As a musician, it’s easy to have tunnel vision, says Jon Regen. We spend our time focused on recording projects and tours, social media impact and streaming numbers. But for the first time, we’re all confronted with something that’s bigger than our career goals.
''Since 2001 when I became Little Jimmy Scott’s pianist, I’ve pretty much been in some sort of home lockdown.
''I don’t mean I don’t leave my house, because I do… daily. But as someone who makes their living performing, recording and writing about music (for outlets like The New York Times, Keyboard, Billboard, Variety and others), I’ve always felt strangely at home being home. I always joked that living in New York City – with my Steinway grand piano, a fast Internet connection, a banging coffee maker, and my choice of great food delivery, made me totally fine staying home. In fact, the doorman in my building used to literally think I was on-tour when I simply was just upstairs in my apartment, hunkered down on a myriad of musical projects. (He would say to me, “Where were you?” And I would reply, “On the 21st floor.”)
''I’m so comfortable staying home that I literally made my latest album Higher Ground (released by Ropeadope on 4 October 2019) in my living room. And while that was more of a necessity than a desire (as I was a new parent and my wife has a “regular” job), I was totally comfortable singing vocals and triple-tracking piano solos in my apartment. I finally realized why so many of my favourite artists have at one time or another eschewed traditional studios for home recording rigs.
''So while the physical act of staying home is familiar and in many ways comforting to me, the new normal brought-on by Covid-19 is everything but. First and foremost, as a parent, I worry about the safety of my family. Gigs can be replaced, but health and human life can’t be. Perhaps this is the first time that for many of us, the gig hasn’t been the biggest priority. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we need to remember to be humans first, and creative artists second.
''I’ve been busy hosting my weekly radio show New York Notes on Berlin’s jazzradio.net, writing new music, and performing live-streaming concerts (check-out my appearance on the Jazziz Daily Brunch last week). But live gigs and tours? Those are totally up in the air. No one knows when those will return. So we wait, united in our sense of the unknown.
'If there’s anything to be gained from this terrifying time, it’s that maybe we’ll all be more aware of our fellow human beings as we move forward'
''As a musician, it’s easy to have tunnel vision. We spend our time focused on recording projects and tours, social media impact and streaming numbers. But for the first time, we’re all confronted with something that’s bigger than our career goals. And if there’s anything to be gained from this terrifying time, it’s that maybe we’ll all be more aware of our fellow human beings as we move forward. Kinder and more compassionate, and less focused on ourselves. I learned a lot about that (and continue to do so daily) as a new parent. And this terrifying pandemic has amplified that sentiment exponentially for me.
''It’s a beguiling time, and none of us truly know what tomorrow will bring. But for me, with kindness, coffee, great music, and (hopefully) a fast Internet connection, I’ll keep on keeping on until something like life as we knew it returns.''
Jon Regen top, photo: Anna Webber