“There have always been gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer musicians making important work. And as social attitudes shift, it…
“[ I live in a semi rural area called Todmorden in West Yorkshire, and I’ve been feeling quite anxious about going back into town going back into playing gigs and cities. So I wondered if other people feeling similar.” – Sophie Cooper explores what it feels like going back to live gigs.
Tune in to this third episode of The Sampler Audiozine – Sophie Cooper unpacks what it means for musicans to be going back to work. What are some of the anxieties and tensions that arise from doing live work again, and what does it mean for rural musicians to be going back into urban centres for work?
[00:00] Sophie Cooper (recording from a live gig): Hi, everybody. Um, yeah, my name is Sophie. And I’m, I’m quite scared right now, because I’ve not played a gig since February 2020. So thank you, right from the beginning just for being here. Like, yeah, my heart’s beating. Yeah, I’ve written loads of songs this last year, surprisingly about like, the pandemic, etc. I’m sure everybody’s doing it. But yeah, I think I wanted this set to kind of reflect on my kind of feelings about that, being alone and anxious. So, yeah. So there you go. I’m giving you all my anxieties in one set. So welcome to that.
[00:45] Sophie: Hi, my name is Sophie Cooper. And you’ve just listened to this weird little speech that I gave at the beginning of a show I did recently at a place called Timber Festival. And that experience really is what triggered off the thought pattern for this podcast that you’re about to listen to, which I’ve made for The Sampler Audiozine. The idea for this is to talk to artists, musicians who are returning to the stage post pandemic.
[music fade in]
[01:11] Sophie: I’m particularly interested in speaking to people who live in areas like I do, I live in a semi rural area called Todmorden in West Yorkshire, and I’ve been feeling quite anxious about going back into town going back into playing gigs and cities. So I wondered if other people feeling similar. So throughout the course of this podcast, and speaking some great people, some really interesting friends of mine, to see what their thoughts are on the subject.
[01:07] [music – Sophie Cooper ‘More and More’ (extract)]
[02:24] Sophie: In preparation for this recording, I gave my good friend Natalia Beylis a call. She’s a musician and artist living in rural Ireland, and she was telling me a bit about her recent experiences having played a few gigs post pandemic.
[02:41] Sophie [on phone]: You say you did play live you played live once already?
[02:44] Natalie Beylis: I did play live. Yeah. And when I take it up, I wasn’t really like, aside from being like, oh, haha, I forgot about soundcheck. I wasn’t nervous at all. But then when I sat down and started to play, I got really, like, I got a little shaky just for a minute, because I was like, Oh, this is really weird. And then I also didn’t expect to get there was my friend played just before us as well, like, that evening. And I started crying during his set.
[music fade in]
Natalia: I just, I didn’t expect to get so emotional about being in a gig again and seeing live music and that was really unexpected. Just like I was like, Oh my god, I’m and he doesn’t play. He doesn’t play like sad music or emotionally evocative music at all. But like, I did just start crying. And I was like, This is weird. And that’s not something that happens to me. So there’s that aspect of it of just like that, like overwhelming emotion of being around people and being around that kind of situation again.
[03:16] [music – Natalia Beylis ‘Invaded by Fireflies’ (extract)]
[04:43] Sophie: I thought it’d be really useful to speak to a friend of mine called Daniel Weaver. He’s a Todmorden based psychotherapist who works creatively with people. And he’s actually a musician who retrained later in life as a psychotherapist and his background’s in theatre. And here’s what he had to say about it all.
[05:02] Sophie (recording: in a room with lots of reverb): I suppose I’m just caught with this topic, based on just a couple of conversations. I just thought I’d ask some people’s opinions about it. And I suppose, obviously, I can’t do like a full kind of survey because I’m not interviewing people who live in cities, there’s no way of comparing emotions or anything like that. I just wondered. just wondered about people returning to town, generally, musician, musicians or otherwise, it’s basically the same really, to an extent.
