When venues closed their doors to live entertainment, the life of a lot of people in the music industry took on a whole new look and feel. You’ve heard the stories in previous episodes of “Not Alone’ with photographers and open mics. This week I had an opportunity to interview musician Brad Abbott to hear a musician’s story. As with all musicians, Abbott was also impacted when music venues closed their doors in mid March of 2020. As of today, there are many venues that still haven’t returned to the way things were before COVID.
Prior to the closures, Abbott was hosting an open mic at Bella Terra Vineyard and had many shows on his summer schedule. He was very excited that the promoters for the Frick Park Summer Series had contacted him to perform. This was going to be the largest show that he had played to date. But unfortunately like most festivals and concerts, plans for the summer were cancelled. So the excitement of getting the largest show of his career turned in to the sadness of seeing all of his scheduled shows cancelled.
Abbott is a person that wants to make sure that every show he plays is different than the last show. He would routinely practice different songs and was encouraged to continue writing new music. It was very rare that a week would go by where he wasn’t spending hours working on his music. But with COVID, the frustration of not having any shows to play was very disheartening. The amount of time spent perfecting his craft prior to COVID eventually became non-existent afterwards. In fact at one point several months into the shutdown, Abbott seriously contemplated hanging it all up.
Abbott was so serious that he actually posted in one of his fan video messages his decision to put his musical career on an indefinite hold. Fortunately for his fans, many of his peers in the music industry reached out and provided encouragement. A common theme from many of those who reached out was their similar feelings of angst and at times depression over their livelihood being put on hold. During the interview, Abbott expressed his thankfulness that the SW PA music community is like family. Without these friends we may never have been able to hear his music again.
There are some words of advice that Abbott would give to anyone going through what he experienced during these last few months. “Don’t give up!” Everyone knows that’s not easy, especially in today’s world. But as I’m sure you’re starting to see in this series, you are not alone in your feelings.
Even with the negative things that happened, there was a positive that came out of the COVID quarantine. Abbott’s release of his most current LP, “How Are You”, came out a lot sooner than it would have if COVID had not put a stop on live performances. He was able to record the entire album in only two months by being able to spend many hours a day in the studio. Tongue in cheek, Abbott also mentioned that social distancing isn’t all that bad. He said that he is fine with very intoxicated strangers having to keep a little distance. I have to say I can totally understand.
As with all of the people in the industry, Abbott is now happy to see shows starting to slowly pick up again. He has just played a couple shows recently. But he has had a few comments from people stating “How dare you play shows now.” But he pointed out that the venues he has played have taken all the necessary precautions that you would expect. In addition at the open mics that he is now hosting, he is taking precautions like sanitizing the mics between every performer. On a non-musical note, one of the biggest things he misses is being able to see people’s smiles. I am in total agreement on that point. I totally miss seeing people smile and having people see my smile.
Being a Brad Abbott fan, I am happy to hear that he is starting to perform in shows again. I am also glad that the challenges of dealing with COVID did not keep him down. I send kudos out to those of you in the music community that reached out to Brad at his low point and provided support. I am thankful that Brad trusted me enough to share this musician’s story in hopes that it encourages all of you with similar experiences.
As we all know, everyone has reacted to 2020 differently. Over the next few weeks I will continue to interview people with different roles in the arts and entertainment industry to share with you their experiences during this time. I believe you’ll find some commonality each week with someone. If nothing else you’ll find that they are in a different place today than they would have imagined a year ago. So if you have a story to share, just reach out to me. Or if not, check back every Wednesday to read someone else’s story. It just may be what you need to hear.