Creative Quarantine: Musician and Author Spencer Tweedy

Mirror Sound Cover

Musician and writer Spencer Tweedy dropped by to share his thoughts on how he has adapted his creative career during the pandemic. Tweedy’s most recent endeavor has been the release of his book, Mirror Sound.

1. How are you holding up?

I’m holding up well. Right now I’m in the camp of people who feel guilty about admitting how OK they are. I’ve been extremely lucky to be at home and just hunkering down with my family through all of this. My obligations (or lack thereof) have allowed me to do that. So I’ve been grateful.

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

Yes, in that there are no live shows going on right now! Normally I would have played a lot of shows with my friends around town and maybe some more with my dad over the past many months. But as it is we’ve only been playing at home and one drive-in show.

I haven’t been writing very many songs anyway over the past few years, so the pandemic hasn’t affected that. But I do think that this climate has made it harder for me to write prose. It feels a little impossible to offer an adequately original or insightful take when so many other, more qualified people are doing so in op-eds and on Twitter. But like a lot of people, I have this urge to document what’s going on and to write out arguments for why “our” shared perspective on what’s going on is sane and reasonable. Basically, therapeutic writing.

Spencer and Suzanne Ciani | Photo by Daniel Topete

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

Yes — better sleep hygiene. I feel like my sleep habits have gone through three or four different phases of evolution since March. In the early days of the pandemic, I was staying up till the early morning hours and basically treating every day like a snow day. But lately, I’ve started to get serious about making a bedtime routine, leaving myself enough time to wind down, banning myself from work, or even looking at a computer screen before bed, and for the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve actually achieved some sleep stability. I could write an entire essay about this (maybe that’s the writing breakthrough I’m looking for!). It’s been a matter of giving myself permission to say, “It’s not worth staying up later. The work will be there tomorrow and it will be even better when your mind is rested.” It’s a delicate mental switch. My main pandemic project has been to access it more easily.

I’ve found that all the typical sleep hygiene tips get it backward — you need to get your mind right first, then all of the practical ideas (like drinking tea, setting a bedtime, avoiding screens) can do their thing. Something that helped a lot: reading fiction. Anything to take my mind out of the world, sort of cancel all the trains of thought that are going on, and put my mind onto a new track.

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

My friends in the band Ratboys have been making the most of this time. They’ve started a Twitch streaming channel and become really good at producing amazingly high-quality streams on it. They hosted a 25-hour telethon on Halloween and raised thousands of dollars for the Equal Justice Initiative and Girls Rock. (It was scheduled to be 24-hours until they realized it fell on Daylight Savings.) I think they’ve taken this time as a chance to find new creative outlets and they’re doing it all with this extremely sweet, fun feeling.

Spencer Tweedy | Photo by Peter Hoffman

Spencer Tweedy is a musician and writer based in Chicago. He has performed on albums by Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, Pops Staples, Beck, and Norah Jones. In 2014, Spencer and his father, Jeff Tweedy, eponymously released their debut, Sukierae. Spencer has released two solo EPs, 2016’s Geezer Love and 2019’s Sleep Is My God. He has performed with his group, The Blisters, since 2002.