[05:30] Daniel Weaver (in a room with lots of reverb): Yeah, I suppose so. But I guess I guess the point is, being a musician yourself, thinking about what are the particular curious or frightening aspects of that, because it’s all about safety. I think that any, any discussion around COVID and so called normality is around safety. And especially if you go back to pre pandemic times, there will be some nerves around going to a gig anyway, you know, that be some something stimulated. And that could be anxiety, excitement, fear, could also be fear, it could be fear around safety, in you might be going to, if you’re if you’re a rural based person, and you’re going into a city, then that could be bringing up anxiety anyway. And touring and playing gigs, I’ve often gone to odd situations. Also, you’re often you carrying one of your most valuable possessions, or several of him in a suitcase full of really important things. As well as taking yourself in order to put yourself in front of people to put yourself in a vulnerable place.
[06:48] Sophie: While on the stage, you mean?
[06:49] Daniel: Yeah, on the stage there being being seen, being judged, whatever, whatever anxieties that brings up for people. They’re still gonna be there when people go to play gigs now, but they might be overshadowed by this in this massively simplified idea of how we protect ourselves, which we’ve all kind of had to get involved with in some way or other.
[music fades in]
[07:19] Sophie: Yeah, that’s interesting. Yeah. It’s just adding to the problem that’s already existing, I suppos,e if you have fear anyway, perhaps..
[07:27] Daniel: Yeah, well, I think it’s, I think it’s a given really. If you’re going to perform, unless you’re some strange kind of being, you’re going – there’s going to be some… well, in psychological terms, you call it stimulation. So it’s either, you know, it could be anxiety, but it might be misleading to call it anxiety, but there’s something going to be stimulated around getting up and standing up in front of people. And also perhaps travelling and going to go into unfamiliar environments or threatening environments, cities can be a different venue. Showing off, you know – going to show your things show what you do, we’ve been working on.
[08:08] [music – Daniel Weaver ‘Falling up (for Gravity and Levity)’ (extract) ]
[08:47] Sophie: I’m fortunate enough to show studio with multidisciplinary artist Natalie Sharp, who actually inspired the train of thought for this radio piece, by tweeting about mental health and artists returning to the stage. So here’s what she’s saying about her most recent experiences.
[09:09] Natalie Sharp: I’m not feeling great today, to be honest, because I just just found out that I had another marriage show booked in for next week in Wales. And I’ve just found out today that that’s been cancelled. And we were all of the artists were kind of under the impression that it was going ahead, but it might be a situation where things have to take place outside as opposed to inside which was gonna make my performance kind of precarious anyway, because it’s all on a projector and stuff. But yeah, they’ve just cancelled the whole thing because they’re at the mercy of the local council. And it was just kind of got me thinking about like, how to continue like, post-Brexit post-COVID making live music. It just seems almost impossible because I don’t know like my main income is through is through live performance and having stuff like this one cancelled just it just sort of sets me on edge because I don’t know I just because I feel like kind of a bit out of control of what’s going to happen in the future and I can’t manage my calendar like I booked say the next few weeks off to like practice for it and stuff and now that’s all I don’t like have like psychically remove myself from you know gearing up for this performance.
[10:38] Sophie: And I bet you’re not getting paid for that either.
[10:40] Natalie: No, no, no, not like it’s Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s a very independent festival so they don’t have the resources for that kind of thing.
[10:47] [music – Natalie Sharp ‘Rochdale Vivification’ (extract)]
[11:43] Sophie: Thank you so much for listening today. To find out more about this episode, including information about the artists that are featured, please visit The Sampler Audiozine on thesampler.org. All right, take care out there. Bye.
Sophie Cooper – “More and More” (extract)
Natalia Beylis – “Invaded by Fireflies” (extract)
Daniel Weaver – “Falling up (for Gravity and Levity)” (extract)
Natalie Sharp – “Rochdale Vivification” (extract)
Sophie Cooper is a sound artist, curator and music obsessive based in West Yorkshire. Under normal circumstances, Sophie would usually spend her time organising experimental music gigs as Tor Festival and out playing gigs with her band The Slowest Lift but this year she’s mostly been sat in her studio working on her sound design skills and getting her head around how to continue to make music in this new weird world.