Next in my series, asking artists how they are making it through Coronavirus, is Ben Glover. Originally from Glenarm, Ben has relocated to Nashville and writes with some of the world's best songwriters. His side project The Orphan Brigade made my favourite record of 2019, all about the east coast of Antrim!
What were you working on before the lock down?
In the weeks leading up to lockdown I had got into a flow of writing and was working on new material with a few different co-writers. The Orphan Brigade was also in the studio for a few days playing on Amy Speace’s new record. But literally, right before lockdown, I was preparing to go on tour with Orphan Brigade over in the Netherlands and back home in Ireland (north and south). We were due to spend two weeks on the road over there but that plan was soon put to rest when the travel restrictions were put in place.
How is lock down in Nashville compared to Glenarm?
Currently, here in Nashville, we are in something of a partial lockdown. All essential businesses are closed, as are bars and restaurant (except for carrying out) but in general, the restrictions feel a bit looser than the UK. The restrictions over here are different state by state and I fear Tennessee isn’t being strict enough. Honestly, I wish we had the same rigorous lockdown over here that they do in the UK and Ireland.
As far as artists are concerned, I think it’s equally devastating for us all on both sides of the Atlantic. Touring disappeared overnight and who knows when that aspect of our careers will normalise again.
At what stage did you start thinking about how it would impinge on your work?
A couple of weeks before the lockdown was announced Neilson, Josh and I (The Orphan Brigade) started chatting about the possibility that we might have to cancel the tour. We were watching what was happening in Italy and getting concerned it was moving westwards. We would have been in numerous airports and done so much travelling that we were beginning to get concerned that there might be a chance we could get stuck somewhere. We wrestled with what decision to make as we didn’t want to let audiences and promoters down, and, the day after we made our decision to cancel the tour, Trump, put the travel restrictions in place.
What are the way that this all impacts your life as well as work?
It impacts my life in the sense that I’m so distanced from my family in Ireland. I was really looking forward to seeing my parents and siblings before and after the tour and spending Easter with them all. Now I’m not sure when I will get back. That’s not a nice reality. Of course on the work front work, I’m unable to tour and had to cancel the dates in Ireland and Holland, so there is the loss of income that goes with that. I’m starting to explore more online concerts and sets - not only to keep in touch with fans but more importantly because everyone needs music, especially at a time like this. So in that regard, it’s impacting me as its forcing me to embrace new ways of connecting with people.
What ways are you using the down time?
Yard work! Aside from that, I’m spending time working on my mindfulness/meditation practice. As well as my music another path I am currently on is a two-year training course to become a Mindfulness Meditation teacher. So I’m working away online on those studies. And we have a new addition to the family in that a bird has set up a nest in the Christmas wreath that I had not got around to take down on my front door. In the last few days, it seems to be laying eggs so I’m now also an intrigued bird nest watcher!
How easy is it for you to create in these unfamiliar, maybe anxious times?
That’s a good question because it’s something I’ve been examining over the past week. I’m not feeling drawn to songwriting at the moment. I’ve been wondering why this is and I think it’s got something to do with the sense of being hemmed in and somewhat constrained by all this weirdness and global anxiety. In songwriting, I try to connect to a sense of flow, and it’s hard to tap into that at the moment. That’s ok though and I’m letting myself off the hook!
Instead of putting my attention on writing, I have started to do The Shelter Sessions, short Facebook live sessions on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 8.30 pm (GMT). So playing a few songs live and connecting with an online audience is now an important creative outlet for me.
I also teach mindfulness meditation and I have a strong sense that that comes from the same creative space that music comes from. Teaching those practices feel deeply creative to me, and also an essential way that I can navigate through my own anxiety and challenges of this time.
What can we all do to help?
Firstly, wash our hands! I do believe strongly that we need to isolate so we must encourage everyone in our circles to do so. Stay present, don’t look too far ahead or try to figure this thing out. So much in this time is our of our control and it will do no good to try to figure out what the future holds. Take it all one day at a time. I’ve been contemplating the idea and trying to embrace that perhaps there can be spaciousness, some sense of freedom in the not knowing. It’s so important too to stay as emotionally healthy as we can at this time.
What plans have you for when we get out of this? New record?
I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure as I don’t know how far ahead I can plan. My good friend Neilson Hubbard is planning on recording a new album in June if all this clears up by then, and he’s asked me to co-produce it. At the moment that’s the only concrete musical plan I have. More than likely though, if normality resumes by the autumn, I’ll be heading back into the studio to start my new solo album then,
Give us three albums that influenced you that we should all investigate as we wait the Coronavirus to pass?
I always seem to come back to a few records that always feel like a steady ground for me:
Time Out Of Mind by Bob Dylan,
Fisherman’s Blues by The Waterboys
Astral Weeks by Van Morrison