My mission for these past few months is to discover how musicians are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic that’s sweeping this country and the rest of the world. These folks make their living traveling and gigging and selling the occasional album … without the touring component, life can be — and in most cases is — a financial conundrum. Two weeks ago I interviewed Seth Walker — a “new” musical discovery for me — who’ll be contributing a livestream to the Philadelphia Folk Festival on Saturday, June 13. (If you are interested in watching it you can purchase a ticket at folksongsociety.wufoo.com/forms/pfs-presents-seth-walker-613-at-8pm-edt and then catch the concert in a private Facebook group at facebook.com.) He’ll also be doing a gig on his own Facebook and Instagram Live sites Sunday, June 28, at sethwalker.com.

On May 26, I called the number his publicist gave me …

Q: Now, I’m calling Austin, Texas, right?
Walker: Well, it’s an Austin phone number, but I’m actually in Nashville. I’ve been living here for the last few years.

Q: To begin with, how is this whole thing affecting you — as if I didn’t know the answer.
Walker: Oh, is there something going on?! I haven’t heard, please tell me. But it’s been pretty major. My whole way (of life) has been upended as far as my touring life, and (I’m) just relearning how to live with myself in a different way, you know? My last gig was on March 8, and I have never ever gone this long without performing. So it’s kind of driven me crazy. But when all the noise stops, you hear the other noises inside your head that need to be addressed. I’ve been working on some things in that regard, just personally, … and I’m actually working on a book, as well, during this time. That’s kind of where I am with this.

Q: Now, I’m going to assume — and we all know what can happen when one does that — that this is probably going to spawn some songs coming up?
Walker: Oh definitely, yeah (chuckle). I definitely have been writing a lot, and I did release this song, “We Got This,” during the quarantine. It’s a song that I had got going years ago, but (it) never really was finished and fully realized. Then this quarantine kind of got me back into it, and I recorded it, actually, in my little bedroom (chuckle).

Q: Oh, cool!
Walker: (Laughter) Yeah, there was definitely no dearth of inspiration through all of these things, you know. As artists this is fertile soil for these kind of feelings, and it’s so powerful, too, because you feel it globally.

Q: This whole pandemic has impacted me as a music journalist who interviews folks coming to Maine to perform, which nobody has been doing for the last three or four months. Fortunately, my editors have let me chat with artists who are performing on the internet with live streaming shows, like yourself. Now your publicist told me you’re contributing to the Philadelphia Folk Festival on the 13th of June and another one on Facebook and Instagram Live on June 28.
Walker: Yeah, I do those Facebook Live and Instagram Live performances every couple of weeks from this house right here in Nashville. I have enjoyed those. It’s been good to connect, obviously, to people. … One of the most important things for me about touring is the connection through music, so those live-streaming performances have been nice. It’s also been an interesting kind of conundrum, because it’s a very strange thing to do — to emote into a light box. But in some weird way — maybe it’s just because I feel the people that are watching are really needing it as much as I do — it’s actually kind of inspired me almost to go deeper into the songs as I perform them live. There’s also less to negotiate, because it’s just you and the song. So in a strange way, it’s kind of a gift through all of these shadows.

Q: Well, if you can find a silver lining in all of this, grab it, Seth.
Walker: Yeah, I love looking for any of them, and that’s one.

Q: Oh, just out of curiosity, have you ever performed in Maine?
Walker: I have but it’s been a long time. I performed with The Wood Brothers at the State Theatre in Portland back in 2013/2014, somewhere around there. I have done a couple of other things in the Portland area before that, but it’s really a place I definitely want to get back to and tour more.

Q: And folks up here in Maine — because of your live stream performances nowadays, get a chance to see and hear more of what you do.
Walker: Yes. In some ways all this technology is counter-productive and distracting as hell, but the flip side of that is definitely what you’re saying. I mean, you can reach them because that’s where everyone’s nose is these days.

Q: Unfortunately …
Walker: Yeah, unfortunately and fortunately. For the music to slide through there is definitely a cool thing. You know, it’s funny, man, I’ve been doing this professionally for 20-plus years — my first album came out in 1997 in Austin. I’m 11 albums deep into this and the margins are so small to make this thing operate out on the road. And with this pandemic, the opportunities and avenues you use to connect are changing right in front of us; it’s kind of cool. But it’s also a seesaw of emotions from day to day with this thing, too.

Q: You must really miss the immediacy of response that you have with an in-person live concert, seeing how your music is affecting them.
Walker: Yeah, right, I know. It’s such an interactive thing, and each night is a new thing to negotiate. The moon is in a different place and that creates this magic that happens at each show. There’s a new slate, a fresh palette, every night. But, there’s also the revenue stream of selling music that is vanishing daily, as well, so you’ve got to improvise. You know, when I got into this business it was such a different landscape — such a different landscape.

Q: Is there anything, Seth, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Walker: Oh gosh, just that I am thankful that music and art and writing are still connecting to people, and people are still reading columns like yours because it’s very important; it really weaves us together. I’m sure glad that music and art are still relevant in people’s lives. I’m thankful to be a small part of that.

 

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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