Life as an up-and-coming Athens artist certainly has its highs and lows, but it can become especially difficult to make a name for yourself during a pandemic. While navigating this new reality, both amateur and professional musicians have used their craft as a creative outlet.
Most Athens stages are not scheduling live shows for the time being, including the Georgia Theatre and 40 Watt Club. Local singer/songwriter Daniel Hardin’s three-year streak of performing in Athens was abruptly halted in March.
While the pandemic has shut down opportunities for performing in Athens, it has also served as a motivator for some artists.
Hardin, a University of Georgia alum, has taken the change in pace during the pandemic and used it as a source of inspiration to connect to people on an emotional level, rather than in person.
“I have no more shows, which was how I made most of my money and got kind of locally my name out there and was able to make a lot of connections with people,” Hardin said. “I have also had a lot more time to write and record.”
Hardin said he is looking beyond the current reality to bring music that will transport people to a different place. His music draws inspiration from John Mayer, Theo Katzman and the Punch Brothers, he said.
“As far as my song writing process is, I like to keep it kind of broad,” Hardin said. “I have written about the overall mood of this past summer and the overall kind of state we are in. ... I wanted to write it in a way that would last longer than 2020 and not date itself to right now.”
Local musician Logan Bryant, who goes by the stage name Anthoni, speaks on the topic of COVID-19 in his debut album, “In Retrospect.” In the track, “Coughing Blood,” Anthoni sings “Need me now when the worlds on fire/But I’m locked inside/So I got time to kill.”
Anthoni is looking to make a name for himself in the Athens pop scene. “In Retrospect” was released during the Athens-Clarke County lockdown and alludes to the state of the world in the summer of 2020.
Artist and student Jessica Thompson said she’s been working on recording as much as possible during this time. Through the lonely times, she has turned to writing down new ideas and taking up new musical hobbies to better her craft.
“I feel like COVID[-19] has taught me to slow down. This time period has helped be more comfortable being alone, which is an important balance to have,” Thompson said. “I’ve also taken up virtual voice lessons and I love them.”
In addition, Thompson has been putting together COVID-19-era works to build an album that will be coming out in 2021. Her band, Hotel Fiction, has been finalizing the songs recorded in co-creator Jade Long’s bedroom.
“We have one song coming out that Jade wrote before the pandemic even started, but now when I listen to the song, it has new meaning because of all the things we miss from before,” Thompson said.
While musicians still aren’t able to perform in the traditional sense, building a following via social media platforms has helped with virtual exposure.
“I would love to grow in the community of Athens, but for now, while COVID[-19] is going on, word of mouth and TikTok it is,” Anthoni said.
With the free time the pandemic has created, Anthoni is looking to use social media platform TikTok to spread the word about his music. He relies on the algorithm of the “For You” page to help land him a decent fanbase.
As for Hardin, his music outreach is all online right now. Hardin said he capitalizes on this opportunity by debuting exclusive singles on his Patreon, a website where content creators can offer subscribers access to unreleased projects such as singles and EPs.
“I basically wrote an album’s worth of music [over COVID-19] and chopped it up into two EPs that are similar to each other,” Hardin said. “The one coming soon has a more acoustic vibe, and the one after is more funky and electric.”
Local artist Jonah Kim is hopeful that his career will pick up by the end of the pandemic era. Rather than dwelling on the negatives, he is using music as a way to discover himself.
“Corona[virus] has been a time of reflection and self discovery,” Kim said. “I’ve gained time to explore passions more, only to find a deeper love for them.”
Kim has been working with his roommates as they quarantine, attempting to find his sound by using guitar arrangements and vocals.
“I’ve learned how to work more collaboratively, use sounds I hadn’t before,” Kim said. “My roommates have definitely helped me to, like, solidify my execution.”
COVID-19 has uprooted opportunities to network and grow in a small town as a musician. While the future remains unclear, Athens artists are doing all that they can, using online platforms to spread their work and inspire others to do the same.