Creative Quarantine: Singer/Songwriter Heidi Serwer

Heidi Serwer | Photo credit: Vin Reed

1. How are you holding up?

I’ve always kept busy. A few years ago it dawned on me that keeping busy is my way of dealing with good old fashioned anxiety. COVID-19 forced me to hit the brakes. It took some time during our stay-at-home order to learn how to deal with sitting still. With sitting with my thoughts and, truthfully, with sitting with myself. I’m still busy with my two full-time jobs– one in software development and the other as Mom– but what I really miss is heading to my local music venue to hear a friend perform or getting on stage myself to share original music. But I am grateful for what I do have: a house, a healthy family, food on the table. So many are suffering right now in ways that I can’t even imagine. It’s heartbreaking.

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

I play solo a lot (only child thing, I guess) accompanied by my friend Joe Goodkin on lead guitar but I’ve also got this fun band with my friend Karen Salmon called Things That Fly. She and I started the band years ago when we were invited to perform at the inaugural “I Am Your Neighbor” annual fundraiser party for Common Pantry, Chicago’s oldest continually-operating food pantry. Over the years, we’ve increased our commitment to playing more regularly and now have some super talented musicians committed to being a part of this project. We were just starting to prep our new songs to bring to the studio for our debut record when COVID-19 hit. Fortunately, she and I have recently been picking things back up with Zoom calls and GarageBand file shares, so this record may be a not-so-distant reality after all. 

And while waiting to move forward, I’ve been doing a lot of looking back. I had hoped that this time of isolation would at least spark a creative urge and I would emerge with a handful of new songs. I had also hoped that I’d be motivated to go through those stacks of old papers hidden in my upstairs laundry room cabinet and also eat healthier, but none of those things have happened either. Have you ever been hungry for something but just don’t feel like getting up to make anything? That’s me with music right now. So, instead, I’m spending time listening to a catalog of songs I’ve written over the past couple of years that left my mind almost as quickly as they entered. I’ve got a lot of those. The throwaways. But it’s fun to hear where my head was at a certain point in time and I may just even salvage a few over the coming weeks.

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

Along with looking back at my older, unreleased music demos, I’m also finding it easier to simply pay attention to what’s around me with a new level of detail. I love to hear the “bird party” in our back pine tree at dusk before those little creatures settle in for the night. I love to sit on the front porch and watch the masked families walk by– most give either a raised eyebrow or slight wave to acknowledge a hello in lieu of a visible smile. And sometimes I’ll drop a line or lyric or two into my iPhone notes app to keep safe for when I’m ready to write something new again. For now, I’ve made peace with using this time for reflection and observation. My mother-in-law shared a line with me when I was an exhausted first-time mother, “The hours drag on but the years fly by.” You better believe I turned that line into a song. 

“The hours drag on but the years fly by.”

4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

I’m captivated by my favorite artists’ live online performances and grateful for their generosity by sharing a more private piece of themselves during this time. By seeing people as they are– unplugged, home, and without the distance of a large stage– it creates a different kind of connection that doesn’t rival being in-person but certainly bridges the gap for now. I’m not sure that indicates whether they’re “handling this particularly well,” but it certainly helps me feel better. Last night, for example, I watched my friend and Old Town School of Folk Music songwriting class teacher, Steve Dawson, and his wife Diane Christiansen perform a beautiful live stream release concert and was moved to tears by not only the music but the reminder that we’re all in this together and are not alone. 


A longtime performer at fundraisers, open mics, and parties, Heidi Serwer began writing songs only a handful of years ago. Her songwriting has been described as containing instantly memorable melodies, keenly observed situations, and having a big-hearted approach to her characters and subjects. She combined this innate songwriting knack with her sweet singing and nimble guitar playing to debut her fresh-sounding EP, Stranger, in 2014. Heidi’s second EP, Let’s Talk Awhile, was released in June 2018. Heidi collaborates with a variety of friends and local musicians. She and good friend and singer-songwriter Karen Salmon co-founded their band, Things That Fly, and are currently working on their debut record.