock, reconfigure and re-evaluate my creative desires. Reading passages from ‘Sapiens’ (by Yuval Noah Harari) helped me employ an objective, humble and pragmatic mindset. According to the author ‘there are no gods, no nations, no money and no human rights, except in our collective imagination’. The entire world we know is based on imagined orders that are handed down and inherited. There is no divine right to happiness or prosperity. The world (as far as I can see) is chaotic, arbitrary, mysterious and transient. The only constant in life is that it changes. Boethius, an early 6th century philosopher, theorised that history is a wheel. ‘Inconstancy is my very essence says the wheel. Rise up on my spokes if you like but don’t complain when you’re cast back down into the depths. Good times pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it’s also our hope. The worst of times, like the best, are always passing away’. Throughout the course of history humans have always had to adapt in order to survive. This is hardwired into us.

Now admittedly this is a rather cynical and borderline morbid outlook (on the surface anyway), but these are existential times and accepting my insignificance and impermanence has been imperative when making sense of this pandemic. It’s important to face the harsh and at times merciless truths of the world. Although flirting with nihilism, this perspective is ultimately empowering for me. This reset period has helped me realise what I appreciate most in my life: my musical drive and artistic outlets, my health, my family and my wonderful friends who inspire, challenge and indulge me. Now is a time to reside in the present and play the hand we’ve been dealt. The past is tinged with nostalgia and the future uncertain. Adopting this mentality has been important in maintaining artistic focus. I’d be lost without music really. Writing and recording helps me escape. It’s inherently cathartic and therapeutic. It liberates me and helps me transcend above mundane and decadent paradigms that we are subjected to. It helps keep depression at arms length. Although other aspects of my life have been put on hold, to create devoid of distraction has been anomalous and most fruitful. Everyday has the potential to be an art day of some description. I cast the net, see what glimmers I can catch and satiate my fantasies, which is fundamentally the prerogative of an artist. During lockdown I recorded two self-produced EPs at home, wrote and designed a book to accompany my forthcoming album, edited a documentary and started up a vlog called The GC Angle.

Creating during lockdown was, and is, a means of punctuating the weeks and months. It provides a purpose. The incentive for the GC Angle was to present my music in an alternative way to Facebook and Instagram live streaming. Live streaming from the outset did not appeal to me. There’s something dystopian about experiencing a gig solely from home. A gig is all about the communion between the act and audience feeding and fuelling each other. However I do understand the need to stream and why people opted for it. The music vlog was a chance to connect with an audience while amalgamating and displaying my interests in music, literature, film, musicology and music theory.

A year on from the first lockdown patience is wearing thin, as is our resilience. I, like fellow creative friends and acquaintances, are in the ‘yoyo state’, the up and down whereby stable contentedness and equilibrium is harder to maintain. Music has always represented a gateway for me; A gateway into new experiences, people, ideas, countries, projects, horizons and possibilities. It helps us locate our tribe and forge real deep connections. To have this removed from the equation is uncanny and at times confusing. However one will always encounter a myriad of challenges when creating and releasing work into the ether. There is no passion without struggle; literally as the word passion is derived from the Latin to suffer (pati). Artists, in particular those who embrace a DIY aesthetic, are no strangers to uncertainty and shifting goalposts. Creating is like an expedition into wild and wide-eyed hope, tragically quixotic at the core and unrelentingly romantic. But I’ve always been a dreamer. It’s my inborn disposition and I don’t plan on changing anytime soon.

During a recent Instagram Q&A I held (to promote my single ‘Long Lost Friend’) I was asked ‘how do you balance being a musician while holding onto an existential philosophical belief… What’s the point and how do you deal with all the stages and hurdles’? These are questions I constantly consider during my incessant inner monologues. Fundamentally the world is absurd and Sisyphean in essence. For those of you not familiar, Sisyphus is a character from Greek mythology that has been condemned by Zeus to push a boulder up a mountain for eternity. When the boulder reaches the summit it falls and the task must be repeated forevermore. Although one’s burden of creative dreams can feel overwhelming and futile you are faced with two options: pack it in and commit a kind of spiritual suicide or display a madcap defiance and venture forward into the unknown. Grow to love your boulder (I say both facetiously and sincerely)! When asked ‘why’ I reply ‘why not’. Responding to impulse and chasing illumination is the name of the game. There is no meaning to life, or pinnacle we must aspire to. We are born and proceed to explore before the big sleep. As clichéd as it is, it’s all about the journey not the destination, a theme explored in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (1973), one of the most stunningly surreal and vibrant films I have ever seen! Meaning comes from within. I can’t help but relate to humanist principles and set myself at the centre of my own universe. This is not a display of self-absorption or narcissism; rather it’s an aesthetic that can open up the doors to understanding and authenticity. When one considers meaning and the ‘why do it’ it naturally leads onto ‘what is success’. Is success defined by fame, prosperity, millions of streams or a kind of celebrity and social status? Or is success the commitment to a process, the conception of an idea, the writing, composing, production, recording and releasing. Success for me exists in bringing a desired vision to fruition.

Each day is different yet the same. Time is perpetually flying forward, yet seemingly frozen and stood still. These are unprecedented times that go against our natural mode of being. When the ground beneath us is stable we can grow lethargic, entitled and complacent, while challenging times tests our sangfroid and presents an opportunity to learn and develop. What doesn’t break us makes us braver, but how much can one endure. Invariably this changes from person to person given their context and set of circumstances. We all want to escape our proverbial cage but sometimes we must acquiesce and learn to reside within it for a while. My heart goes out to those who have struggled to cope, lost opportunities, had momentum derailed, missed out on important family events and milestones, and of course lost loved ones. The pandemic has affected so many of us in different ways. The affects are damaging and will linger yet we must maintain a semblance of hope. This is not me smuggling God or gods into the equation here. In the words of Albert Camus ‘a man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future’. Without hope we stagnate. As idealistic as hope is in the face of the bleak abyss and ominousity we must cling onto it. According to Fyodor Dostoevsky ‘totally without hope one cannot live… Hell is hopelessness’. For now at least I am an advocate of this sentiment and believe we will rise again.

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