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 a live setting. 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 Willie Barry, he of Willie and His Chaperones and the Rock-A-Sonics, a Rockabilly band out of the Washington D.C. area. His livestreams throughout the pandemic have been some of the most viewed throughout the entire area, and while he hasn’t been able to make as much money playing live, the tips he’s earned through the streams have helped quite a bit (as you’ll read below).
Among the things we discussed were some of his favorite livestreams from across the country, which songs are best to listen to during these uncertain times and the power of interacting with people via the internet. To learn more about the Rock-A-Sonics, check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Rockasonics/ and to view Willie’s previous livestreams, head to his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/willie.barry.9.
1. What were you listening to while self-quarantining and what about it made you want to listen to it during a pandemic?
Barry: I’ve been listening to a lot of my usual favorite genres. Rockabilly, classic country, swing, blues, etc. I guess the only way the pandemic has affected the song selection I’ve been listening to is by having to really dig through my collection for older songs I haven’t heard in a while and used to play so I could have more material for my live-streams. I’ve found quite a couple that I used to play a long time ago which has been nice.
2. Have you come across any livestreams/internet-based performances throughout the pandemic that have stuck out? If so, which ones and why?
Barry: Oh, I totally have come across some great livestreams since the pandemic started. Probably too much to include all of them here, but I’ll name a few. Some have been doing a few select ones here and there and some have been doing them weekly. Some that have been doing them the longest and stick out:
- Dave Stuckey out of California, who currently goes live every Tuesday at 5 p.m. and plays a lot of different tunes ranging from anything to Swing and Western Swing of the 1930s and 1940s to Country & Western of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Plus more.
- Jittery Jack out of Massachusetts, who currently goes live every Friday at 10 p.m. and plays primarily Rockabilly and his own compositions. A great songwriter. He even has a song that is a perfect anthem for the pandemic called ‘Avid Indoorsman.’
- Joel Paterson out of Illinois, who currently goes live every Friday at 4 p.m. and is probably my favorite modern guitar player. He advances in tons of different guitar styles but probably specializes in Chet Atkins — and Merle Travis-style guitar picking the most, at least from what I’ve seen. Check out his YouTube Channel under his name. He’s done some great videos with the Apple app ‘Accapella’ where he is able to record himself playing every instrument and put them all together to sound like a full band. Pretty amazing stuff.
- Deke Dickerson out of California, who has been making regularly entertaining videos on the ‘Accapella’ app as well. Deke has a very extensive musical history and is quite the musical historian when it comes to Rockabilly, Americana and more. Way too much to mention here. Basically, if you like any type of old music, from the ‘30s to the ‘70s, you should check him out.
There’s much more I could say and more musicians I could mention, but this is all probably too much already.
3. I’ve noticed that you’ve had some pretty nice success with livestreaming on your Facebook page as you attract thousands of viewers. To what do you attribute that success? And personally, has the live-stream approach been fruitful in terms of raising money or making up for lost gigs?
Barry: Yes, the livestreams have been pretty successful and I think it gives people a way to sort of escape and take their minds off of the pandemic for a while. Even though it’s not in person, it’s certainly the next best thing and better to have than nothing at all. The tips have been generous, too, which is nice. It’s helped to make up some lost revenue for sure, but it’s nice at least to cut commuting out of the equation.
4. What’s the most positive takeaway you’ve been able to experience from all the self-quarantining and the art world being on pause for the time being?
Barry: The most positive takeaway would probably be the interactions with people through doing the livestreams. It’s nice to see people from all over the country tuning in, commenting and watching. Even people sometimes overseas tune in, which is great. Being able to stream this way opens up the possibility of your music being streamed to audiences who might not have been able to see you live otherwise.
5. If there’s one song that you think could help everybody get through these uncertain times, what would it be and why?
Barry: Well, I’d have a hard time picking just one, so I’ll give you two! One a bit older, the other a bit newer. First, I’d say ‘Time Changes Everything’ — the version by George Jones, and then ‘Better Than Today’ — the version by Don Williams. Both have a positive message and remain fairly upbeat. Both suggest time heals all and that each day has potential to be better than the last. If you listen to the lyrics of both of those songs, I’ll bet you can apply them to what we’re going through now in one way or the other.