Thursday, April 30th, 2020
Hazel English – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In
“After a week of not stepping outside, I found that I no longer even wanted to go outside.”
Apr 30, 2020
By Mark Redfern (with Lily Guthrie)
We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far, and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with Hazel English.
We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic, and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people).
We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in.
The Australian-born/Los Angeles-based jangle pop singer/songwriter released her debut album, Wake UP!, last week via Polyvinyl/Marathon Artists. It follows her 2017 EP Just Give In/Never Going Home. Wake UP! was produced by Justin Raisen (Angel Olsen, Charli XCX) in Los Angeles and Ben H. Allen (Animal Collective, Glass Animals, The Big Moon) in Atlanta and confronts capitalism, power struggles, and the dynamics of relationships. “Sometimes I feel like we’re just sleepwalking through our lives,” said English in a press release in regards to the album’s title. She added that she hopes Wake UP! helps “make people become more aware and mindful.”
Read on as English reflects on her COVID-19 experience so far.
Where are you spending quarantine, and who are you spending it with? If you’re with other people, have you found that quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension?
I’m spending it in my apartment in Los Angeles with my boyfriend. Lucky for me he’s very easy to get along with, and I’d say that the quarantine has brought us closer because we are working as a team to do things like grocery shopping, cooking, meal plans, etc.
Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?
Yes. Most of my family are back home in Australia, and it hasn’t hit as badly there yet, but I’m checking in with them every week and making sure they’re staying safe.
What’s your daily routine been like? Have you spent much time outdoors? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home?
I have not been spending any time outdoors except for when I have to go out to get groceries, which is about once every two weeks. It’s been strange for me because I’m used to spending a lot of time outside; I am someone that is definitely eager to get out and be in the sun and go to the shops or a cafe. But I decided it’s just not worth it for me to be outside when I don’t need to be. I can work out and do my work at home. And since I’ve been spending so much time at home, I have just kind of adapted. After a week of not stepping outside, I found that I no longer even wanted to go outside; it was more of a bother if I had to go and check the mail. It sounds extreme, but I’d rather be overly cautious than careless.
What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term?
Yes, I had to postpone my North America tour, and we were going to play a festival in Mexico that I was actually really excited about, so that was kind of disappointing. It’s hard to tell how it will affect things in the long term, but I think everyone in the music industry is going to suffer as a result of COVID-19. There’s nobody that hasn’t been affected in some way.
Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful?
I’ve mostly been reading articles from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times—I find them both to be very helpful and informative resources at the moment. In terms of social media, Twitter is where I find a lot of my news.
What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home?
It’s so hard to know right now, but I think about this a lot and it really scares me. I think this will have a devastating impact on small businesses, especially in the hospitality and retail sector. I think it will be hardest on the poor and the working class, as well as all the people who fall outside of the system—the undocumented, the homeless, anyone who does not have access to healthcare.
Are your parents, grandparents, and others in your life who are at risk taking social distancing seriously? If not, what lengths have you gone to in order to convince them to stay inside?
My mum took a lot of convincing before she started taking it seriously. She just thought it was “over-hyped by the media,” and she doesn’t really read the news, so I think she was just going off the things other people would say that were not really accurate. I really had to chew her ear off a bit before she started to take it more seriously.
What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time?
I’ve seen a few ways different labels are responding, for example, Polyvinyl asked a bunch of their artists to contribute songs to a compilation album with 100% of the earnings going directly towards the artists, which I think is really cool and I feel lucky to be a part of that. I think it’s really important to establish direct routes of revenue for artists with touring out of the question because that’s a big chunk of income that is gone now.
What is the best way that fans can support you financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowd sourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight?
They can subscribe to my Patreon—that’s very helpful because it’s the most direct way they can support me financially. Streaming and pre-ordering the album helps too, and just generally spreading the word is always great! I appreciate any and all forms of support.
Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc., have been helping you get through quarantine?
In terms of TV shows, I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls, Tiger King, and Westworld. I listen to a great podcast everyday called The History of English, which is very fascinating and charming. I’ve been listening to a lot of Japanese ambient music on Spotify which is very calming. My boyfriend has been playing a lot of Animal Crossing, and sometimes he lets me choose the outfits, which is fun for me.
Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19, or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them—do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?
I have done one so far and found it to be quite fun. I’ve seen some people do some interesting things with it, but I think its purpose is to be more of a stripped down, intimate performance with more of a casual vibe, so I feel like there’s less pressure to “put on a show” in the same way you would during a regular tour. With more artists performing online, people from anywhere can watch, like my mum in Australia was able to tune in and see me perform, which is pretty cool.
Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?
I’ve been cooking more than I used to and learning new recipes. I also did my taxes today, which I’ve been putting off for a while.
Beyond the obvious items (such as toilet paper), what things have you made sure to get from the grocery store when stocking up? And, also, do you have any toilet paper?
Ah, I wish I had toilet paper, I can’t find it anywhere! Please let me know if you find some! Mostly I have been able to get the things I need at the grocery store, except for flour, which people also seem to be hoarding. For me, I’ve been eating more pasta than I ever have, and also bread—I used to avoid carbs, but now it makes up about a third of my diet because it’s easy to cook. Very early on I purchased a huge thing of hand soap, which I’m grateful for because I wash my hands a lot now.