By Scott Sechman / Correspondent
January 1, 2021
In my 67 years, only 1968 and possibly ’70 rivaled 2020 in its level of tumultuousness, division and fear for the immediate future.
Coming into last year, I thought there were possibilities. I had retained a regular slate of jobs through the winter, which kept my skill levels – paltry as they are -– somewhat acceptable. I had expectations of seasonal work and my calendar reflected that. I booked gigs, knowing I would winnow some down to a more manageable number as summer’s heat and humidity rolled in.
I had also booked a trip to California in March to finally bring that chapter to a close and deal with the remnants of my former life that resided in two full storage rooms – the cost of which, over the last five years, could have paid off a Prius or two. Sale of its contents might have been enough to rent a beach house here for a week in the deep off-season.
So, plans were made. Backbone steeled. There was work for me, as daunting as some of it was. But, as they say about best laid plans … . An imperfect storm of plagues, both medical and political, have brought us to our knees. Not just in the good old USA, but worldwide. Welcome COVID-19! Hey there, 2020 political season!
As 2021 dawns, I am filled with more amounts of dread than whatever they call that opposite thing. It’s early December as I wrote this, and the outlook is bleak and hopeful at the same time. A vaccine for the coronavirus has been deemed viable enough to warrant emergency use authorization. On the other hand, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there may be as many as 350,000 dead Americans dead by mid-January.
Couple that with the most contentious election in our history. Discord, hatred and invective have dominated our national “conversation” over the last five years. Norms shattered. Battle lines formed and at the moment I’m putting pen to paper, it rages on.
My hope is that we, as a nation, can survive.
So, in my first offering of 2021, I asked several of our vaunted local musicians, from Hatteras Island to the south to Duck to the north, what they hoped and feared for the new year. Will my spirits be lifted by their answers? Will yours?
Dan Martier, singer-songwriter, drummer for Birddog, Tim Reynold’s TR3 and Joe Mapp’s Coordinates
I hope, as a musician, 2021 will bring the opportunity to tour and play to live crowds in safe venues. I fear 2021 will not bring the opportunity to tour and play to live crowds in safe venues. Not sure I fear this – maybe I’m frustrated by what I think might happen in 2021.
Looking at this situation, it may take beyond 2021 to get back to live safe venues. I can see doing more outside events, as I was lucky enough to do a few in 2020. I can see more of us online. I just feel as a society, we may have to be patient and realize this virus must be dealt with. Nothing has ever occurred in our lifetimes like this. There is no normal anymore, so we as musicians have to adapt like so many professions. I have witnessed so much creativity from so many because we just have to create.
Maybe another hope for 2021 is to see and hear more from our musical society, as we had in 2020. It’s there. We might just have to look virtually, but it’s there. The front-line creative soul that makes a musician will never be muted. For that I am grateful. Play on my fellow artist. Play on.
Bill Rea, singer-songwriter, patriarch of an Outer Banks musical family
On Saturday, March 4, 1933, during his inauguration speech President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance … .”
These words are as relevant today as they were 87 years ago.
That being said, it is my fervent prayer that we the people can return to a civil discourse. That the ability to disagree, yet not be disagreeable, becomes the law of the land and that the golden rule is moved to the top of our to-do list. I hope that as a nation we stop dwelling in the negative, diligently seek out the good in our neighbors, and practice fellowship, forgiveness and love.
Norman Harrell, singer-songwriter, member of legendary Tidewater rockabilly band, Snuff
Thanks for getting right to the point. This question goes much deeper than what we see on the surface, the product of all the undercurrents, winds and tides as we prepare to jump back into the ocean of reality. Yes, I feel many have not been facing reality and prolonging the strife for all.
Truthfully, I have little hope for 2021 as a recovery time, more a time of realization that our actions are the culprit. What I’d love to happen is a vaccine with effective results, laws to protect the smart people from the stupid people and leadership. Then, maybe then, we could put this plague behind us and be happy and healthy again.
Skip Hancock, keyboard wiz, educator and member of Joe Mapp and the Coordinates
What I fear is that many venues will be closed for good between now and then. Small restaurants and bars cannot sustain being shut down with no income any more than individual musicians. This may lead to musicians performing in unsafe conditions as the only work available may be from unsafe venues. The venues are desperate to keep open and I understand that as well. What we have to realize is that there is no good answer to the problem, only small choices about economic pain versus safety until the vaccine saves us all.
