Local musicians find new creative outlets to sustain them during COVID-19

ROCK ON: Local musician Steven Gaona began making his own guitars during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Gaona

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.

HANDYMAN: Though still involved in the local music scene, Noah Proudfoot says his primary focus has shifted to home remodeling. Photo courtesy of Proudfoot

“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.”




Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Jarrett Van Meter
Follow me @jvanmeter31

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.