Music goes viral

Over the past few months, Amythyst Kiah, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter based in Johnson City, has conducted many of her performances out of her room at home.

“I remember one morning I woke up, and I looked over to my right and I had two TV trays with my laptop and microphone set up, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God. This is supposed to be where I rest,’” she said.

Like all professionals, musicians have had to adapt to the obstacles posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Gigs began disappearing in March, and Kiah, who spends much of her time on tour, said she never thought her career choice would involve her working from home.

But that’s what she’s been doing since April.

“It’s fine in the beginning,” she said, “but over time … the brain likes having these different aspects of your life separated, right? Because when you go to your bedroom that’s where you want to lay down and rest and want to kind of chill out, and so waking up that morning and seeing all my equipment set up from last night I’m like, ‘Yep, this is 2020. This is just kind of how it is right now.’”

Working from home has, however, given Kiah much more free time.

“I’ve been really getting back into cooking, I’ve been able to really focus on doing more physical activity and focusing more on my wellness,” Kiah said. “I’ve just filled my time up with other things that have helped me continue to grow and learn as a person.”

Many of the venues and festivals that Kiah was going to play this year have moved online, which means she’s either performing livestreams or producing pre-recorded videos of her songs for shows.

Kiah said there are some distinct benefits associated with performing via a livestream. The performances are automatically saved and accessible to anyone from any time zone, and there are a lot of logistical complications that are eliminated when you can work from home.

On Saturday, Kiah and her band performed as part of a “No Contact Concert Series” at Catawba Brewery in North Carolina, where she played a livestreamed show.

She’s also learned a lot more about shooting video, editing and the versatility of producing content just with her phone.

One major drawback, however, is the loss of a live audience.

“What can never be replaced is that energy that you feel with the audience,” Kiah said. “That can’t really be replicated.”

Seeing excited comments come through over a livestream is probably the closest it gets to feeling live, Kiah said.

“At the end of the day I signed up to be a touring musician, so I obviously want to be doing that as soon as it’s safe and makes sense,” Kiah said.

Kiah said she’s gone frequently and hasn’t been able to play in the area as much, but she cried when she learned that the Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room, a venue she’s performed at in the past, would be permanently closing.

“I’ve never cried when a business closed,” Kiah said, “but that’s just an example of, ‘Oh my God. Even in my moments of being able to find joy and peace … you’re reminded of the time we’re in.’”

Kiah said the Willow Tree was a unique space, offering a daytime cafe and a connected music venue. She noted that owner Teri Dosher’s love of live music and commitment to the idea of opening her own spot brought a level of authenticity to the business.

“Every venue around here has its own energy, its own feel, which I think it’s great to have that kind of variety, but she had this just raw, ‘I want to do this,’” Kiah said.