Before COVID-19 hit, I was a full-time musician that made the majority of my income from touring. March 2020 was supposed to
be my month. On top of my upcoming nationwide tour with my band, The Suffers, I had also lined up my first round of solo gigs, including my first solo SXSW appearance in ten years. I know that myself and a lot of other industry folk shed a collective tear (or twelve) when those last few showcases got cancelled. After the SXSW cancellations, my spring and summer tour date cancellations followed. Don’t get it twisted. I’m a hustler. I knew this wouldn’t break me, but man oh man. . . what a test.
I’ve been trying to document what I’ve been up to during these ongoing pandemics (COVID-19, mass unemployment, and police brutality), but honestly, it’s been hard. I don’t know what the next years are gonna be like. Everything feels so uncertain right now, but I’m choosing to focus on joy, self-improvement, and finishing my creative projects. I’m writing a lot of music about the current times, as well as my sadness and anxiety that have been exacerbated by the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, George Floyd, and so many other Black people that didn’t need to die. I’m also writing about the countless traumas I’ve experienced as the owner of a vagina, a voice, and blackness. This has been a trying time, but ya girl has been pushing through!
I’ve been working, reading, and learning more than ever, and I’ve been channeling my stress and anxiety into my art to find relief. I started
off by building my bedroom into a space I felt comfortable performing in. Once I heard that
it looked like we wouldn’t see a vaccine until 2021, I chose to bring my stage show to the internet. I took pieces of sequin and other shiny fabric from stage dresses and jackets I had previously performed in, and I turned it into an art installation called The Sequin Sanctuary. It was beautiful, weird, and mine. I bought a small stage light setup and a fog machine. It wasn’t The Beacon or 9:30 Club, but I was so grateful for the small taste of normalcy.
Surviving as an artist in the middle of a pandemic means adapting and getting creative in ways that never seemed possible before. After building something that pleased me aesthetically, I learned quickly that I was going to have to wear all the hats for this production to come to life. I had to learn how to run my own sound. I had to learn how to experiment with lighting that didn’t completely wash me out or leave me looking like Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. It took a lot of work, and there were a lot of meltdowns on the road to making it all happen.
While it felt like it took forever to get it all functioning, the entire experience left me feeling empowered with a new set of skills. It also gave me a new appreciation for all the other people it takes to make a live show happen. While I’m at it, God bless my longtime sound engineer, Lauren Oakes, and all the homies working in production.
I recently renovated my Sequin Sanctuary art installation into a space that is more reflective of the positive mindset that I’m in now. It’s filled with gold sequin fabric, flowers, and fabrics from around the world. It makes me feel good when I’m in it, and from the people I’ve shown thus far, that feeling will be felt through the screen. It’s a new day over here, and I hope that my positive energy radiates through whatever medium it is that you’re consuming this on. I don’t know when [the pandemic will end]. I don’t know when racism will become a thing of the past. Until then, I know that I can focus on becoming a better human. I can focus on being kinder to myself and others, and I can focus on completing the art that my pre- covid schedule never gave me a chance to finish before.