For some female musicians in our area the past year has been a challenge and for others, a godsend. For many this past year has been a mix of the two. Every phone call I’ve shared and every interview I’ve conducted for the past 8 or 9 months, the pandemic dominates the conversation. How could it not?
Covid-19 fatigue is a real thing. It’s a syndrome I feel and witness in others on a daily basis; even on days I don’t see anyone other than my husband and dog. I feel great relief after venting in my journal, whining each week on family zooms and posting my dismay on social media. Lock down loneliness, unemployment benefit woes, motivational teeter totters is real. Fortunately, my female musician friends lift me in real ways in real-time.
For instance, there’s Kate Kinney Barber, flutist and vocalist for Moody Blues tribute band, The Lost Chord. She and I share Covid political rants. But we pivot our conversation to calmer waters by sharing our positive anticipation of taking the stage once again!
If it weren’t for Aileen Pearlman, aka “Big Al,” I wouldn’t have much of a sense of humor. The weekly open mic nights we used to host together left a huge hole in our creative process. And yet, without her editing, designing and sharing pithy tik-tok type videos and our late night tipsy texts, that hole would be a chasm.
My next door neighbor, singer/songwriter, Mare Carmody and I can go days without seeing each other but it’s our driveway vodka tonic sing-alongs, coffees on the patio and checking in on one another before grocery store runs, that make my days feel less lonely.
Remember Christine OnTheScene? Every local musician’s promotor/supporter and live music godmother? She’s one of my besties and she happens to be among other things, an avid hiker. Without our buddy system Mother Nature sojourns, I would be a vitamin D deficient basket case.
I can’t say enough about the super-girl life saver friend I have in Paula Hanke. Partnering in music and comical crime despite the cancellation of all of our tour dates together, hasn’t dampened Paula’s goddess influenced path. And I reap the lovely benefits each and every day.
To all these women, the women I’ve interviewed, and those women I’ve only met on the internet, I extend a loud and true, thank you!
I got to wondering how are other soon-to-be-working-steadily-again professional musicians doing these days. After a year of shut down, how have mask wearing, hand sanitizing, live streaming, twisting, bending, and pivoting left them?
I reached out to a few of them to ask and received back, a cornucopia of answers.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve adapted by coming up with creative ways to keep my music thriving and my fan base engaged. I started a business called “Singing Grams.” These are singing telegrams where a person picks a song they’d like to dedicate to someone; it could be for a birthday, anniversary or just to set hey. Then I learn the song and call or video call the person and sing it to them! It’s a complete surprise to the person I’m calling and the responses have been awesome! It’s helped me reconnect with people I haven’t talked to in years!
I’ve been writing a ton of songs, gardening, painting, getting outside, and having FaceTime with my friends!
My band, Ashley Heath and Her Heathens will be recording in the fall and I’m looking forward to releasing my third album in 2022. Our full band shows are starting to come back as weather is getting nicer!
Here are my next performance dates April and beyond:
May 29th – Elevated Distillery Carolina Writers Series Highlands, NC, solo performance.
June 10th – Pine Summer Concert Series in Wilkesboro, NC for the town of Wilkesboro featuring Ashley Heath and Her Heathens.
July 23rd and 24th – IT’S FLOYD FEST near Floyd, Virginia! I am this year’s Artist on the Rise recipient and these very special performances will be with my full band – Ashley Heath and Her Heathens!
The pandemic has been hard for me around music. I lost steady gigs and an important income stream. My motivation has dropped so low in part, because my gigs dried up. I have not been working with my music partner and in general I miss making music with all the people I used to, pre-pandemic.
A silver lining to the loss has been and is the jazz jam OUTDOORS, weather permitting, at One World West Brewing on Sundays. Some weeks I sit-in which brings me a needed sense of normalcy.
I have been coping by cooking a lot too; new cuisines, new recipes. Though I have “Covid Mind Days” where I lay on the couch and can’t remember what day it is, I combat it by walking a mile every day.
I mask up whenever I grocery shop and lately have dined at nearly empty restaurants.
The consequence of not getting sick is my stringent rule of wearing a mask! Yeah masks! Recently I was able to get both Covid shots. I live in hope for the health of my friends and family and very soon, returning to playing LIVE MUSIC again!
I’ve been hunkered down with my family since March of last year. We have high risk family members so we’ve stayed super isolated. The last gig I played was an outdoor event at the salvage station in October – and that was the first time I’d played since March! We’re in talks with the Salvage Station about another outdoor date this summer.
It was surreal to win “Best in Jazz” in a local 2020 poll, because I barely feel like I have a band anymore! We’ve managed to release a few remote recordings and music videos, but that’s about it.
For me, personally it’s been a well-timed hiatus because I gave birth to my second child in June. I’ve been soaking in the extended “babymoon” and extra time with my four year old. I’m grateful to have some voice over work to do from my home studio and our garden has never looked better!
For me, what 2020 lacked in social interaction, live music and entertainment, it made up for in the opportunity for time alone at home to write and record. Almost a year after releasing my last solo effort, I’ll be sending a new one off into the internet ethers, for your listening pleasure. Keep a lookout in the coming months for Sunday Land, a beachy dreamscape collection born out of the early Covid time-warp.
Follow all these lovelies and support live local music as much as you can as the country and our state open up over the coming months! There is a lot of time and money needed to make up for the losses these musicians have had to endure. We play it forward to honor our family of fans!
Peggy Ratusz dates in April:
Saturday April 3rd – Mills River Brewing with Duane Simpson, 2pm-5pm
Friday April 9th – Isis Music Hall in-person ticketed and livestream concert with Love Bubble, 7pm
Friday April 23rd – Isis Music Hall in-person ticketed and livestream concert with Peggy Ratusz & Daddy LongLegs band, 7pm
Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at email@example.com