Photo by Victoria Gold
Quarantine Diary: Louise Goffin Is Exercising, Taking Walks & Covering Cage The Elephant
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, singer/songwriter Louise Goffin—daughter of music icons Carole King and Gerry Goffin—shares her Quarantine Diary. Louise's new album, Two Different Movies, is out now.
Monday, July 13
[8:25 a.m.] I open my eyes. I don’t know what time it is. My phone sits on the table a few feet away. I can’t remember which day of the week it is, but I know its a weekday because I already hear the sound of a hammer on the building site across the street. Soon there will be gardeners adding to the cacophony of noise with their blowers. It’s always cause for me to want to find a safe room to hide from the sound of machines. I know I have things to get done and I’m wondering which ones are priorities and which ones I will put off till tomorrow. During lockdown, I’ve become acquainted with getting distracted by obsessive thoughts about things I have no control over. I’m wondering how I’m going to get through the blazing sunshine of the day with the neighborhood workers and gardeners making noise. I know if I pace myself, the magic hour between 4:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon will relax me and my creativity will wake up. I reach for my phone and see the date: Monday, July 13th and it’s already 8:25 am.
[10:15 a.m.] I write in my journal. I spout endless nonsense to get my head clear. Lately, though, I write a lot about things I’m grateful for. I write, “I’m bristling with gratitude this morning."
I’m finding gifts in the insanity of lockdown and its neverending uncertainties. People I once may have been too busy to spend time talking to appear on my horizon. I’m feeling happy about all the times I followed my intuition, acted on inspiration without talking myself out of things. Had I not taken action on my gut instincts, I may have missed opportunities, putting them off to a later that is now, where I can’t travel or see people in person.
[12:30 p.m.] I’m startled by a tap at the french doors to my backyard. It’s my 17-year-old son, masked. I open the door and stand at a distance. His head is shaven except for a short growth of hair dyed blue. He’s a 5’10” thin handsome dude about to make music in a shed out back. He says, “Hello, would you mind filling this up with filtered water?”
I smile, delighted to see him. How did this kid get so tall? I fill up the glass bottle and hand it to him. “Thank you. Y’good?" he asks. “All good," I say. "Glad to hear it. Okay, see you later."
[12:45 p.m.] I pour myself a bowl of gluten-free muesli, topped with frozen wild blueberries and cashew milk. I open up a book, Come and Get These Memories: The Story of Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown’s Incomparable Songwriters. I’m remembering how growing up, my mom was always reading at the same time she was sitting at the kitchen table, eating. She used to be addicted to Ellery Queen detective novels. Too often, I pick up my phone and scroll through Instagram and Facebook. Damn, it’s such an energy suck, put that phone away and pick up a real book! I open to page 129. Eddie Holland is talking about how long it used to take him to write the average song, and that he embraced a lack of structure that allowed him to experiment and perfect his craft.
I read on to find that my creative habits were right in line with Eddie Holland's! I can’t do my best work on a clock, and a song is finished when it’s finished, which is when I know it can’t be better. Sometimes a song calls me at midnight and I'm awake even though I know I’ll open my eyes the same time in the morning, no matter what time I go to sleep.
[1:05 p.m.] I put on my tennis shoes and get on my Peloton bike. If I do even 20 minutes I’ll be proud of myself. My hands are free and I pick up some weights. I’m in better shape now, sheltering at home. I crave less at home, and exercise more consistently. I know there’ll be changes in my routine for the better when things go back to normal. It doesn’t look like they will go back anytime soon, though. I sigh a deep sigh, trying to process that this is the new normal.
[1:30 p.m.] Turn on the shower. Water is truly a psychic reset! My hair is always getting away though. When I brush it, after showering, I put it up in a tight ponytail but I know within a half-hour it’ll go crazy and bunch out into a mass of curly unmanageability. It’s too hot to wear a ski hat over it, so I let it be.
[3:30 p.m.] I've set up a performance space for myself in my garage. Last year I lived in Nashville and enrolled in a six-month audio engineering school, The Blackbird Academy, so I have my performance space set up with microphones and light reflectors and a tall stand that’ll hold my phone. I open my laptop computer to Pro Tools and decide that today it the first time I’m going to set up mics on the martini cocktail drum kit. I notice I am one microphone stand short of what I need and I go down to my backyard studio and get the only stand in there and bring it up to my garage so I can put an AKG 414 room mic up. I use a Mojave 301 Fet outside the kick drum, a WA-251 above the front of kick in line with the edge of the snare, a Sennheiser c935 dynamic mic on the edge of the snare and WA-84 small condenser mic on the high hat.