I don’t think that the Outer Banks as a whole will do that well next year as vacationers are able to go to the places they couldn’t go to (because of quarantine restrictions).
Right now is usually one of the busiest times of year for me, but like many musicians I know, I don’t have a single Christmas party on my calendar. This has NEVER happened in all my decades of being a full-time musician. This leads to another fear, that my fellow players may succumb to despair and drugs (if they can afford them) or leave the profession entirely.
Personally, I can’t leave the profession now; I’ve been in and at it too long to start over in another field. So, I’m trying to play “safe” gigs and hang on until the vaccine comes.
Mojo Collins, singer-songwriter, guitarist legendary award-winning blues man
(My) 2020 was the best year for me personally. I had eight concerts with my band. I had a few private parties arranged with COVID-19 safeguards. Besides the music, my art has steadily gotten more exposure (in 2020) than last (year). Blessings are flowing, our health is good, and we are living our lives happily with masks and social distancing.
As with most artists, there is a huge part of the creative process that requires isolation, so private rehearsals and time at the easel has seemed relatively normal.
I do not know what else 2021 will bring. Even though there is uncertainty surrounding venues and familiar haunts, I expect our gigs here locally to be even more successful. I have faith that things will be better in 2021, and I hope this is true for the other troubadours who bring music to listeners here on the Outer Banks.
Also, I would say that this year has been good in that it has brought a sense of unity and solidarity among the music makers of the Outer Banks.
Steve Hauser, singer-songwriter, guitarist
I hope in 2021 I can continue playing tunes for people at some of our most awesome venues. I had gotten used to seeing a lot of people and meeting new ones. It will be nice to see the staff smiling without a mask. I don’t really fear 2021. It is going to be OK. We will get through this!
Barry Wells, singer-songwriter, bandleader
It would be nice to see less division in society. Hopefully, the new regime can bring forth some sort of rest to the political divide. But honestly, they are all puppets up there in Washington, D.C., so I fear that the divide will only grow with the incumbent not being elected for a second term. We need more “Mr. Smiths” from my generation to start running for office and start to diminish the corruption! Socially, I just hope we do overcome the burdens of COVID-19, but I fear the ramifications have only just begun.
Leslie Buck, singer, guitarist
I was unable to get any gigs as a soloist this year, Hatteras’ gig opportunities just being so few to begin with and then a virus making things far worse. As I had a day job, I didn’t want to take work from the guys down here, of which it was their only income.
Thankfully, I’m also a member of Jeremy & the Generations’ seven-piece band. We lost some work because of the virus, but a couple managed to stick in 2020, and then a couple rescheduled with us for 2021.
I always strive to keep hope, as opposed to fear. Praying 2021 finds us all healthier in mind, body and spirit, and that gig opportunities are restored and ‘healthier’ than ever!
Adam Nixon, singer-songwriter
As we look at the possibilities that spread out before us, my hope for 2021 is that we continue to rebuild our music community and find a way through this virus. That we return to being able to safely come together and be in close fellowship. That we are soon able to enjoy the embrace of friends, the big family gatherings, the “three people singing harmony at a single mic” that are so simple, yet so profound when they are missing.
I can’t wait to be able to safely enjoy the hug of a stranger who has been touched by a musical moment. I look forward to gathering with the bands I am so glad to be a part of and play music to touch the heart and stir the soul. I have faith all of this will return, and it is my hope that when it does we are all the more appreciative for it. I certainly hope that things will open up more starting around late April, and we can all go back to earning a living in music.
Chris Sawin, pianist, singer, director of the Dare County Arts Council
Hope: A full Mustang Music Festival with perfect weather.
Fear: A Bon Jovi reunion album.
Edited for space and clarity.
Transplanted to the Outer Banks from the wilds of the Los Angeles area, singer-songwriter Scott Sechman has shared stages with Bill Medley, Tom Rush, Al Wilson and the Grass Roots during his ongoing music career. He has also contributed to Mojo and various online outlets.