Pandemic Throws Album Releases, Recording Plans Into Limbo

Apr 14, 2020

For musicians, releasing an album should be a joyous occasion, with years of hard work finally paying off. But the novel coronavirus outbreak is forcing changes in plans. 

Singer-songwriter Chad Elliott, who lives in Lamoni, was all set to record his newest record at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with Bo Ramsey as a co-producer. That plan is now currently in limbo.

“There was a lot of preparation that went into it,” said Elliott. “I had been working with Bo on the tunes and reworking the songs, lining up engineers and players. I even had a photographer and videographer who were coming from California and Maryland. These logistics aren't very easy to line up when you perform as much as I do. I really had to buckle down to make it happen. Months of preparation halted in only a matter of a few days.”

It was very deflating, but to be honest, as we got closer and closer to our studio time I was not ready to cut a record with so much anxiety looming over us. - Chad Elliott

  As the situation worsened, Elliott and his team of musicians and producers found themselves in a tough spot. On March 21st, they made the decision to indefinitely postpone production on the album.

Elliott says that some of the players who were going to support the album were in high risk categories for illness.

“It was very deflating, but to be honest, as we got closer and closer to our studio time I was not ready to cut a record with so much anxiety looming over us,” said Elliott. “It was a bit of a relief. We didn't want to put anyone at risk by carrying on as normal, because these are not normal circumstances.”

Iowa City’s Elizabeth Moen was planning a May release for her newest record, which she funded through a Kickstarter campaign, but the virus has slowed down the process of finishing the record. 

Although a lot of parts were recorded, she still has a lot of “fine tuning” to do, and some songs still need lead vocals and harmonies.

“I initially felt sad, and sometimes still do,” Moen said. “I so badly want to find a label, release the record, and keep things moving. I really love performing too, so a release tour is something I was looking forward to.”

Moen is still able to do some work on the record, along with her co-producer Scott McDowell, who’s quarantined in California.

“I have a setup that will work for finishing things here in isolation,” said Moen. “I’m thankful for technology keeping this record moving, and being able to keep in contact with collaborators, friends, and family.”

Not everything got pushed back, some artists are releasing new music early

For others with finished records, it made sense to go ahead and release music earlier than planned, while everyone is being asked to stay at home and practice social distancing.

Longtime Iowa favorites The Nadas were set to go on tour in support of their new record, “Duo Numero Uno.” Unlike past Nadas records, the album only features the two frontmen of the band, Jason Walsmith and Mike Butterworth. 

It seems people are being reminded of how music can be entertaining and distracting, and possibly even soothing. - Jason Walsmith

 The album will appear on streaming services on May 19th, and all of the duo’s scheduled tour dates will be streamed online.

“We decided maybe people would like to listen since they were mostly sheltering-in-place and could listen while they worked from home,” said Walsmith. “It seems people are being reminded of how music can be entertaining and distracting, and possibly even soothing.” 

Erik Jarvis, a singer-songwriter and producer from Grinnell, is another artist who released his album in response to the crisis. 

Jarvis is best-known for being one of the two voices of Pink Neighbor, along with his partner Katie In. His first solo record, “Daydream Moon,” has been finished for a while, but he had a lot of unanswered, nagging decisions about how to release it. 

“So in our stay-at-home situation, some of these decisions were made for me,” said Jarvis. “No shows? Ok, one less thing to worry about for the release. Bandcamp waiving their revenue share?  Nice bonus. People staying home all day and listening, really listening to music? The ‘right time’ to release music is mostly arbitrary, and I knew if I sat on the album much longer it would lose relevance to me, so I just decided to go for it!”

“I have been blown away by the support the album has received,” said Jarvis. “We never really know how people will respond to our art, and it's always gratifying when even just one listener can connect.”

Artists are known for their creativity, and there's no lack of that as those who can't tour or gig are trying to connect with their audiences and are rearranging thier plans. But there's no doubt everyone is ready to get back to performing for live, in-person audiences. In the meantime, artists like Elliott, and the rest of us, are making due. 

“The entire crew and players agreed to look at new dates as soon as things open up again,” said Elliott. “I imagine when we do go into the studio, we will all just shake our heads at these unprecedented times...and then cut a damn good album.”