by Ryan Haughey
A few months ago, we interviewed Winnipeg artist Rayannah about her experience in isolation. We got to catch up with Rayannah again after she returned to the stage at the West End Cultural Centre for their ‘Bring Your Own Mic’ concert series. The series is ticketed partially for in-person experiences and for online experiences, a method that supports artists in a great new way.
“It was really lovely to get back on stage,” Rayannah says. “That’s the profession that I signed up for, and that I’ve been dedicating my life to for the last decade. I think I underestimated how much I missed it and how much that feeds my work.”
Rayannah says she really enjoyed having the support of the WECC team to put on a partially online show. “I knew folks were there and I knew folks were watching online, but I could focus on the performance, whereas with other shows that I’ve done on my own I’m always kind of checking on technical things, like ‘is the stream still going?’”
“Even if you’re playing as a solo artist, you’re working with all kinds of people to put a show together, and that community aspect of work was something that I really missed while being on my own,” she says.
When selling online tickets, Rayannah agrees that it boosts the enthusiasm of online audience. She says it’s common for people to tune in to a livestream only for 45 seconds to a minute. In a world where it’s so easy to scroll and swipe so quickly through social media, it can be difficult to retain the attention of an online audience. “When having a ticketed event, it’s something that we opt into when we pay and make the choice to carve out that time to participate in a show, so I think it does change our attitude toward it,” Rayannah comments.
The last time we spoke with Rayannah, she says things were still reactionary. “We had just lost a bunch of tour dates, we were still unsure if some dates were happening or not, we were unsure how to proceed with booking for 2021. Everything was just so insecure,” she says. “Now obviously that’s still the case, but I’m feeling a little bit differently about it. My team and I feel as though we can start being creative about how we can adapt. So instead of trying to shoehorn our previous plans into a pandemic world, we can just build things differently around the parameters that we’re given.”
Artists can truly thrive under tight parameters, and Rayannah says she’s been trying to make the most of her situation by coming up with new creative ways to peak those parameters. She says that she is currently working on some exciting plans that have yet to be announced, but will take place in the fall.
Another artist that has already played a successful show in the WECC’s concert series is Red Moon Road. Red Moon Road’s own Sheena Rattai, says the band hadn’t played together since March 7th earlier this year. “I think that’s the longest we’ve gone without playing together since forming the band,” the vocalist and instrumentalist says. “It was pure magic to be back onstage. I literally leapt onto the stage!”
The emotional toll of isolation, Sheena says, was made less strenuous by connecting with friends and family online and over the phone. “It was pretty beautiful to see all of the creative ways that folks found to connect with one another,” she says.
However, Sheena says she found herself frustrated in isolation, trying to be creative but feeling stuck due to the stress of what was going on globally. “If I felt any inkling of inspiration, I tried to follow it as far as I could. I didn’t complete many songs but I did get a lot of starter ideas out,” the artist says. “Now that some of the restrictiveness of this pandemic has lifted in Manitoba, I feel like I’ve been able to breathe a bit of a sigh of relief and can settle into fully fleshing out some of those fledgling ideas.”
In May of this year Red Moon Road released their Nonsuch Sessions Live EP, a performance of three previously unreleased songs that were filmed and recorded at Nonsuch Brew Co. The project was made in collaboration with BNB Studios and Synonym Art Consultation. “Our team was amazing and the atmosphere in the space was really wonderful,” Sheena says. The set was a lush “glamour jungle” of plants from event sponsor Shelmerdine. “It was such a fun and magical evening and it felt right to release it to the world when we were all in lockdown. We hoped it would serve as a lovely little escape from the crazy reality shift at the time and would bring joy to our listeners and viewers.”
In terms of creating ways for the community to experience and enjoy live music, Sheena also commends Fête Jockey for their newly launched Sidewalk Soirée series. The even company had run a contest for followers where the winner would be treated to a performance or artistic experience right on their sidewalk from a safe distance away.
“I think that we are pretty lucky that it’s summer time right now and that our numbers here in Manitoba are so low,” Sheena says. “It’s allowed for folks who feel comfortable to gather outside at a safe distance to do just that. I feel some dread about the colder months and what that will do to our ability to come together for live music in indoor spaces, especially if we see an increase in numbers for the projected second wave.”
“But honestly, I think it’s a bit of a losing battle to try and think too, too far ahead. Things can change so quickly in all of this I think the immediate future is enough to grapple with. So for me, I’m just looking forward to the couple of yard concerts we have coming up and I’ll deal with whatever comes after that. On step at a time.”
Sheena will be teaming up with Fête Jockey as a solo artist, as well as with Red Moon Road along with other artists to play socially distant house and yard shows. They can be booked by getting in touch with Fête Jockey via email at [email protected].