Photo by Larry Niehues
Quarantine Diaries: Pokey LaFarge Is Recording A New Album, Drinking Espresso & Watching '60s French Films
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, country performer Pokey LaFarge shares his Quarantine Diary. Pokey's new album Rock Bottom Rhapsody is out now via New West Records.
Tuesday, July 28
[8 a.m.] Wake up, like I almost always do, without an alarm. Chug water. Hop in the shower. Shave—it's a ritual. I make coffee in my Bialetti and conjure up a smoothie of fresh Michigan blueberries from the Logan Square Farmers Market, frozen banana, peanut butter and almond milk. I down one Americano, and the smoothie, while reading, before making it out of the house around 10:15 a.m. The walk from where I’m staying, in Logan Square, through Palmer Square Park, to the studio in Bucktown, is about 20-25 minutes. I get there early. The weather has been perfect. There's been no baseball but neither has there been humidity.
[11 a.m.] Alex—the engineer—and I make ourselves some espresso from the studio espresso machine and sit down to catch up. We had two weeks in studio before taking a week break. This is our first day back. 13 songs have been tracked, mostly live, and all to tape—an Ampex AG440—a real Hi-Fi piece of machinery in its day—late '60s or so. Today is a harmony vocal session. I’ll sing most of the high parts and he’ll sing anything lower than my lead voice. Whatever harmonies of mine don’t blend with my lead vocals I will allocate to one of the many heavy hitters I have vast experience working with up here in Chicago.
[4 p.m.] We break for "lunch." After six shots of espresso it's probably a good idea to put something in my belly. I brought a salad of spinach, salmon, carrots, rice and sriracha dressing. Washed down with a Topo Chico. So far six songs have three-part harmonies. Four or five more to go. A lot on my mind with the sessions but it feels good. Stay calm and take it slow. There's no rush. Whatever is happening outside the studio stays outside the studio. Only room in my mind is made up of music. The rest of me will be waiting when I step out onto the street. "Carpe diem!" said Horace. The end of the world can wait.
[8 p.m.] Another studio day in the books. Almost all of the harmony vocals are done. We’ll pick back up again next week for the last of the overdubs: piano, organ, guitars, percussion, harmony vocals and more. One Topo Chico for the road. Half way home I stop in to my local Cuban food joint Tropicuba for their speciality: Ox Tail Stew (Rabo Encendido). The plantains are so creamy they could be Creme Brûlée. A hearty meal after a productive day in studio. I miss being there already. The rain starts. Walk through the park beneath the canopy of the streets. If only Jeanne Moreau were here… I feel with a woman like that you needn’t say a thing to be understood. And maybe that’s true love.
[12 a.m.] I’m feeling blessed to be me—to be here right now during these times recording the album I wrote so recently while in quarantine. It nearly astounds me. But I know life can work this way. God works this way. I’ve come to expect miracles. After a little reading out on the front porch, I like to take in a movie or two before bed. Criterion Collection has been my go-to to catch up on classics I've been meaning to see and to stumble upon others I've never even heard of. '60s French films have been my theme this week. Films by Jean-Pierre Melville, François Truffaut… and tonight it’s Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows. I may never learn to speak French well, and I can try and resist French film and literature for all its debauchery, but tonight my heart is with you, Jeanne Moreau. Bonne nuit, darling Jeanne…beaux rêves.
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.