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Lady Gaga, The Naked And Famous, Bruno Major & More Artists Talk Staying Grounded During Quarantine
These days of quarantine are unprecedented, intense and have disrupted almost every facet of our daily lives as well as the global economy. While the coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone differently, it has hit people and companies in the music and live event industry incredibly hard.
Over the past few weeks, we've been checking in with artists, many of whom have not been home this long since before their artist careers, to learn what has been helping them feel grounded amidst the current state of chaos in the world. Read on to hear what The Naked And Famous, Bruno Major, Justin Michael Williams, Mikey Lion, Cassian and Paul van Dyk shared with us in recent conversations over the past weeks of quarantine. GRAMMY-winning pop queen Lady Gaga recently spoke in-depth on mental health and staying grounded during the pandemic, so we've included thoughtful quotes from her as well.
Gaga points out this is a traumatic time for everyone, so it is extra important to be kind. She notes this will hit those with less resources harder than someone like herself, who has means. "Being kind is the most powerful thing we can do right now; being kind to each other and being self-aware… I am in a home that is safe, I can eat sanitary food. I can keep doing my work. This is not the same for everyone and I know that. Being self-aware, I think, is very important in how we stay together."
In the conversation, the "Born This Way" singer stresses the importance of mental health care and, understanding that many people don't currently have access to therapy, shares some helpful grounding techniques from dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, which has helped her.
"In DBT, it's called 'distress tolerance skills,' which is basically the skills we use to manage our stress. And one thing I can just offer people that are watching, and to also spread as a message to others, is one thing to ground yourself if you're panicking during this time is to say, okay let me get a bare on my surroundings. So for example you can say, 'My feet, where are they? My feet are on the ground. I'm looking at my hands. I'm sitting in my living room… My children are playing. My couch is white.'
Once you start listing and naming things and looking around the room, slowly it can bring you back down into where you are, so that you can feel grounded and can feel safe because there is going to be a wave of shock and trauma people are experiencing all over the world and it's just natural because this is very scary."
These days have been a stressful time for so many of us, especially with the double-whammy of extensive uncertainty and so much more time at home with ourselves. Just as Gaga highlighted the importance of being kind to each other and focusing on the present, alt-pop artist and meditation teacher Justin Michael Williams reminds us that it's more than okay to slow down right now amidst all the chaos.
"Remember that it's okay not to be super productive and overachieving during this time. This is especially hard for those of us who have gained our value from validation and 'success.' Typically, the world asks us to do more, be more and push harder. But right now it's time to pause," the "I Am Enough" singer recently told us over email.
"Pay attention. This is the flow of the universe. The whole world is slowing down. If you can, take this moment as a sacred pause. Instead of forcing yourself to 'do' more, give yourself a chance to 'be' more—and see what arises from there. Let it be okay that you don't have the capacity to overachieve at the level you were before. You're doing fine. Trust yourself."
As Williams' wisdom suggests, taking this global pause to see what comes up when you stop doing so much can be a great way to reevaluate old habits and routines. Examining the contrast to how hard you were always working or the speed at which you were constantly moving can be eye-opening for touring artists or anyone else who travels regularly. This can be a great time to catch up on or rebalance the things that tend to go to the wayside while on the road or otherwise constantly busy.
Start & Keep A Routine
For GRAMMY-nominated mixer/producer/DJ Cassian, putting energy towards finding a new quarantine version of his routine has not only been something that's kept him grounded during all the change, but will likely result in shifts in his routine post-quarantine.
"Everywhere I go really, I'm such a creature of routine; whether I'm in L.A. or when I'm in touring in Australia, I still get to have my routine more or less because my family's out there. So it's been hard to figure out what that new quarantine routine is like. I'm trying to stay focused on figuring it out, which is what's helping me stay grounded," the Aussie artist recently told us.
"For my workouts, I used to get up super early and go to the gym every day at the same time, same gym. Now, I've been exploring the neighborhood I live in, and walking around more. I'm definitely going to be doing more of that, definitely going to be cooking for myself more. My old routine I would just get up, workout, go to the studio. I would just be in the studio all day, have dinner at the studio, then come home and just sleep. Now I'm realizing I didn't need to do that, and I've set up a little studio at home, so now I can just work from home when I don't feel like going to the studio. Also, I traveled so much and I didn't question it, and took it for granted. And [now] it's been a conversation I've been having with my team."
British singer/songwriter Bruno Major also feels centered when he has a routine he can count on, with something he can ground the days to but with enough variety to keep things interesting.
"Being a musician, I've had zero structure in my life since I was 16 or 17 because I left school. So, [typically] I go the gym every morning and make sure that I do something every day that's the same. I feel like I need routine in my life. If you don't have it, you have to create it yourself. So just make sure you exercise every day or do something that isn't just Netflix. Learn a new skill, read a book, learn the piano. Just try to vary your days up," the "Old Soul" singer shared with us over the phone.
