My Year of Living Virtually
February 29th, 2020: I had just done a live concert, sharing a bill with Brad Colerick at Bernie Larsen’s Ojai Underground. We packed the place, Brad and me, and besides bassist Carl Sealove and Scotty Breadman on percussion, Brad and I shared the services of Tim Fleming, a true prince of a steel-guitar player.
By then we all knew something called the “Coronavirus” had been going around, but, hey, I don’t get sick often and I was sure it would pass us right by, just like SARS, Bird Flu, and all the other ones that reared their spiky virus heads.
It wasn’t until my wife told me later that week that I’d better not go to the gym that it hit home. In an instant, everything got cancelled: Every restaurant closed, every concert venue shuttered, and store shelves were bare as people hoarded things like toilet paper and Purell.
Soon I saw that my friend Amy Engelhardt was performing on someone else’s Facebook group page. I wrote to the manager of the page and she invited me to perform there the next week. So how do I do it? My laptop’s camera wasn’t that great, but I had a new iPhone, and realized I could just use that to stream the show. I bought a tripod and set up like a live gig right in my studio, my SM58 plugged into a small amp, with another small amp for my keyboard and guitar. I draped a colorful Mexican tablecloth over the neutral curtain behind me, and festooned the wall with Xmas lights, tchotchkes and pictures. It looked like a PGS room at a regional Folk Alliance event.
I started broadcasting to my Facebook “Artist” page at 5:30pm every Tuesday, putting the word out on Facebook and my blog. At first, I was just doing originals. But my buddy, and go-to font-of-information, Dan Navarro (who was doing, like, 5 shows a WEEK), said it wouldn’t be long before you went through your whole catalog, especially at the rate he was going. Then my friend, music-booker Lauri Reimer, suggested I do cover songs on specific themes (The British Invasion, Songs with Proper Names, etc.) along with my own tunes.
And in true Field of Dreams fashion, I built it, and they actually came, much to my surprise.
I called my little show “Safe @Home,” and I’ve gained a very loyal audience, many of whom watch and comment every week. The viewership has been steadily growing, and now numbers in the hundreds. People have watched from Texas, Florida, France, Ireland, and even China.
And as I learn from others who have been on the bleeding edge of streaming tech, I’ve improved my setup, running the sound through my existing studio setup, and using services like Streamyard, OBS, and ReStream to send my show out to multiple platforms, using my iPhone’s camera through USB with an app called EpocCam.
So here I am, downstairs in my own house, with my wife, Dani, kibitzing in between songs, telling me who’s posting comments, and giving me End-Of-“Laugh-In” style solo-clapping at the end of every song. And I get tips sent to me through Venmo and PayPal, even when I forget to announce that there’s a virtual tip jar. I learn and perform new tunes every week based on the mountain of requests I get, and pick whichever of my own tunes fit that week’s theme. Our one-year anniversary will be on Tuesday, March 23rd at 5:30pm PT at https://facebook.com/garystockdalemusic
Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s I used to earn my living playing piano bar and small club gigs; singing cover tunes, taking requests with a tip jar, and sticking my original tunes in here and there. And now that’s exactly what I’m doing, 45 years later – from the comfort of my own home.
~ Gary Stockdale
Gary Stockdale is a touring singer–songwriter, and a 2–time Emmy nominated composer of TV, film, theatre, and commercial music. He has composed music for such shows as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and Penn & Teller: BULLSHIT, and has sung with everyone from Adele to Johnny Mathis. Gary’s weekly show, “Safe @Home,” features original tunes, themed cover songs, audience requests, and other cool stuff. Every Tuesday at 5:30PM (Pacific Time).
In an attempt to keep us connected as we continue to find our way through these often stressful times, some in our extended community have been sharing their experiences, lessons learned and hope as they’ve dealt with Covid, lockdown, boredom, lack of inspiration, etc. We are all looking for ways to make lemonade out of the many lemons! This column will continue on a weekly basis and postings will be released at 10 AM Pacific every Monday, so watch for them! For guidelines and submission details, please contact Julie Zipperer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marlynn Block at email@example.com. Submissions will be posted based on approval from the Lockdown Lemonade Committee.