By Scott Sechman / Correspondent
March 5, 2021
Being a columnist that writes about music in a time when live music has essentially disappeared presents a conundrum. Like all I need in my life is another conundrum.
In normal times during the height of the Outer Banks offseason, finding a venue offering live music is not impossible. My personal favorite is Art’s Place Bar & Grille in Kitty Hawk, a lovely multicolored building on the beach road that features the best darn burgers in seven counties. Normally you can catch Joe Mapp coordinating his Coordinates and Monte Hooker hosting open mic nights – both musicians are institutions for us locals.
But even Art’s has gone dark, musically speaking, this winter. The burgers, however, live on.
That’s not to say there aren’t other venues on the beach, but how does one justify going into a restaurant or bar to hang out and listen to music when the rituals observed just going to buy groceries make you look like a member of a hazmat team.
Being holed up and hunkered down presents its own challenges. My lady now works from home. Her daughter returned from Brooklyn last March. At the time the New York City area was reeling from COVID-19 and she needed safe harbor. For the most part, all three of us are together, in close quarters, 24-7.
Many of us know what it’s like living with strong-willed, opinionated people – sometimes it’s best to keep your head down, mouth shut and nod. But it sure is hard when you, yourself suffer from the same personality trait.
My musical colleagues on the Outer Banks are busying themselves in various ways. The aforementioned Mr. Hooker is perpetually streaming music online. He’s devised a very cool and excellent sounding home venue and over the course of the pandemic, as weather allowed, has invited musicians to perform. The songwriters are writing. The ones bold enough to play live shows are gigging when they can. Others, like Hooker, are streaming.
I need to get busy doing something. Anything. Given my lifelong love, perhaps my new endeavor should be music related? Meaning that it hasn’t been a primary focus of late. A Boomer slacker, I’ve been.
My first album was recorded in fits and starts over the course of 30 years, and in my 50 years trying to be a songwriter, I’ve written a load of songs. Some are even decent, even borderline good. I realized decades ago I wasn’t going to write a Top 100 hit, but still I endure because who knows? Much like the lottery, in which the odds of winning are better than writing a No. 1 song, if you don’t play, you can’t win.
I’ve decided to take all of the songs, fragments of songs or just ideas that I have digitally collected over the course of 30-plus years to try to produce my second album. But as soon as this project began, I realized what a daunting process it is. A constant swapping of ancient hard drives looking for some version of some unfinished ditty that I don’t even remember writing.
Some make me cringe. Other times I’m pleasantly surprised, but that’s not happening as often as I hoped. It’s like cleaning out a stuffed storage room or garage, there just might be a treasure in there. The problem is digging deep enough before getting disheartened.
In the olden days, I hurdled headlong into recording projects like there was no tomorrow. Gotta get it done and move on to the next thing. Now that my youthful sense of immortality has given way, the realization that there may not be a tomorrow looms larger. I feel like the last 10 months have been wasted waiting for some sort of COVID miracle to occur.
The future seems to hold a bit more reason to be optimistic, but these woods have proven to be deep and dark. We’re all stumbling through the best we can, hoping for a clearing ahead. And sunlight. In the meantime, I’ll be upstairs; headphones on, trying to convert what was once inspiring into something more than just orphaned, inchoate musical ideas.
Wish me luck.
Transplanted to the Outer Banks from the wilds of the L.A. 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.