The Show Goes On: N.H. Musician Returns To Playing Live Shows
For NHPR's series,The Show Goes On, we've been talking with artists across New Hampshire about what inspiration they've found and how they've been making it through the pandemic.
Jim Tyrrell is a musician based here in New Hampshire. NHPR first reached out to him about a year ago to ask how he was doing when everything was first shutting down. Morning Edition host Rick Ganley checked in with him recently to find out what he's been up to since then.
Rick Ganley: What's a working musician to do when you can't play music?
Jim Tyrrell: Before I made the run to be a full-time musician, I used to work as an embroidery digitizer. And that's what I'm doing kind of to get myself through until the shows pick up.
Rick Ganley: How long into the pandemic did you decide you needed to go back and do the day job?
Jim Tyrrell: You know, I made that transition once it got too cold to play outdoors. That was really the operating factor. I played shows safely outside on patios, at restaurants and stuff like that until it just got infeasible to do it.
Rick Ganley: Yeah. I mean, that must have been a very hard decision. I know that you have been a full-time working musician for a number of years now. So that must have been a tough, tough call to say, look, I've got to go back and do the day job.
Jim Tyrrell: You know, it's just an adjustment. You do what you have to do. And I'm incredibly lucky to have that skill set. I'd almost forgotten about it, honestly. I was just like, well, it's music or I'm in the gutter. That's all I've got. Believe me, I'm really looking forward to playing out regularly again.
Rick Ganley: Yeah, I know. When we talked this time last year, a little over a year ago now, at the beginning of the pandemic, you were playing some shows on Facebook Live. You were doing that to try to just to, you know, not get rusty, keep in touch with the fan base. But now you are starting to do some live shows as the weather warms up. What's that look like? How does that feel?
Jim Tyrrell: You know, restaurants are kind of finding their way into it, but they had last summer to kind of react and reposition themselves and figure out how everything was going to be laid out. So, you know, everything is a moving target right now. When you show up for a show, it's just, okay, how can we make this work? You know, we remember what this used to look like. How close can we get now? So you have to be flexible. But I know that the restaurants are excited to get back to business as usual or as close as we can get. And the people in the seats are just thrilled to hear live music and have that experience again. It's been great.
Rick Ganley: A lot of people showing up?
Jim Tyrrell: It's been, yeah, reasonably good. You know, it doesn't take long after that sun dips below the horizon for things to get pretty cold, though. So patio dining is a nice thing right now while it works. But, you know, sooner it will be a lot warmer out. It'll be easier to do.
Rick Ganley: What about indoor shows?
Jim Tyrrell: Well, there are indoor shows taking place. I, for one, am not doing it and I don't think I will for the foreseeable future. This summer I plan to keep everything outdoors, and that means that my job is weather dependent. And I've tried to minimize that impact in the past, but right now it feels like the right thing to do.
Rick Ganley: Pre pandemic, you had a circle of regular venues that you could play around New Hampshire, a few in northern Massachusetts. I know you did an East Coast tour in the last couple of years. Do you have gigs lined up now where you know that you're going to have regular, steady work this summer?
Jim Tyrrell: That is starting to happen. I'm getting some calls from these restaurants and venues that are putting their schedules together. So I can see, you know, through Labor Day this year, I can see that there's enough activity for me to really try to pursue that and build it into a full-time schedule. And like you were saying earlier, I can pad that a little bit by playing online. I still think the live show virtually through Facebook, or what have you, is going to continue to be a big part of what I do.
Rick Ganley: Why is that?
Jim Tyrrell: It's been fun. You know, honestly, it's been a good way to connect with an audience that is less than local or isn't likely to go out to the venues. But they're still very responsive. And it's been good to be able to connect with those people. And it's also nice to not have to load up all of the gear at the end of the night. I just kind of turn off the basement light and I'm done.
Rick Ganley: Yeah, I imagine so. So the pandemic really kind of changed how are you're going to do your craft going forward then?
Jim Tyrrell: Yes, I think it's left a permanent impact on my approach going forward. It's opened up some different strategies, some different opportunities. I would rather it hadn't happened, of course. But, you know, through these ways that we've had to kind of adapt what we do. I think all of the local musicians that I know have developed some different ways to do what they do. And I think that there are good things in that. And I know some musicians who've done what I've done and said, you know, I just need to supplement with something else. And I'm just going to go back, and put on the uniform, and get to work and see what the future brings.
Rick Ganley: Yeah, because as much fun and collaboration as you can have online, you're not getting the revenue. You're not making money.
Jim Tyrrell: Well, that's true. There is an opportunity to make tips online as well. But it's rare that the show is underwritten in the way that going and playing at a venue would be. That said, I have had a few friends reach out and say we'd like to sponsor a show. Here's some ideas for the song list that we'd like to hear and here is kind of a base pay that we can offer. And I'm far be it for me to turn my nose up at something like that. It's lovely that somebody takes that kind of an interest. So I really enjoy doing those.
Rick Ganley: What about creatively? What music have you gotten out of this last year as far as writing and, you know, performing new songs?
Jim Tyrrell: You would think that with a year at home, I would be much more prolific and it would be like, oh, I can focus on my songwriting. That isn't always the way it goes. I'm sure plenty of people looked at this as an opportunity to be creative and it really didn't pan out like that. It's funny because you also kind of remove the inspiration in a lot of ways. You know, life comes to a standstill and you don't have that input so often. You don't have any output as a result. But I have written a few things. I've taken part in the online songwriting competition Song Fight!, which I've done for years. And, you know, I'm working on my finger picking on the guitar. I've been able to kind of bring my skill level up a little bit there too.
Rick Ganley: So what are you most looking forward to as people are getting vaccinated, as the world gets back to whatever normal is going to look like at some point?
Jim Tyrrell: You know, over the last couple of weeks, like we talked about, I've been able to sit in front of some audiences and do what I do, and play these shows, and see the reactions on people's faces and hear their voices, and just yell out random requests and just enjoy that space. And I knew I missed it, but I didn't realize how much.