Like Cassian, he also sees this disruption in our regular routines as something that may act as a big life lesson for so many of us who've been "too busy" to stop and reconsider it.
"I think there's a great lesson to be learned here as well. When you don't have the thing that you should be doing every day, then you're just left with the things you want to do. And you have to worry about what it is that you want. I think people are learning a lot about themselves during this period."
For Alisa Xayalith of Aussie electro-pop The Naked And Famous, sleeping adequately, exercising, cooking and watching cooking videos all help keep her calm and centered. "When I don't have enough sleep, I don't feel like I can focus or perform to the best of my ability. But in times where I need to feel grounded, I usually exercise."
"[Also,] I cook. That helps me feel grounded. I was on tour for the last month so I haven't been able to do that very much. Cooking and baking is something that helps me feel super grounded, which is why I have gotten into making sourdough bread and I have things that I love to cook. Just the process of preparing everything, cooking everything, and the end product is going to be delicious—it always feels good to me."
For her bandmate Thom Powers, he stays grounded with critical thinking and the balance of his partner. "I don't really have one thing that I do to stay grounded. Maybe reading. I think I am a grounded person by nature just by being very critical, by working on my critical thinking skills as a hobby. I am not a very smart person, I didn't go to university or get a degree in anything. Critical thinking is probably what keeps me grounded and realistic. Also, my partner keeps me very grounded when I get delusional, or worried about things," Powers said.
"I think when I am least grounded, I have a very unrealistic view, a very envious, jealous and comparative view because of the way music culture has shifted to this online content provider paradigm. Some days when I wake up and I feel negative, I just feel this immense pressure to be this content provider, which is something that does not come naturally to me, it's difficult. But some people, it just comes so naturally to them to put their unedited selves up on the internet."
He brings up a great point about social media, and how he sometimes feels pressure to be more engaged with it and "better" at having a social presence like other artists or influencers. Xayalith underscored that social media can be overwhelming at times for everyone who engages with it, which is why she opts to generally limit social media scrolling to watching cooking videos, which she finds "super soothing" and sometimes inspiring for her next meal.
In contrast to trying to keep up with social media, staying in touch with your friends and family over the phone and with video calls can be really nice during these times. Not only is it a great practice to have little mental health and wellness check-ins with your loved ones, catching up while apart can help with feelings of isolation.
DJ/producer and Desert Hearts leader Mikey Lion echoes the importance of both self-care and staying in touch with the people you miss. "I'm really focused on staying healthy right now and exercising. Just going on walks and keeping things the more-solo parts of my normal routine. I've also been calling my friends and my family and seeing how they're doing. It always keeps me grounded and since we are all in it together, that collective group thing of getting through it and knowing and taking comfort in the fact that we are all experiencing this together. That's what keeps me the most grounded."
During quarantine, Zoom video calls have become a popular tool to gather virtually—many March and April birthday parties, yoga classes and dance parties happened (safely and remotely) thanks to Zoom. Lion shares how his crew of fellow DJs and creatives used Zoom to reconnect shortly after quarantine began. "I just took some time to call a bunch of my friends and it felt so good, we had this huge Zoom chat with 20 of our friends from our Burning Man camp. We literally had a livestream party for four hours with all of our best friends. We were all taking shots almost every 30 minutes and coming up with new games and new rules. Oh my god, it felt like we were all together, just having fun. It was this massive release and way for us to blow off steam. It was really amazing."
The Desert Hearts squad has also been sharing a bunch of live DJ sets and other content with their daily-ish DHTv livestream series, which have been a fun way for them to keep sharing music with their loyal fanbase. Many other artists have been doing regular musical livestreams as a way to keep everyone dancing and singing along from the safety of their homes, including Paul van Dyk with his regular PC Music Night on Facebook.
The creativity, generosity, kindness and love so many people have shown each other during this global crisis, especially where their nation's leaders and systems fail them, is quite powerful. For legendary GRAMMY-nominated German DJ/producer Paul van Dyk seeing this love and compassion as people care for each other gives him hope right now, and the partnership and love he feels with his wife helps him feel grounded.
"It's love on all levels. It's the love to your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your wife, your husband; in my case, obviously, my wife. It's the love and caretaking that people have for each other and how we all stand together. This is something that I see that I feel is a little bit of a positive out of all this that. We as a species, have to survive this and have the possibility to come out of it stronger."
Now more than ever, this is the time, as Gaga said, to be kind to each other, and as van Dyk's and Lion's comments highlight, to really appreciate the people in our life who are there for us—and to be there for them to. And there is no time like now to create a personal dancefloor in your living room and for artists to share some tunes with their internet friends to keep everyone grooving.