The cancellations of events and shutdowns of bars and restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic have affected everybody — and that includes local musicians who have seen their regular gigs canceled and, in some cases, their lifelines profoundly compromised. As a result, we are checking in with one musician a week to see how they’re doing, what they’re listening to and if they are up to creating new music while they quarantine with the rest of the world.
This week, we caught up with indie singer/songwriter Flo Petite, who has been hard at work on a new album for the last several months. Among the topics we discussed are how important it is to stay entertained and creative during a pandemic, the influence of Hayley Williams on Petite’s career, and why 2000s pop music can make anyone who feels down, feel a little better. To learn more about her, visit www.flopetite.com, or check her out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theflopetitee. To listen to her music, including her latest single “Blue,” visit her Bandcamp at flopetite.bandcamp.com.
1. What have you been listening to while self-quarantining and what about it makes you want to listen to it these days?
Petite: I’ve been enjoying Hayley Williams’s new song “Dead Horse.” Hayley has been a long-time inspiration for me and any time she has released something, it’s been exactly what I needed to hear. I like this new batch of songs because I think she perfectly blends deep feelings with a danceable track.
2. Have you come across any live streams/Internet-based performances over the last few weeks that have stuck out as a result of COVID cancellations?
Petite: Recently, I enjoyed Phoebe Bridgers’ “Live from the Lavatory,” where she sang her new song “Kyoto” in a bathtub for the Jimmy Kimmel show. I think it’s cool to see how artists are making the best of a weird-as-heck situation, but still doing what they do best, and entertaining and inspiring their fans in the process.
3. Are you using this time to write new material? If so, how’s that process going?
Petite: I’ve been writing, a lot. But mostly in bits and pieces. I’ll come up with a line I like or a riff on the piano or guitar and record it on my phone. With all this extra time that I normally don’t have, I have felt some pressure (that I put on myself) to finish a million songs or create endlessly. But, I’m trying to let things come to me as they will. It’s hard; as someone who wishes they had more time in their regular, pre-COVID-19 life to create, I’m finding that not having that balance of work/school/creating art is also tough. I gather a lot of inspiration from going out into the world and being a person around other people. But I’m happy to be reflecting a lot on this last, very busy, year of my life and taking inspiration from that, too.
4. What’s the most positive takeaway you’ve been able to experience from all the self-quarantining and the music industry being on pause for the time being?
Petite: I respect the decision of some artists to delay or postpone releases, but, also, I am really grateful that so many are still putting out music, because I know for me, and so many others, we turn to our favorite artists for comfort during hard times. I think people are also using music as a way to connect with one another right now, to give meaning to this crazy situation, and to inspire ourselves to create in our own ways. Also, it is really fun to see some artists doing random videos of music lessons, songs from their bedrooms, reading stories for children or just connecting with fans. It brings home the fact that we really are all in this together.
5. If there’s one song that you think could help everybody get through these uncertain times, what would it be and why?
Petite: I would be hard-pressed to choose just one! “Faith,” by George Micheal stands out to me. Any time I hear that song, I can’t help but feel hopeful. The runner up would probably be “Unwritten,” by Natasha Beddingfield, which is another hopeful jam. What can I say? 2000’s pop can cheer up even the grumpiest people. And, a bonus inspirational tune would be “Lift Yourself,” by Kanye West, because ... it’s ridiculous, but still has that uplifting feeling I think we all need right now.
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 sets them apart?
Petite: I think the jump to a solely online presence feels fairly natural for artists that already utilize the various platforms frequently to share their music. For those that relied more heavily on in-person performances, I think they are feeling an outpouring of support from their fans right now, encouraging performers to create, share and connect to keep the local music scene engaged, and even share with a wider audience. My friend Ava, who performs under the name Pen Palindrome, has done a few Instagram lives recently that I’ve really enjoyed. I always saw her as having a big presence in the College Park area music scene, so I think artists that really care about making art and connecting with other people are going to continue to do that no matter what. I mean, the definition of music really is all about the expression of emotion, and what better time in history to be able to share your emotions, creatively, with the world? Recently, I enjoyed Phoebe Bridgers’ “Live from the Lavatory,” where she sang her new song “Kyoto” in a bathtub for the Jimmy Kimmel show. I think it’s cool to see how artists are making the best of a weird-as-heck situation, but still doing what they do best, and entertaining and inspiring their fans in the process.