The latest guest column by a West Michigan musician has the award-winning Patty PerShayla ruminating on the benefits of working in isolation during a pandemic, and how it taught her how to write again.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Musicians’ Soundboard gives a voice to Michigan musicians and industry veterans amid an ever-challenging music scene. Today, Grand Rapids singer and multi-instrumentalist Patty PerShayla reveals how her experience during the pandemic shutdown has benefited her as an artist and writer.
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In the 10 years it took for me to become a self-sustaining musician, I subscribed to every music industry newsletter or podcast I could find, I read a stack of business books that could have toppled over and crushed me, and I developed a sacred routine with my daily planner.
I am a goal-oriented, self-proclaimed “dataphile,” and naturally, I had projected that 2020 was to be my year.
A little about me: I am a full-time musician, typically appearing onstage three to five times per week, whether solo, as the frontwoman for Patty PerShayla & The Mayhaps, or in my Rush tribute band. Lately, however, I’ve shifted to a digital presence and have been writing songs weekly on Patreon and participating in She Shreds’ “#1RiffaDay” guitar challenge on Instagram.
In 2019, I spent very little time at home and often filled my schedule to the point that friends had to remind me to eat between meetings and gigs. I eventually stopped writing and learning songs in order to keep up with my performance commitments.
Once in an interview, somebody asked me what I did for fun and I no longer knew. It seemed perfectly normal at the time to sacrifice my health and my joy for my life’s work. So when my career was put on hold in March due to the pandemic, I grieved the show cancellations, sure. But I especially mourned my wasted efforts (and, of course, I thought of everyone who had been affected more than my delicate little Tinkerbell heart).
Never missing a beat, I launched my Patreon page in mid-March 2020, just as I started scratching out my weekend plans. With the six months I had allotted for the Coronavirus to come and go (ha), I wanted to use the platform to hold myself accountable for consistent songwriting.
Writing is a fickle thing. It kind of implies having life experiences from which to draw inspiration, a well that dried up quickly in quarantine.
I was forced to sit with myself in a windowless room (every extravert’s nightmare) and learn that I no longer had anything to say and, in fact, could not recall any words whatsoever. Don’t worry, there is not a spot on the wall in the shape of my skull, though there is a cushion in the shape of my cushion.
Eventually, I learned to simply fill a page with words and take breaks, lots of breaks, filled with reading, coloring, playing guitar, watching sci-fi and walking my enthusiastic, overweight beagle, Geddy Lee.
FEELING MORE CONNECTED TO HER MUSIC AND HER AUDIENCE
This felt like a return to my origins, as a former bedroom wizard-rocker of the Harry Potter online realms.
Once again, I can just make something and, when I feel it is ready, release it. I sometimes get paid. This practice certainly could not sustain me (yet) but it does supplement my income.
There are more avenues than ever for making, sharing and selling music online, as well as a growing demand in the industry for artistic independence. Most musicians I know cringe at the notion of self-promotion, especially through social media, where it can seem necessary to push a polished persona in order to rise above the noise.
But once I was relieved of the pressure to sell concert tickets, along with every last hoot I had to give, I was able to surrender to my mistakes and release content I was proud of – not for its accuracy but its intimacy. I found myself engaging in niche communities beyond my local scene and learning of some avid listeners I had overlooked because I could not physically see them from Michigan. I felt more connected to my music and the audience I was making it for.
I have already started penciling in performance dates for this summer, but I think I will continue creating on my Patreon page and embracing rest.
Although my heels long to dig into the stage again (and they will), it is freeing to have my content go directly to my listeners, many of whom have been gracious enough to fund my efforts.
And I certainly make better music when I leave space in my home, body and mind. I imagine it will translate well when I can vibe with a crowd again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Grand Rapids guitarist, bassist and singer Patty PerShayla has emerged as one of the region’s brightest musical lights, a solo artist who also fronts the rock band Patty PerShayla & The Mayhaps and serves as a member of the Catch the Fish tribute to Rush. Her 2019 solo EP, “Oracle Bones,” won the WYCE Jammie Award for best rock/pop album of the year.
VIDEO: Patty PerShayla & The Mayhaps, “Borders”
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