I can’t even believe I know how to do this. Besides, there’s no one to help me and this what I studied to learn, so I check each mic for levels and make sure everything’s working and nothing’s distorting, and then I discover my headphone cable is way too short to reach the drum kit, so I move the chair with the laptop closer. I set up my phone to film at the same time because I know later I’m going to want to edit it into a video.
I’m playing a cover of a Cage The Elephant song, "Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked." I’m putting together a pre-recorded half-hour Facebook live show and I promised myself I’d include covers. I thought, “Why not cover something from the 21st Century?”
I couldn’t believe how good the drums sounded when I listened later.
[6:00 p.m.] I’m starving. I realize I’ve only had a cup of coffee and cereal all day and just did a bunch of physical stuff. I exercised, engineered, moved microphone stands and drummed. What can I eat right now that won't take a lot of preparation?
I see the leftover salmon with tin foil over a plate in the fridge, from yesterday’s lunch. I eye a head of red leafy lettuce. This’ll be fast. I take it outside and sit in my favorite place on my deck: a swinging two-seater I assembled from directions with my son when he was 10. The sky has a thin foggy mist, mixed with cloudless blue. A hummingbird comes right up beside me, three feet away.
This is prime time. No noisy gardeners, builders, the temperature is cooler. Tree branches move in the breeze. Still, there is the noise of airplanes flying overhead. The city is never truly quiet. I long to get out to the desert and hear only the wind, but traveling is so deliberate under these circumstances, everything needs a careful choreography, no more jumping in the car for a shotgun weekend getaway. My legs push the love seat back and forth, I’m getting lulled by the momentum and feeling happier after getting some protein in me. There was more I wanted to get done today. I know the undone things on my list will have to wait until tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that.
Navigating this new normal can feel intense. The longings and fears, all mixing around my head and thoughts at once. I know I have to go off the planned schedule to stay sane. I have to eat, exercise and play music or create something new for only the sake of creating it, not to illicit some outcome. Songwriting is the one place I convince myself that shape-shifting is possible. I bring my empty plate to the kitchen, place it in the sink and I go back to the garage to shut everything down. I decide to take a cautious walk to the bluffs. I get my mask and a satchel, fill a bottle with water and put my phone and hand sanitizer in my pocket.
[7:00 p.m.] Why are so many people not wearing masks? Haven’t they read the news that Los Angeles cases of Covid-19 have had a major spike since the city re-opened for business? I keep my distance from chatting joggers and an unmasked dad with two single-digit children following him on their bikes. I’m thinking I’m a hermit in suburbia and I should just own up and lock myself in my bedroom and stay out of the neighborhood entirely. Still, when I get to the bluffs, the ocean looks glorious. There’re boats out on the water. I can see the Santa Monica Pier ferris wheel in the distance. Big long branches of eucalyptus tress sway in the breeze. The light is phenomenal. Oh my, there’s a hang glider right above my head, that is crazy! That's one way to social distance. I’m glad I took a walk. I should take one every day, but many days I don’t, knowing I have to walk defensively from all the people who refuse to wear a mask. I breathe in the ocean air and turn around to walk back home.
My phone dings. I stop to read it. It’s a text from Gail Ann Dorsey asking me for the link to the episode of "Song Chronicles" that I interviewed her for. I send her the link, thank her again and put the phone back in my satchel.
[9:25 p.m.] I’ve been watching the news. My phone notifies me a text is in. It’s my ex-husband sending me a photo of him and our youngest son playing chess sitting at his kitchen table. He writes "It’s all your fault!" He's writing this because I taught my ex how to play chess. Then he taught our son. I heart the photograph. I can’t take anymore of the news. I turn it off and look at the row of guitars leaning on the wall and I pick up my Martin. The capo is on the first fret and I leave it there.
The sound of the guitar soothes me and all I want to do is play and sing. I remember days when that was all I ever did. Remembering living in Laurel Canyon surrounded by musicians in every house. I never felt guilty playing guitar or recording all day. In fact, I couldn’t wait to call one of my neighbors to come over and play or to go to their studio and have them lay a track over it. Now I’ve raised two boys who are young men and I want to spend my days the same way I did before they came along, only these days I’d be more likely to ask them to lay down a bass or a drum track. They are sheltering though, and so I’m happy playing and recording all the instruments myself. It's always better anyway, to be imperfect, to play for the Gods rather than for the hit parade. I play guitar and piano till 11:45 P.M. and find myself getting tired.
[11:45 p.m.] I fill a glass of water to take to my bedroom, brush my teeth, wash my face, put on my pajamas. I'm truly grateful for another day of not going insane.
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.