For the last three-and-a-half months, I’ve been connecting with both new and old buddies in music to find out how this pandemic has been affecting them. This week may probably be my last with this format. Next week I plan to chat with a Grateful Dead tribute band coming to Somerset Abbey in early July. So I decided to end this series with one last interview with singer-songwriter-pianist Heather Pierson, who I’ve known for a number of years, and who’s just across the state line in New Hampshire. She was born in Kansas, but relocated with her parents to rural Maine when she only 5 years old. She has released 12 CDs of original music on her own Vessel Recordings label. Pierson now lives in Conway, New Hampshire and on June 4th, I gave her a call and asked how she was doing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Pierson: I’m doing pretty well, actually. I was obviously very sad and disappointed along with everybody else back in March when everything kind of went sideways — when so many of us musicians and performers were just suddenly and indefinitely unemployed. … I’m slowly making my way through this new water that we’re all swimming in. But people have been super generous supporting the livestreams and buying merchandise from my website, so it’s been fine.

Q: Well, that’s good to hear.
Pierson: I’ve always been a person that treats my savings account like another bill (chuckle). I mean the money I have saved up won’t last forever, but I’m OK right now. Housing is secure, Shawn (Nadeau) and I love to cook, so we’re pretty comfortable. It’s very strange, actually, to be living pretty happily and joyfully day-to-day here at home concurrently with just feeling so much sadness and grief and empathy for all the suffering that’s going on in the world on so many fronts. So I absolutely appreciate how lucky I am and what a privilege it is to be able to say “I’m OK … I’ve got my health, I have a secure roof over my head, doing work that I enjoy with the person I love the most!” That’s quite a privilege.

Q: Jorma Kaukonen told me a couple of weeks ago that he really missed the interaction one gets from a live audience that’s right in front of you. Is that something that resonates in you?
Pierson: Yeah, I whole-heartedly agree with that. I definitely miss being in a room close with other people, I really do miss that a lot. Zoom is great, but it’s no substitute for the real thing, really.

Q: Yeah, my wife is using that and Google Classroom from our kitchen table as she’s teaching her seventh grade ELA students.
Pierson: The wonderful thing about Zoom is that you can connect in real-time with people that live next door and with people that live really far away, and see everybody’s faces, so I’m grateful for the technology, you know.

Q: It’s refreshing to see it being used the way it was intended — for positive, social interaction and not the intimidation, false news and other antisocial uses it seems prone to have. But let’s focus on how you are using it, OK? Some of the folks I’ve been chatting with have virtual tickets and a Facebook site to watch a concert — are your shows like that?
Pierson: No, the way that we’ve been doing our livestreams is in the description and in the post of the video we just have a link to my PayPal and to Venmo. People can watch for free if they want to. If people feel moved to donate, we appreciate that, and if not we appreciate people’s ears and hearts for the time that they spend with us. Because everyone’s being impacted in lots of different ways — there are so many of us that aren’t working that are struggling and are just looking for some uplift — they want to hear some nice music and maybe they can’t donate, and that’s fine, too. We’re all in this together.

Q: Now, folks can still go to your website and purchase merchandise, right?
Pierson: Of course … if you want to buy a CD or a songbook or a T-shirt or something, you go to the website and order it. That’s one thing, but in terms of the livestreams, well, we would be doing this anyway. We would be here making music together and so why not share it (laughter).


Q: Were you doing the livestreams before the pandemic?
Pierson: No, I’m brand new to livestreaming. I think I had done maybe two livestream events ever in my life (laughter), and I just had a sense that since everybody’s home and we’re all isolated, this is the way to connect with people.

Q: What’s your schedule and when did it start?
Pierson: As soon as we got home in the middle of March from our tour. The Acoustic Trio had a six-week tour all planned out and we never got to the last three weeks of it. We played our last show in Florida on the 14th of March and then just came straight home. And then the following Saturday was when Shawn and I did our first Saturday Afternoon Special livestream on our Facebook page. Then I started offering Musical Meditation on Monday evenings, and we just recently added a mid-week stream — the Wednesday Evening Standard Hour — where for an hour we just play some of our favorite jazz standards. It’s very laid back, all-instrumental stuff, but I do sing for the Saturday Afternoon streams. And we take requests in real-time and the comments. So each live-stream has a little different flavor, is a little different offering of several things that I love to do (laughter), and so far — as I said — people have been so generous in their support, and I’m just grateful for it.

Q: And I’ve got to say “thank you” to you for the link you sent out for access to the “Toilet Paper Song” — that was great!
Pierson: (Laughter) Well, thank you, and that was actually written as we were driving home from Florida. When it wasn’t my turn to drive I was checking the news on my phone and saw the people fighting over toilet paper. So I was blowing off steam by writing some poetry — some lines in my notebook. I read them to Shawn and we both realized that as soon as we got home I had to write a song, get it recorded and share it. And, actually, right now, in a similar vein, I’ve just written a song about the George Floyd murder and the protest and demonstrations that have been happening. And again we’re in this crunch to get this single — called “Beside The Firelight” — released as soon as we can. … I’m hoping to release it this coming Monday, if I can make it, but it will be certainly within the week.

Q: Now, will there be links to all of these on your website?
Pierson: Yes, is the way to find out what you need to find out about me (chuckle).

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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