In his cover story this month, Chad Smith says, “It’s great to play in a room and record yourself. But…to me, to truly be playing music you have to be playing with other people. That’s the fun part, the human connection…. To me, that’s making music.”
I couldn’t agree more with Chad. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this lately—and I bet many of you have as well. You don’t miss your water ’til your well runs dry, as the old saying goes, and I’ll tell you, six months into this lockdown, I’m feeling pretty emotionally parched from the lack of collaborative, in-person music-making happening in my life right now.
The joy of playing with other people, face-to-face, isn’t just one of the best things about music—for most of us, it’s one of the best things about living. Take that away, and a big part of our ability to communicate, celebrate, intellectualize, and create just stops. Even putting aside the fact that performance is how many of us pay the bills, playing music with friends or peers provides mental and physical sustenance we sometimes don’t think much about during less strenuous times, but that creatives always hunger for.
We musicians are an adaptable lot, though, and between virtual music festivals, Facebook live bedroom performances, socially distant rooftop jams, and even drive-in-movie style concerts, as a group we’ve shown a lot of resiliency and ingenuity, and we should be proud of ourselves for pushing forward until life as we knew it returns.
Lately I’ve been hoping for a sort of renaissance in album-making, in terms of an increase in the amount of new music being made, but also in the quality and boldness of these recordings. If we’re going to be stuck at home with live gigs no longer impinging on our free time, we really have no excuse not to be working on original music as much as possible. We should be thankful that we live in a time when it’s no longer necessary to even have our drums set up at home—the flexibility and power of the software most of us have on our laptops is equal to that of the most advanced recording studios of yesteryear. Meanwhile, collaborating from afar via the internet has become easier and easier. We should be squeezing this technology for all it’s worth!
Twenty or so years ago, my musical partner Elizabeth and I were both living in tiny one-bedroom apartments in Hoboken, plotting our next creative move. We knew we wanted to expand stylistically from the rock band we’d just left, but having no rehearsal space, no money, and no other bandmates, we took stock of what we did have at our disposal: a Boss DR-550 drum machine, a Yamaha multieffects guitar pedal, a couple of guitars and keyboards, one Shure SM57 mic, a Teac four-track cassette deck with one broken track—and a strong desire to flex our musical imaginations. The resulting album, recorded in my glorified closet and at her kitchen table, never made us famous, lord knows. But the lessons learned were invaluable, and still feed the work we do today. As difficult as it could be wrestling with our meager tools, sometimes I really miss those times for the fun, meaningful experiences they were. I’m hoping we’ll all be able to say something similar in the not too distant future, when we look back at how we spent our alone time in 2020.