Photo: Benjy Bradshaw
Quarantine Diaries: Indie Pop Artist Stefan Alexander Is Calling His Parents And Reading Patti Smith
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, NYC queer electro, indie pop artist Stefan Alexander, who recently released his sophomore EP, Cry Again, shares his Quarantine Diary.
As has been said over and over, this is a crazy time to be alive. It's perhaps an even crazier time to be alive in New York City, where I'm currently in my version of quarantine. NYC has essentially become the center of the pandemic in the U.S., with over 100,000 cases in the five boroughs alone.
I only go out once a week for groceries and any other errands. However, I live in a spacious two-family house. I've mostly been holed up in my room, working from home for my post-production day job, doing some remote vocal work and stealing moments to write new songs. I'm so thankful for my job security during this time. I know so many musicians who primarily make their living from touring and performing. They're really struggling, and that puts my challenges in perspective, along with the stories I hear from my friends who work in healthcare who are seeing the devastation on the frontline.
For the first few weeks of lockdown, my anxiety hit a new high. I was relying on Benadryl and other sleep aids at night and extra coffee in the morning. I couldn't stop refreshing the news every hour, scared of what new nightmare might pop up on the screen. It took me a while to understand how much this constant news diet was affecting me. When I started limiting myself, my creative brain was able to wake up again.
Like many of us, I've created a new routine inside the restrictions of quarantine. As much as I miss all of my friends and family, I'm starting to get used to this new normal.
[8-10 a.m.] Wake up my mind and body
Stefan Alexander's at-home gym equipment | Courtesy Photo: Stefan Alexander
I've been trying to wake up early every day, even on the weekend. I'm a morning person anyway, so I always hop out of bed. First, I make my first cup of coffee. Then I start my workout and turn on WNYC, my local NPR station. In quarantine, I've started weightlifting again in my room, working on my beach bod with hopes that we'll all be able to do some sunbathing soon—after a much-needed haircut.
I miss Brighton Beach and Coney Island, where I'd normally be going in the next month or two. Regardless, it feels so good to get the blood and endorphins flowing. Maybe I'll finally be a thirst trap once I can finally get out into the world again!
[10 a.m.-noon] Make a smoothie and call my mom and dad
Every morning, I make myself a smoothie, chock-full of ginger to help my immunity. This is also when I pour a second cup of coffee. Then I call my parents. Like many people, it's really hard for me not to visit my family. I had to cancel a trip back home to Massachusetts earlier in March. I don't know when I'll see my parents again in person, but for now, the daily phone calls help make the distance feel less insurmountable.
[noon-2 p.m.] Record and write music
Stefan Alexander records music at home | Courtesy Photo: Stefan Alexander
I've been making music every day, recording acoustic videos and collaborating remotely with a few producers here in the city and around the world. During normal times, I do most of my songwriting while in transit, commuting to and from work or heading out to meet a friend. Now, out of necessity, my room has become the place where I feel the most creatively engaged. I'm lucky to have my own recording gear, so I can keep working, even if I can't get into the studio. I've heard from a lot of artist friends that they're either artistically stuck or feeling prolific. I'm, thankfully, more the latter.
[2-4 p.m.] Eat lunch and edit
I've been doing a lot more cooking. Today, lunch is leftovers from a big pot of split peas and rice I made a few days ago. While eating, I listen to a bit of a podcast: Queery, hosted by Cameron Esposito, [which features] interviews with LGBTQ+ artists and comedians. Listening to familiar voices on podcasts and the radio keeps me grounded, able to imagine a post-coronavirus world.
After lunch, I get to editing the vocals I recorded earlier in the day, prepping them to send to the producer. I'm really excited about all the new music I'm working on. It might not be out in the world for many months, but for now, it's another part of the future I'm envisioning for myself, a more colorful light at the end of the tunnel.
[4-6 p.m.] Read "Just Kids," check the news and meditate
Stefan Alexander reads at home | Courtesy Photo: Stefan Alexander
I've been meaning to read Patti Smith's "Just Kids" for years, so when I found it on our communal bookshelf, I was excited to finally have the time to do it. While I can't get out and see the city, reading the book is a wonderful way to envision NYC at a different time, bursting with life. I listen to some Brian Eno while I'm reading.
A notification pops up on my phone, and when I click it on, I'm compelled to check the news. They've just released the new case numbers, the updated death count. My anxiety flares up and I spend 15 minutes doing some deep breathing meditation to find equilibrium again.
[6-8 p.m.] Call a friend and sip a cocktail
A cocktail mixed by Stefan Alexander | Courtesy Photo: Stefan Alexander
A couple of weeks ago, I made a list of all the friends I should call or FaceTime when I'm feeling lonely. I mix up a cocktail, one of my favorite ways to decompress, and call one or two of the people on that list. I'm reconnecting with friends I don't get to see very often.
I've realized that quarantine has essentially made all of us equidistant, whether we live across the country or somewhere nearby in Brooklyn, which is both terrifying and comforting. I'm trying to concentrate on the comfort. I've always been more of an extrovert, so this time cooped up is challenging for me, but the phone calls provide me with the interaction I need, despite the lack of physical human contact.
[8-10 p.m.] Make another cocktail and watch "Unorthodox"
After catching up with a friend, I whip up another cocktail and open my computer, avoiding checking the news again. Tonight I'm watching "Unorthodox" on Netflix. It's about a woman's escape from her Chassidic upbringing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. My previous apartment was in the predominantly Chassidic neighborhood of Borough Park. We almost never had the opportunity to interact with our neighbors. I gleaned whatever information I could from the few conversations I had the pleasure to have. "Unorthodox," which is based on a memoir, paints such a vivid picture of one woman's life within the community. This show is so immersive that it makes for a great distraction from everything going on outside.
[10 p.m.-midnight] Say goodnight to mom and dad, read and sleep
Along with waking up early in quarantine, I've also been going to sleep early. Before bed, I call my parents once more for a short conversation: goodnight and I love you. I get ready for bed and read a few more pages of "Just Kids" before dozing off.
If you wish to support our efforts to assist music professionals in need, learn more about the Recording Academy's and MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
If you are a member of the music industry in need of assistance, visit the MusiCares website.