Photo by Matthew Berinato
Quarantine Diaries: Tenille Townes Is Co-Writing Over Zoom & Watching "The West Wing"
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, GRAMMY.com reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, country performer Tenille Townes shares her Quarantine Diary. Townes' acclaimed debut album, The Lemonade Stand, is out now.
September 1, 2020
I’ve been here in Nashville during these past few months, in my little apartment that overlooks a bunch of houses, trees and a constant current of cars on the interstate. I haven't been home this much in a long time, and it’s been quite different changing the routine of life on the road for the past few years to being in the stillness and quiet of home. I can’t wait to be back out there…I miss the high of the road so much. But I’m doing all that I can to soak in this time and am grateful for the ways that it is stretching and growing me. I feel like I’m in a season of searching right now…I’m thankful to be turning to music, writing songs that help me process what’s happening in my heart, and in the shifting world. There’s a lot going on out there, and there’s a lot to take in. Time has such a strange way of moving right now. Somehow the days go quickly, and I cannot believe that it is already September, but I also feel like March was two years ago.
[6:15 a.m.] I’m an early bird. I love the way the sun comes in through the windows in my apartment and hits my ceiling light, reflecting little rainbow confetti spots across my bedroom wall. I’ve been re-reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron right now. I read this book when I first moved to Nashville six years ago, and I loved it. It was so helpful in my writing process. In a lot of ways being in Nashville this much, reminds me of the first few months when I moved to town and didn’t know anyone, and spent most of my days listening to music and writing songs by myself in my first little apartment I rented. It seems only fitting to be working my way through this book again now. So I’m starting my day with a messy stream of consciousness, filling up pages of my journal before my feet hit my floor.
[7:00 a.m.] I usually go for a long walk in the mornings. Walking has very much kept me sane in this season. I’ve never walked as much as I have this year, ha. I think I miss the momentum of moving and putting one foot in front of the other has felt therapeutic to me. Some days I listen to music, or a podcast, and some days I walk in the quiet, and take in all that is around me and marvel at the shape of the clouds or the colours of the leaves and flowers. Today I saw a butterfly pausing on a streetlight while listening to Joni Mitchell’s Clouds.
[8:30 a.m.] Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. Lately I’ve been obsessed with scrambled eggs and toast. I’m not good with making food at all, but I’ve been learning to a little more this year, and having fun listening to Billie Holiday while I attempt to make things in my kitchen. I decided I’d try to make some jam after a friend gave me a bag of peaches, and now I have it every morning on my toast. It’s delicious with peanut butter! After breakfast, I have a zoom call interview with CBC Radio, and then I’m going to get some ideas together preparing for my write.
[11:00 a.m.] Songwriting with friends over Zoom in this time has been so wonderful. It’s been a lifeline for me, being able to escape into making up a song, and either talking about what I’m feeling, or going somewhere entirely different and forgetting about it. Both are helpful for me. Today I wrote with Lori McKenna and Dan Fernadez. We’ve never written together with all three of us yet, but I’ve been sure enjoying writing with both of them these past few months. Dan and I still haven’t met in person, but I feel like I know him after our sessions together. He’s a wonderful human. Lori is my hero. I admire her spirit so much, and will forever be enamored by her style of writing. While we write together, I’m just trying to keep my cool the whole time because I’m the biggest fan of her music.
Today we got a beautiful song about growing up. I could write about that theme any day…it’s wild to me how Zoom sessions can still work to write a song. There is nothing that will ever replace the energy of being in a room together, singing harmony on a chorus and watching the song come together like magic sitting beside one another. But I have been so surprised by the energy that can still exist through a screen. These sessions have been so much faster too. Today we finished our song in just under two hours.
[1:30 p.m.] I’ve made a little snack for lunch. Usually hummus and grapes. And then I spent some time practicing piano… I’m a slow learner on this instrument but I love to play. It’s a good brain break to just watch some YouTube lessons and practice note by note. I love learning by repetition… Lately I’ve been learning just the first few bars of Clair De Lune and I’m very much fumbling my way through, but it’s so fun. What a beautiful piece of music that is.
[3:00 p.m.] Usually in the afternoons I touch base with my manager, Crystal, and today we talked about plans for recording some new music soon, which I am so very excited about. I can’t wait to bring some of the songs from this era of zoom sessions to life. I’m thankful for the time right now to be working on new music and dreaming about the next adventures.
[6:00 p.m.] Tonight, I had leftover poppyseed chicken casserole and I usually watch an episode of "The West Wing" while I eat. I am just watching that show for the first time right now and I love it so much. So much integrity. It makes me want to stand taller and go get the world!! Tonight, after supper, I Facetimed my family and got to see my parents and grandparents together around their table. I miss everybody at home a lot right now, but it’s wonderful to see everyone’s faces on a call. Makes it seem not so far away! My Pepere was telling jokes as per usual, and my Memere was rolling her eyes and holding back her chuckles. I love that some things from home feel like they never change.
[8:00 p.m.] In the evenings, I’ve been working on worktapes. I started using logic at the beginning of quarantine, and my friend Daniel Tashian let me borrow one of his mics and helped get me started with my little system. So grateful for him. I’m having a lot of fun learning how to make little versions of these new songs. I usually stack way too many harmonies ha. But it’s so fun to just play around with things on here. Sometimes cowriters will send me a track, and I just sing to it and send them a vocal back. It really does astound me how much can be done across the distance. I disappear into this learning logic vortex until my eyes get heavy and I decide it’s time to call it a night.
Before I fall asleep, I think about the day… I think about the things I don’t have control of, think about all that I don’t understand, think about all that I miss right now, and then think about all that I’m really grateful for. I feel thankful to be healthy, thankful for the heroes of the world right now taking care of people, thankful that things in the world are moving and shaking for the better, thankful my loved ones are safe, thankful to be making music and doing the thing that I really love. Thankful that we never really get to know what’s coming next in the plan. I'm learning to let go a little more right now. To notice the voice in my mind and try to shift it to a kinder vocabulary. To see the moon outside my window and find comfort that we’re all staring up at the same one. To believe in the good. There’s so much good.
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