Creative Quarantine: Singer/Songwriter Michelle Billingsley

Michelle Billingsley

1. How are you holding up?

It’s a wild ride of boredom and great depression and panic. I have much more time than I used to, time that I previously wished I had, yet I’m afraid to use it all in case I get used to it, and then it goes away. But great depression because there’s no real opportunity to perform for the foreseeable future. 

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

Yes, definitely. I’ve had gigs canceled including my own album release that was booked at Martyrs on June 12th. I had even moved it from the original date of May 22, just to be safe. I’ll have to just have a virtual release instead. I have a couple of live streams planned to take the place, but it’s such a bummer to not have this big live show that would have been the culmination of a ton of hard work. 

I was also in the middle of booking a tour this summer, and that’s a bust as well.  So all my plans I had back in January, all those things that were supposed to happen have evaporated. I can’t find the words to express how sad it all is. And it’s hard to feel as down as you want because in the grand scheme of things, there are too many people dying and I’m healthy and able to shelter at home. And there are many other people canceling big plans. So there’s a horrible cycle of feeling sad, then feeling guilty for feeling sad. I really miss live shows. The energy from the crowd. The sense of purpose you have being up on stage. Oh God, do I miss it. I’m grateful for live streams, they give you a reason to work up old songs, or re-arrange songs that used to fit on a stage into a much smaller space. But at the same time, you’re in your kitchen, singing to yourself. There’s no applause. It’s a whole new beast, and really hard to pull off. 

Michelle Billingsley

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

No. When this started I thought I’d have so much time to practice now I didn’t have to commute to my day job, I’d have 2 more hours free…and I just didn’t want to take my guitar off the wall. So I had to respect that and let it rest.  I think it had something to do with watching these shows get canceled, so playing reminded me of everything I loved to do but couldn’t. 

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

Watching other artists release things digitally right now is heartening. Margo Price, Jason Isbell, Jamie Wyatt are all releasing projects right now. They’re not delaying their plans, they’re saying this is what it is.  I have a pre-sale open for vinyls and CDs my album right now, so it’s nice to see orders coming in for those. T-shirts will be up on that site soon. 

I’m hoping that the live stream will continue to be explored. It’s not a panacea, but it’s at least something we can explore since live shows are not possible right now. There’s opportunities for the artists to collaborate and stream from other outlets and potentially reach audiences they’d normally have to travel to.  So I’m hopeful there’s a way we could figure out how to do that and make enough to pay your band to join you.

Biting & enigmatic. …the knock ’em dead bravado of Nancy Sinatra and the blunt storytelling knack of Neko Case.”
– Glide Magazine

– American Songwriter

Michelle Billingsley is an alt-country honky tonk angel, an Emmylou that went through the looking glass. Her new album, Not the Marrying Kind, engineered and mixed by Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Josh Ritter, Iron & Wine) and including some of Chicago’s best musicians will be out June 12th.

Billingsley and Earp, a side project I do with Wild Earp is going to take over the Chicago Honky Tonk live stream on June 3rd. We usually do our mix of Gram Parsons/Emmylou covers, originals, and yodel duets.  But this time we took tips to request a song, and we’re donating all of those tips to a local charity, Cornerstone Community Outreach

We’re also going to live stream to Roots in the Jar, a brand new online music festival streaming from Belgium on June 19th.  It’ll be noon Chicago time, 7 pm Belgian time. 

Stay tuned on my Instagram/Facebook pages for more announcements of live streams. I’ve got a couple I’m announcing soon. 
Also, of course, Not the Marrying Kind will be released on June 12th. 

Follow Michelle on Spotify and Bandcamp, which will be up soon for digital preorders.