Creative Quarantine: Steve Gerlach

Steve Gerlach: Outronaut | Photo credit: © Barry Brecheisen

1. How are you holding up?

The short answer is: no complaints. It is, however, astounding what a range of feeling one can experience in the space of an hour; from clear-eyed optimism to existential dread…and back, hopefully.

If I were to complain, I’d address the garden-variety geopolitical fuckstorm that stems back to November 2016, when about 150 million people in this country didn’t vote…  but living in the past makes less sense than ever. Call it a new path, a silver lining, whatever – we all need to keep moving, which, for a lot of us, means reinventing ourselves. This is how we springboard back to optimism; possibilities abound when you’ve got less to lose!

It also occurs to me that I work in a bubble, by and large, so I may have been more prepared for this than most. While some folks are struggling to maintain some structure and normalcy right now, I’ve been a work-from-home free agent for over a decade, and I’ve been able to grab a few pieces of day-job action. For people like me, there’s no such thing as job security, so I’ve got a pretty long internal history of preparing for the worst, and counting my blessings (read: save your receipts).

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

I’m a very lucky fella, because when the shit hit the fan, I was finishing tracking and editing an album that we started last July at our pal Ralph’s private studio, and once you get into the mixing/mastering stage of music, remote/online collaboration is pretty commonplace these days. So that album just got finished and released on Bandcamp. I was also lucky enough to have shot some video footage and had begun collaboration with a bunch of artists on videos for songs included on this new album. One video has been released thus far, and more are forthcoming on our YouTube channel, which I’m trying to get everyone to subscribe to! So all of this ongoing work has kept me busy, particularly since I’m trying to be my own manager, publicist, promoter, ad agency, etc. This is a very long-winded way of saying that it hasn’t affected the way I work very much, thus far. 

I do wonder if, in the bigger picture, some aspects of the familiar business model will be permanently altered, somewhat. If the reverberations of this pandemic last as long as I think they might, the touring function of being a musician might be more of an exception than a rule for an extended spell… but don’t shoot the messenger.

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

It’s probably too soon to tell exactly what will be worth keeping, but I certainly hope there is something! In the personal realm, I’ve deepened my sense of gratitude, compassion, patience, and humility, as I assume most people have. However, if you pay any attention to the news, you know that some people have merely deepened their sense of entitlement. Sad, but true, or just plain infuriating, from one hour to the next.

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

It could be that the ones who are more or less invisible at the moment are handling it best. Could they be writing new material? Obviously, a certain degree of boredom and restlessness is understandable, and I have seen a few live videos that were well done, particularly a fellow named Andy Brown, an excellent Chicago guitarist. And my niece’s band, Buffalo Rose, has it dialed in, too.  I think pre-production is probably the key. One can’t simply belt out into the room; it’s an entirely different medium, and not a very forgiving one. If you’re trying to further your presence as, say, a musician, best be careful in there, and everywhere else, too. 

Steve Gerlach has worked in the periphery of the music world for decades as a guitarist/singer/composer/collaborator with the likes of Tommy Keene, Chris Connelly, John Cale, and probably your cousin out in LA. He also does commercial voice-over, because it’s nice to get paid.