Weary and Wary: A Musician’s Perspective on COVID-19

I think, for me, everything changed in less than an hour. About 9:30 PM (Eastern) on Wednesday, March 11th, we were hit with a ridiculous stream of previously unthinkable events. Our President, addressing the nation about a worldwide pandemic, and banning travel to Europe. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, sharing that they had contracted COVID-19. And an NBA player testing positive, resulting in the suspension of the NBA season. All within about 30 minutes! It felt like the plot of some bad SciFi channel movie that you watch in a hotel at 2 AM.

Prior to this, I had been following along with the news. I had witnessed the spread of COVID-19 across the globe, and I had certainly taken note of the cancellation of SXSW and Coachella. But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that I realized our lives were really about to change. Look, I’ll admit it; like many other Americans, I did not take the threat of Coronavirus seriously. Maybe it’s American arrogance, or maybe it’s because I’m 27. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve never seen anything like this happen before, but I just didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Clearly, I was wrong. I know there are lots of folks still arguing about how serious this is or isn’t, but I’m content to leave that to the medical professionals. Both of my parents worked/work in healthcare, and so does my sister-in-law. If they say something is a problem, I believe it.

Setting aside the actual virus itself, the economic impact is immeasurable. My wife and I are touring musicians. Our job is literally to travel thousands of miles and play for large crowds of people! A Rolling Stone article started circulating Wednesday night, and the premise hit home for us and for so many of our artist friends. We suddenly knew it was time to start counting pennies and dimes, because it became pretty clear that we won’t be working very much for a while. Businesses are hurting too, big ones and little ones. School is cancelled. Travel is suspended. Every sporting event you can think of has been postponed. It almost makes our little piece of the puzzle seem insignificant.

It’s such a weird feeling, all of this. We just had our best tour ever, covering 10,000 miles across more than a dozen states. I was planning to write a recap of the final two weeks, but instead, I’m writing about this strange, strange space we’re living in now. We went grocery shopping today, and all of the toilet paper, liquid soap, and chicken were gone. Still plenty of pork, beef, and paper towels, though. We’re not doing any panic shopping, because we aren’t panicked. But I’ll admit, I did buy a 10 pack of Ivory soap.

The tour of Texas we had coming up in less than two weeks is cancelled. We have a couple of local shows through the end of the month, and that’s it. If they even still happen. We’re all in this weird vortex where it seems like time has stopped, and we’re just waiting for it to start again. But when it does, it seems pretty clear that things will have changed in a big way. There will be businesses that can’t make it through this. Venues will close. There will be artists forced to get day jobs. Will live music be the same after this passes? I don’t know.

All I know is that I’m thankful for a lot. For my health, for my family and friends, for my wife and my dog especially. I’m grateful that we have a home to come home to, and a little money to pay the bills with. And I’m so glad that I’ve been able to travel this country, doing what I love, for and with people I love. An extra pack of toilet paper is not going to get us through this; it’s going to take a whole lot of kindness, patience, and love. Be good to yourself and to others, and we’ll figure it out.

The Wallens will perform a Facebook and YouTube Live concert on Monday, March 16th at 8 PM Eastern. Tune in at https://www.facebook.com/thewallensmusic or https://www.youtube.com/thewallensmusic

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About Brian Keith Wallen

I'm a full time touring musician from Indiana. #vanlife
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