With music venues slowly starting to reopen, many local musicians are seeing the light at the end of the long COVID-19 tunnel. Yet for some, time away from the stage created new opportunities or allowed them to expand on other creative outlets that helped sustain them during the crisis.
Xpress recently spoke with three local talents about their professional pivots and how COVID-19 has reshaped their plans.
Hidden in plain sight
Via, a local electronic band, was fortunate enough to have an album in the works when the pandemic erupted, and more fortunate still that two-thirds of the group — partners Karen Austin and Steven Gaona — lived together. To keep the project going, drummer Dylan Jenkins quarantined with his bandmates. But when the monotony of the lockdown began to wear on them, Austin suggested Gaona, a trained woodworker, take on a challenge that had been hiding in plain sight: guitars.
“That’s been really important for us, to keep being creative even though we can’t do a lot on the platform that we typically would, which is touring and connecting with people. But there’s always a way to find an outlet for creativity regardless of the circumstances,” says Austin.
Gaona went to work on the first guitar, a neck-through Jazzmaster/Les Paul hybrid that he finished in time to feature on the band’s new album, Vessels of Sound Volume III. Aside from the actual contribution that the instrument lends to the record, Gaona says the process of building the guitar provided a mental reprieve that ultimately benefited the album.
“It’s helped me open up my mind a little bit to what we are recording, or even mixing and producing,” he explains.
Austin and Gaona, who support themselves through their property management, cleaning and concierge company, Better Living Services, say they plan to begin selling their guitars at merchandise tables once they are able to begin touring again.
“I think it was important to us to just realize that we could do it, and for Steven to see the finished product and feel so proud of what he is gifted at, which is building,” says Austin.
Remodeling the future
Like Gaona, guitarist Noah Proudfoot also found solace through a new outlet: in his case, construction. With his income cut nearly in half due to venue closures and lost teaching opportunities, Proudfoot kept busy renovating Cedar Moon Studios, his new recording and rehearsal space for local musicians.
“Over the year, I kept acquiring tools and knowledge,” he says. “Friends would come in and be like, ‘This is how you wire, this is how you do plumbing, here’s how you frame out a wall, dry wall, mudding, taping.’”
With these newly acquired skills, Proudfoot subsequently launched Cedar Moon Solutions, a home remodeling business. The new company has helped sustain Proudfoot, both financially and artistically, during the shutdown.
“It’s provided a lot of spaciousness for my creativity,” he says. “I no longer have to push music as a primary monetary hustle, and I’ve never had that opportunity before, so to take the pressure off music to be the breadwinner has been a huge blessing.”
And a huge shift. While Proudfoot remains involved in the local music scene through Cedar Moon Studios, he says handiwork is now his primary focus.
“In terms of the future, I really enjoy learning and building,” he says. “It’s similar to music in a way. It’s creative. It’s artistic — the tile work can be artistic — so it kind of satisfies that itch.”
Finding her voice
While Gaona and Proudfoot fell into their new crafts through circumstance, singer/songwriter Carly Taich’s running start into voice acting predates the pandemic. Since 2018, Taich has supplemented her income through the work.
“It’s just been really cool because over the last 2 1/2 years, the jobs have picked up so much more, and I’ve become so much better at script reading,” she says. “There’s a lot of psychology behind reading a script. It’s not just about the sound of your voice, it’s about everything behind it. It’s all sort of clicked and made sense, and I’ve developed a lot.”
Most of Taich’s jobs are booked through online casting. Under her voice alias, Lillian Field, she has recorded everything from an anti-vaping public service announcement to a promo for a birthday party store.
Despite her growing list of clients, Taich still considers herself a musician first and foremost. In December, she released a new six-song EP and hopes to continue to build upon the momentum she is enjoying in both her musical and voicing careers.
“I don’t want to put music on the back burner,” she says. “I think ideally, in my perfect future, I would keep doing voice-over because I enjoy it, and it’s a consistent revenue stream, but I would also be doing just as much music. Ideally, I’d like to have it half-and-half.”