I’m Not Dead Yet
My first thought was, “I’m too old for this.” When I retired a few years ago and decided to become a full-time singer-songwriter, I had been out of the music scene for many years. I had to start all over again, doing open mics, and re-learning all my songs, many of which I’d forgotten. I hadn’t written a song in eight years, and getting back on stage was a painful experience; not because I didn’t like performing, but because I just didn’t know if I had it in me anymore. But I started writing new songs, started getting some song contest awards again (I had a number of first-place wins from 2001-2003), and so it was starting to look feasible. Then I moved to New Mexico and had to start all over again. Exhausting. Of course, it was a labor of love.
Winning some major awards in 2019 encouraged me to finally plan a regional tour in 2020. Then COVID hit, which killed that idea. Then I thought, hey, this is great. I can tour the country without leaving my house. And I did — Seattle, Dallas, Austin, DC, Minneapolis, Duluth, Portland, Boston, and others. The lockdown provided a wonderful opportunity to network with venues that normally had live audiences, but which were now providing virtual events that allowed people from all over to participate.
It wasn’t just local venues that opened up. The Americana Music Association, the Nashville Songwriters Association International, and the Folk Alliance International (FAI), as well as the various regional FAI groups – SERFA, SWRFA, FARM, FAR-West (I didn’t get to NERFA) – opened their doors in various ways to allow community gatherings of songwriters and performers to foster fellowship and expand the community of musicians. In the process, I also got to meet DJs, promoters, and other gatekeepers, and to be mentored by fellow artists experienced in the music journey.
The COVID experience has been different for everyone, much of it negative, but for me, an old and obscure singer-songwriter in the wilderness, the shift to the virtual world was a blessing in disguise.
I keep seeing articles about famous musicians my age, or even younger, who have passed away. I’m not famous, but I’m not dead yet.
~ Michael R.J. Roth
Michael R. J. Roth was the lyric winner of the NSAI, Great American, and Mid-Atlantic Song Contests, and is featured in the Great American Song Hall of Fame. He is known for songs with “the kind of lyrics that make Nashville writers salivate.” Lori McKenna called him “Brilliant.”
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.