These California Musicians Are Finding Inspiration in Isolation
A list of some of our favorite songs and videos coming out of quarantine.
- CategoryMusic + Culture
- Written byRich Thomas
For a musician, the inability to tour behind new material is both artistically frustrating and financially terrifying. With digital content being the only consumable form of entertainment while the world is in quarantine, there’s a lot of white noise out there, and independent artists are fighting for attention and airtime.
Still, many are using this time at home to create homemade videos to support new songs, or writing and recording songs inspired specifically by current events. We assembled a few of our favorites from homegrown California artists below:
Jasmine Ash “Same Sun”
LA-based artist Jasmine Ash actually wrote “Same Sun” over a year ago, but the city’s Safer At Home orders inspired its timely release, as well as the creation of this video. Directed by Ash’s husband, Brendan Walter, the video features “friends and strangers”—many of whom Ash reached out to via apps like Next Door—interacting with Ash while maintaining social distance.
The heartwarming video shows a beautifully diverse selection of LA and its residents, from City Terrace to Silverlake, and is testament to the magic of the Southland community.
Alexander Jean “Nevermind” (Stay At Home Version)
BC Jean and Mark Alexander Ballas are a husband and wife duo hailing from Southern California whose music toes the line between country and pop. In 2008, Jean co-wrote Beyoncé’s “If I Were A Boy” with Toby Gad, and landed on the industry radar, where she signed to J Records. Since 2016, the two have released a pair of EPs and, most recently, a pair of new singles: “For Anybody Wondering” and “Nevermind.” This Stay At Home version strips away all the percussion and vocal effects to reveal the duo’s arresting harmonies and Ballas’ dexterous finger-picking. And the glances they share as they perform are the epitome of relationship goals.
Gateway Drugs “Slumber”
Who says siblings make terrible bandmates? Liv, Noa and Gabe Niles are the three brothers and sisters that make up the LA four-piece Gateway Drugs. “Slumber” is the second single off the band’s sophomore LP, PSA, which was released this month on Future Shock Records and is produced by the Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner. For this video, shot during quarantine, the band invites their fans to spend a day with them as they bounce between the studio and various neighborhoods around the city.
Jess Williamson “Smoke”
“This song is about a codependent relationship,” says singer/songwriter Jess Williamson of her latest single, “Smoke.” “It’s told from the perspective of the person who keeps giving and giving and, on some level, they like it.” Her homemade video—shot with her iPhone at home—speaks to feelings of stir craziness that we’re all experiencing during quarantine, and fits with the song’s forlorn and frustrated emotional undertone. Williamson’s new album, Sorceress, is out May 15 on Mexican Summer.
Jenny O “I Don’t Want to Live Alone Anymore”
Jenny’s upcoming album, New Truth—which she describes as the “continued misadventures of an introvert in Hollywood”—won’t be available until June 19 (Mama Bird Recording Co.), but she’s already released three amazing singles. Her second one, the unintentional yet ironically titled “I Don’t Want to Live Alone Anymore,” features a DIY video shot, edited and directed by Jenny while in quarantine in Los Angeles. Says Jenny of the song: “I never would have thought this song would come out while the world was in isolation, but I guess this is its time. The only time I ever lived truly alone, I felt nuts. I am amused by obsessive rearranging and celebration of my things.”
Distant Cousins feat. Lindsey Ray “Here & Now”
The Distant Cousins in question—Dov Rosenblatt, Duvid Swirsky and Ami Kozak—all met while playing in separate bands back in 2012, and the depth and flavor of their West Coast folk music is matched only by their taste in fedoras. “Here & Now” is the title track off their forthcoming live album, and was actually written only 2 weeks before California went into quarantine. As such, the video, which features Nashville singer Lindsey Ray, was recorded through video conferencing. Lyrics like “there won’t always be tomorrow, all we have is here and now” and “the closer I get to the goal the less I know” serve as poignant reflections on our current state of affairs.
There’s terrain to be navigated for all levels.