As states and communities reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still tough for musicians who made their livelihood playing music in live settings. Because of as much, we’ve been checking in with various artists throughout the area to see how they’ve been coping.
This week, we caught up with Eric French, one of my favorite people in all of Frederick music. As it turns out, he released “Marigold,” an excellent five-song collection of some of his best work, last month. We recently caught up to talk about everything from the latest Tame Impala record, the brilliance of Nellie McKay, how he hopes to put out even more new music in the weeks to come, and, of course, the timelessness of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” For those who want to listen to Eric’s latest set, head on over to Spotify and search for “Mossfrench.”
1. What were you listening to while self-quarantining and what about it made you want to listen to it during a pandemic?
French: I swan-dived into ‘The Slow Rush,’ Tame Impala’s latest, which soundtracked much of this extraordinary moment we’re in. I kept going back to it because, similar to ‘Bolero,’ the record moves beautifully like a stream — like you’re on a raft watching all the trouble go by on the opposing banks.
2. Have you come across any livestreams/internet-based performances throughout the pandemic that have stuck out? If so, which ones and why?
French: Yes, my wife livestreamed this live performance collage that Nellie McKay did from her apartment in New York. It was brilliant; few people could pull that off. She’s singular.
3. Has this been a time that has been creatively fruitful for you? I know you’ve been hard at work on some pretty great stuff, from the clips I’ve heard — have you been writing a bunch over the last three months? What can you tell us about a new album?
French: Thanks, yeah the songs came in waves — usually when I was moved by something or someone. ‘Marigold’ is a record about time, really — the end of summer and the poignancy of it, especially when you’re young. I was trying to articulate that. I have more from the sessions coming out in Sept. 29 that will buoy ‘Marigold.’
4. What’s the most positive takeaway you’ve been able to experience from all the self-quarantining and the sort of art world being on pause for the time being?
French: Great question. I’d broaden it to the whole artifice of society on pause, specifically from March through May. The constant locomotive of our day to day lives makes it hard to sit down, reflect, and make even the subtle changes we often need to make. So that’s been a positive. The only real light from these times is experiencing true gratitude for what I do have, and not pondering what I lack.
5. If there’s one song that you think could help everybody get through these uncertain times, what would it be and why?
French: My wife, Karen, has been playing ‘What’s Going On?’ by Marvin Gaye this summer, it’s ringing the same bell now, proving the past is still prologue. If you listen today, you’ll understand why our cities are so furious with movement and conviction. Incredible to see.
BONUS QUESTION: What artists, local or not, do you think have done a great job staying engaged musically online and what about what they’re doing and have done sets them apart?
French: Locally, Ricole Barnes of daMood is a virtuoso, blending videos and ideas, fashion, historical tags that all align with his aesthetic — that’s the future. I feel like my dad with his first remote control in ‘84, no clue what all the buttons do. I’m figuring it out, though, taking notes merrily down the stream.