Jason Isbell: Coronavirus Pandemic Shutdowns Will End Many Artists’ Careers
As shutdowns due to the novel coronavirus pandemic stretch on, Jason Isbell says the music community is likely to lose more and more members, as some performers will no longer be able to afford to be part of the creative industry. Up-and-coming artists, as well as those who have lengthy careers but often struggle to make ends meet under normal circumstances, will have neither the financial ability nor the spaces to perform anymore.
"I think we're gonna wind up missing out on a lot of really great artists: a lot of people who, had the virus not come through or ... had we shut it down pretty quickly, a lot of these people still would have been struggling," Isbell says in a recent interview on MSNBC. Despite not finding commercial success or opting to stay independent, "a lot of them still have very valid art, and very good music that they're making, and they're out there trying to deliver that to people," he adds.
"I don't think we'll ever really know, really, what the cost culturally is ... and that's a shame," Isbell continues. "We're gonna miss out on a lot of people who otherwise might have made some folks really happy and connected with music."
Isbell admits that he and his wife, fellow musician Amanda Shires, have some artist friends "we have a lot of concern for right now." The singer says that he's lucky and fortunate to be able to stay home with his family and continue to make music largely without worry during the pandemic, "but had this happened to me 10 years ago ... I would have been in a much worse situation."
Still, Isbell misses his time on the road and with his band, the 400 Unit. "It could be worse for us, that's for sure ... [but] at the same time, you know, sometimes I just break down in tears because I miss playing rock 'n' roll with my band on tour. I miss it really, really badly," he confesses.
"But we're just gonna be safe and wait," Isbell adds. "That's all we can do."
Isbell and Shires' daughter Mercy, who will turn five in September, is "pretty happy with the quarantine situation," her dad says. She's enjoying having both of her parents home and mostly free from work obligations, though she's spent plenty of time on the road during her life so far, so even she will occasionally miss it. Isbell shares that Mercy has sometimes asked to "pretend that she's in a hotel for the day."
Isbell and the 400 Unit recently released a new album, Reunions, on May 8.
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