Seattle-based drummer and singer-songwriter Heather Thomas had grand plans for 2020. After releasing her sophomore EP Open Up last year, Thomas hit the road, planning a nearly year-long journey with the intention of spending each month in a different city, exploring different music scenes and connecting with creatives all over the country. The ambitious plan put her in Los Angeles, then the San Francisco Bay Area, and then Austin just before SXSW – and that’s where she was when news of the pandemic hit hard, with the announcement that SXSW was cancelled.
“The town went from buzzing with anticipation for the busiest time of year, to a ghost town within a matter of days,” says Thomas.
The rapid closures of businesses and restrictions placed on social gathering thwarted plans Thomas had to “play as much music as possible” and connect with new people. Fortunately, a generous friend (and Austin bandmate) was able to provide a place to stay in the weeks that followed the shutdowns, so she was able to “shelter in place” safely while spending the next six weeks fully isolated.
“Isolation is an interesting reality, and it affects everyone differently, although anyone experiencing it will undoubtedly share some common feelings and emotions,” says Thomas. “If you were following along on social media, people were struggling with disrupted sleep patterns, worries about income loss, anxiety over ‘what to do next,’ and loneliness, along with many other shared feelings.”
One particular day, she finally found herself awake in the early morning—the best time of day to sit on the front porch and catch the warm Texas sun rising while the birds, bugs, and lizards went on with their lives, untouched by the fears of a global pandemic.
“I was inside on the couch when I sang to myself ‘I’m just sittin’ in the living room waitin’ on the times to change’ and I felt like I was probably feeling something that so many other people were feeling,” she recalls. “There wasn’t much we could do to fix things. There was just this feeling of helplessness coupled with the reality that we’d have to figure out a way through.”
The final song, as Thomas anticipated, resonates far beyond the walls of her cozy Texas home away from home. And the simple performance in the video—filmed alone in a bedroom in Austin, Texas on an Osmo Pocket camera, with Thomas sitting on her yellow bedspread, singing her heart out—augments the intimacy of her isolation confessions as well as her incredible vocal strength and acuity. It’s a real anthem for the times, and a song that reminds us that we can still find a sense of peace and togetherness through music.
Thomas was able to get aback on the road recently and is currently in Albuquerque on a shared property. From there, Thomas plans to try and get back to her mission of exploring as many music scenes as possible this year – safely, of course.
“I intended to get out of my comfort zone and learn and adapt, so this is me learning and adapting. I don’t know what the upcoming months will look like, and for the time being I’m not trying to make plans too far ahead,” she says. “But I’ll have to keep moving on. It’s a new challenge, as I can no longer move from place to place, staying with friends for a few days at a time. I have to adjust my timeline and housing needs based on new safety precautions. But there’s no one way to exist in this time, and everyone has to find for themselves what feels right and how they feel the most safe.”
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