Creative Quarantine: Musician Rick Rizzo

1. How are you holding up?

I’m doing well, thanks. My wife and I are fortunate that we are both able to work from home. I’ve tried to use the improv comedy “yes, and…” approach to my family and our shelter-in-place situation. Everybody under this roof has had their triumphs and melt-downs over the last two months, and it all gets intensified, but we will come out of this stronger.

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

I work in cycles that begins with the melody or the phrase that magically appears in my head. Then, I make a demo immediately, play it over and over, wait 3-5 years for the band to be able to record, release a record, play a handful of shows, then start over with the next batch. Any given thematic set of songs I write follows this life cycle, which is better than the 17 year cicada, but sometimes doesn’t feel that way.

The key for the cycle to begin is for me to have absolute solitude. I cannot write with anybody around. Covid-19 has obviously messed this up. I still have a slew of ideas in the course of the day, especially on my daily bike ride, but they pass through me like the trillions of molecules that I’m now way too aware of. It does make for an ecstatic one hour though.

Eleventh Dream Day was at that part of the cycle when things shut down where we were ready to put the final mixes on a new batch of songs. I was so excited to be able to release these this year, but we’ll see how much the calendar has been destroyed. It is a very different record for us, and I can’t wait to lay it on you.

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

The main event of my day is an early morning one-hour bike ride crisscrossing the streets of my neighborhood. There are plenty of hills, and it provides a great workout, but also liberates my mind. I started by choosing an album a day to listen to. Early on, I listened to Paul K records, since he passed away right around the stay home order. It is an incredibly intimate way to listen to music, with eyes open taking in the universe around me, breathing fresh air, being rained on, freezing one day, sweating the next. I listened to John Prine one day, tears streaming down my face, laughing, singing out loudly with no neighbors out to hear. The Wipers and Minutemen make me pedal harder. I want to keep this practice of riding and listening. It forces out the news from my head and opens my portals to inspiration.

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

I have actually cut down on my social media at this time. I have tried to keep up with friends though and enjoyed the Bill MacKay and Jim Elkington Hideout streams. I feel for those friends that just put records out. Jon Langford is unstoppable and inspiring. David Pajo and Will Oldham did a Zoom duet that floored me. I love that the Tweedy family does their nightly show, although I have my own family to attend to, but it offers many a sense of community and joy. Nick Tremulis made a lovely video of new music with his family. My son, Matthew has been publishing his amazing poetry. Check it out! And I love that Tony Fitzpatrick pivoted to making puzzles, although every time I try to buy one, they’re sold out!

Rick Rizzo is a songwriter and guitarist for eleventh dream day