For the last couple of weeks, encore (like everyone else in ILM) has gotten used to seeing the words “postponed” and “canceled” due to COVID-19. It’s a tough pill to swallow for the arts and entertainment community, especially for musicians who rely on shows and festivals for exposure and a paycheck. Among them is Sean Thomas Gerard of Onward, Soldiers, who books shows for downtown live music spot Bourgie Nights.
“Having to cancel shows with bands that I love, people I love, has been really tough,” he says. “I know how hard it is to make a living playing music and how much work goes into planning a tour. It’s people like musicians, service industry workers and small businesses who are getting hit the hardest here. . . . If you’re that person that has been waiting to support your favorite band(s), the time is now.”
Folks have been tipping local artists via Venmo and PayPal during livestreams on social media. Others have continued to buy merch or music online. Fans will be able to support Gerard this Wednesday when he drops his latest single, “Jovie,” named for his baby girl, on his Bandcamp site. He’ll perform “Jovie” live on Instagram and Facebook Saturday, April 4 at 1 p.m. Streaming from his home studio, Gerard’s roughly 30-minute set will feature a handful of other new tunes he’s collected.
Gerard took the time to tell us more about his latest work.
encore: Though it’s obvious who “Jovie” is about, tell us more about how this song came to you.
Sean Thomas Gerard (STG): This song was a lot different than the rest. When my wife and I found out we were having a girl, and after we decided on her name, I started humming this tune in my head. First, it was just the hook, then I gradually added to it over time. I knew I wanted to write her a song, but I’ve never been good at forcing it. Songs usually come to me like a flood, but this one I took my time with. About a week before Jovie was born, I started writing the lyrics down in my notebook and ended up finishing it the day before she was born. That night, I sat down and played the song for her and Heather. It was the last song my daughter heard in the womb and the first song she heard on this Earth. I remember playing it for her when we came home from the hospital, and her eyes lit up. I knew she knew it. I’m releasing this song on April 1, which will be exactly 9 months since she was born. So there’s really a lot of love and intent that has gone into it. To see her jumping and dancing when I play it for her now, it’s everything.
e: Tell us about the name Jovie.
STG: We wanted to tie in a family name somehow, so it started with Heather’s late Uncle Joe. He was a family favorite on her dad’s side. We landed on Jovie one day, which is the nickname for Jovial, and it just seemed like a perfect fit. She’s a beaming ray of light and happiness (as I’m sure everyone’s child is to them), so it’s very fitting.
e: Is this single part of a larger solo album or project to come? Do you have anything else going in the studio at the moment?
STG: This song is going to be part of a collection of songs to come; whether they are singles, an EP or LP is to be determined. I started working from home a few months ago to take care of the baby and have found a bit of free time during her naps. So I’ve been taking a little time every day to record. I was getting close to finishing this song before the pandemic, so I feel like this is an appropriate time to share something positive and uplifting.
I have a few more songs I’m working on and tons that need to be recorded. I’m going to see how these next few take shape before I decide to either release them as singles or compile them into an album.
e: With coronavirus, social distancing and the stay-at-home order, how is all this impacting you and your family right now? Is everyone safe and healthy?
STG: We’re doing good so far. My work is closed for the foreseeable future, but fortunately my wife works from home and her company is still up and running. As far as my day-to-day goes, it’s relatively the same—cooking, play time, naps, reading books, taking walks when it’s nice out. But not having that human interaction at work, at shows, with friends, or being around live music has been hard. We’re in a better situation than a lot of people I know, so I feel extremely lucky and fortunate, but very sad for those who are hurting right now.
e: Obviously, all of this has been a swift blow to ILM’s music community—or local and touring artists who were slated to come here. What’s your outlook?
STG: Having [Bourgie Nights] closed for possibly months hurts everyone: the business itself, bartenders, bouncers, promoters, musicians, booking agencies, labels. I hope when this is all over, people support these endeavors more than ever because we’re all going to need it to get back on our feet.
e: Is there a bright side for local artists?
STG: If I can take anything from this experience, it is this: Now is the time to create, to work on your craft, to make art. If anything positive for the arts can come out of this, it’s all the records, paintings, books, sculptures, poems, films, etc., that will be born out of all this downtime.
e: Does more livestreaming mean more exposure for some artists who wouldn’t otherwise utilize this platform?
STG: Livestreaming is great for exposure. There’s a lot of people sitting at home right now wanting to be entertained. The amount of livestreaming I’ve seen on social media over the last couple weeks is incredible. I hope it’s going to help keep artists afloat while their tour schedules have been completely depleted, but I don’t see how it could be anywhere as lucrative as touring. It’s taking people out of their comfort zones and encouraging them to do something new, to write more, to learn new songs, and at the same time it also continues to remind everyone their livelihood is at risk, and they need a little extra support from their fans.
e: What can folks expect from your session on April 4? Comfy at home in your PJs?
STG: I’m going to take a proper shower, shave my beard, and put on some real clothes for the first time in weeks. Maybe…
It will be roughly a half-hour set. It’ll be just me and my guitar, no effects or bells and whistles. Just the songs played the way they were written. [I] hope a few folks tune in and catch me flub a chord or two.
e: Anything else you’d like to add?
STG: I’d like to show some love to my friend Bob Russell for playing the pedal steel on this track. He did a beautiful job. This is the first project I’ve collaborated on with my longtime music student Brett Ennis. I’ve been teaching him for seven years now, and I figured it was time to have him help me with my own music. He helped me with engineering and programming, along with mixing notes.