Unless you hit the big time, even the good times can be spotty for working musicians. Singing for your supper is a tough way to make a living. The pandemic made it even tougher, but musicians throughout the region refused to be silenced.
Here are a few local artists who found creative ways to close the financial gap in the time of COVID-19.
Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing of Hymn for Her
These husband-and-wife musicians have a sound all their own. It’s hard to describe because they color outside genre lines. Psychedelic, bluegrass, roots-rock? Whatever you call it, their music is fun. And they have a lot of fun creating it.
At the dawn of 2020, these musical road warriors thought they knew what the future would hold.
"We had a bunch of tours planned for the United States," notes Tight. "We also had three months of festival tours lined up in Europe."
Then the pandemic took the stage. And everything changed.
"All our concerts were canceled in that first year," Tight says. "It was the same for all our friends in the music business. Every performer in the country had a similar experience."
The paying gigs were gone. The bills weren’t. How to make ends meet?
The way they always did. With a combination of creativity and hard work.
Along with their musical talents, Tight and Waxing are also both savvy entrepreneurs. Over the years, they’d supplemented their musical income with everything from art projects to ointments. Their inspiration and perspiration always closed the money gap. In the early weeks of isolation and disassociation, that gap became a gulf. Their finances were on life support.
How to turn that around?
Like any good entrepreneurs, the couple asked a key question: What do people need right now? Music, of course.
Live shows were a no-go. Waxing’s online music lessons created a revenue stream. But what they needed was more like a cash river. What could Tight do? More importantly, what else did people need right now that she could give them?
Tight had a strong interest in Eastern thought and healing modalities. She’d been a devoted yoga practitioner for years. As she saw it, yoga and music had a common root. Good vibrations?
“You could say that, though it’s kind of oversimplifying,” she laughs. “But yoga does flow from vibrational concepts. ‘Om’ is kind of like the root note of the universe.”
That concept had always resonated in her mind.
Back in 2019, it led her to become a licensed sound therapist. In the months that followed, she loved taking clients on “sound journeys” in her twin studios in Deer Isle, Maine, and Sarasota, Florida.
In 2020, she realized these peaceful sessions were just what the doctor ordered in the stressful time of COVID-19. With masking and other protocols, she could still meet people’s needs.
“And this wasn’t just a whim,” she says. “Sound therapy works. I know, because it worked for me. I had a bad bicycle accident and had broken my collarbone, not to mention my Martin guitar. I had an operation, and the doctors pinned me together.
"I healed, but my range of movement was severely limited. This happened right before I’d scheduled my sound therapy training in Costa Rica. I almost canceled the trip, but I went. After five days of training, my range of motion went up from 30% to 75%. After nine more days, I hit 95%, and came home with the knowledge in my mind. And no brace or sling on my body.”
Tight says her clients now share many similar success stories.
For her, it’s a way to do good, and also make ends meet. As for Hymn for Her’s live music?
“That’s healed too,” she says. “We kept recording throughout the pandemic.
"Our daughter, Diver, also joined in, so we officially became a three-piece band — with no gigs. Our concert at Café in the Park will be our first real-world gig in two-and-a-half years. After that, we’re supposed to play a bunch of festivals overseas. That’ll be our first tour in three summers — and all three of us are definitely ready to get back on stage.”
Michael Miller of The Heart Machine
Michael Miller’s musical roots go deep.
He was born and bred in Tennessee and it comes with the territory. (Those musical influences are national and global, not just country.)
He tapped into those roots when he launched "The Heart Machine" in Sarasota.
"We’re a contemporary singer-songwriter band," Miller says. "I'd describe our sound as real, but not too angry. Along the lines of The Police, The Pretenders, or REM."
Miller’s band shifts from trio to quartet. When the pandemic pulled the plug in 2020, he became a one-man band with no place to go.
"All that free time was great for songwriting and brushing up my keyboard skills," he says. "It was not so great when it came to paying the bills."
The pandemic muted Miller’s musical art. His visual art skills saved the day.
He notes that he’d pick up a camera or paintbrush when his musical muse was blocked. He never thought it’d be a moneymaking proposition.
Until COVID-19 changed his perspective …
"I'd done some photography and Photoshop work," he says. "I’d also done a series of mandalas based on concepts of sacred geometry. During the pandemic, I found there was a demand for all that. I’m also skilled at framing art, and there’s a need for that as well."
Miller adds that one thing led to another.
As fortune would have it, his visual art lead to tarot card readings …
"I'd designed my own tarot deck," he says. "People who saw it said, 'Oh, do you do readings? There's a psychic fair next week and you’d fit right in.' I said, 'Why not?' — and it grew from there."
The Heart Machine returned to The Reserve in early February.
"It’s like we didn’t skip a beat," he says.
According to Miller, fans can expect reprise performances for the rest of the spring and summer. Does he see a future in his visual art, tarot readings and other sidelines?
"I think so," he says. "We'll see what's in the cards."