Creative Quarantine: Musician Dean Schlabowske

Ramblin' Deano Schlabowske

1. How are you holding up?

I’m doing great at the moment. I suspect I had COVID-19 twice! I felt all of the symptoms in starting in early-February, briefly got better then experienced it all over again from late March until late-June. I had forgotten what it feels like to be 100%, which I am now, and it feels great!

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

I’m not sure why, but I went hyperactive (musically speaking) once my day work shut down and a full slate of Spring and Summer gigs were canceled. I started with a livestream show, which led to a daily livestream, Ramblin’ Deano’s Coffee and a Song, which I do every weekday morning at 8 AM Central Time from my Ramblin’ Deano Facebook Page. I did a series of six straight evening livestreams to benefit six great music venues shut down by the pandemic. I donate 15% of the tips received for my regular livestreams to Feeding America, which has so far generated over $1,000 for that food bank organization. I’ve digitally released a lot of material, both new and old, through my site- I’ve created and sold merchandise for the Waco Brothers.
I’ve written lots of new material, some of it pandemic related. Much of my solo work, released as “Ramblin’ Deano”, is political in nature. Let’s just say there’s been a lot to comment on in the last 3-4 months.

Now I’m back at my day job and I have had to scale back a little, though I’m still cranking! I work a lot more hours and work a lot harder than I did before the pandemic.

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

In many ways, the ways in which I’ve been forced to change in order to keep musically active have been very good for me and my so-called career! It’s forced me to learn an array of new skills. I’ve had to try to master technology with which I was totally unfamiliar before. I’ve become much more personally connected with a slowly growing audience. If you had told me six months ago that I’d soon be doing a live show every weekday, I’d have thought you were nuts!

As cliched as it sounds, I don’t think things will ever be quite the same as far as live music goes. Whatever “normal” becomes, I think that my online presence will be a significant part of my musical endeavors going forward. Not only is it fun, it represents a small revenue stream in a world that has been stripped of opportunity for musicians at my level.

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

I must admit, I’m so damn busy with my own pursuits, I only have the energy to casually observe how my friends and fellow musicians are coping. My bandmate in the Wacos, Jon Langford, having a well-deserved reputation for his industrious nature, doesn’t seem to have missed a beat. I love watching Red Sox organist Josh Kantor’s daily “7th Inning Stretch” livestreams. He plays with The Baseball Project and sits in with just about every cool band you can imagine. He’s in the minority of musicians who are not songwriters that have created a regular outlet.

I feel for all of the great musicians for whom it doesn’t make sense, isn’t practical, or just isn’t in their wheelhouse to do some of the things I’ve done to keep the creative juices flowing. Though I’m not optimistic right about now, I’m hoping that we’ll be sharing sweaty stages again soon.

Dean Schlabowske’s career as a songwriter, singer, and guitarist spans over 30 years, most notably as a co-founder of Chicago’s Waco Brothers. Since 1995, the band has recorded 11 albums for Bloodshot Records, and their “Cash Meets Clash” sound is considered an Alt-Country touchstone. Dean is also involved in many side projects such as Dollar Store, with two Bloodshot LPs to their credit, and collaborations with Austin, Texas musicians in Ice Cold Singles (featuring members of the Meat Purveyors) and TV White. The latest is a solo acoustic project under the moniker “Ramblin’ Deano” and has resulted in two digitally released 10 song albums. The Ramblin’ Deano records comment on America’s current dark political times, inspired by the folk protest music of the ’30s-’60s. A full album with Ice Cold Singles has also been released on vinyl.