Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore are, in Mollie’s words, “practicing The Great Distancing from up in North Denver.”
“We have worked from home for a number of years now, and we each have our own spaces and offices,” Rich added. “We’re fortunate. I think that a lot every day.”
As touring musicians, a large part of their lives and livelihoods changed abruptly as measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
“When Rich and I played our last gig at the City of Longmont Museum’s Stewart Auditorium on March 5, we realized for the first time that we were being impacted by the virus,” Mollie told us. “The audience numbers just weren’t up to snuff.” The auditorium’s director told them he expected the facility to shut down completely in the near future, and that’s what happened.
“It took a full week from then for our gigs to start canceling like dominoes, and since then it’s been a whirlwind every day with the outlook looking bleaker and bleaker,” Mollie said.
Like many of us, that leaves them at home and keeping busy.
“I’m forcing myself (and sometimes desiring) to play music every day,” Rich said. “I’m healthy, so there’s really no excuse not to.”
“Frankly, I’m not able to concentrate on much,” Mollie admitted. “So, what I’m thinking about now is how all of this is going to pan out after we flatten the virus’ curve.”
“I pretty much gave up social networking on November 9, 2016,” she continued. “But I am a news junkie. We get both The Denver Post and The New York Times, and I feel that that gives me the real news. I also trust reading No Depression and other online newsletters that relate to the music business.”
Rich also feels these extraordinary times make it more difficult than normal to concentrate.
“So much is unknown about everything,” he elaborated. “And so it’s a bit harder to really focus on music.”
“I have been doing some recording and trying to learn how to use some rather complex (for me) software,” he said. “It’s a good distraction and allows for some creativity. But then maybe I’ll be watching some YouTube instructional video, and I suddenly flash, Oh my God! The world might be ending and here I am staring at a computer screen. Shouldn’t I be doing something more productive?”
Mollie has used the time to indulge in one of her passions, however.
“I’m cooking! And cooking. And cooking.” Mollie said. “And I’m loving it frankly. I’m making do with what we’ve got here and I don’t have to worry if anybody wants to hear it or listen to it or buy it – it’s just food.”
With regards to the music world and the current moment, both Mollie and Rich are keeping up to date on the periphery, while thinking ahead.
“We’re all going to need more and more music after this, maybe even more than we do now,” Mollie said. “So when this is all over I want to use my talents, if they’re still viable, to benefit places like Swallow Hill, my local food bank, and maybe even do a few small house concerts here in our small home.”
“There are lots of young musicians who aren’t in as fortunate a place as Rich and I are, and they’re going to need tons of support. I hope we can help with that.”
When asked about the role of music in uncertain times, Rich offers a nuanced answer. “I think it depends on who you ask.”
“For the non-business oriented musician (or non-musician for that matter), music can, as always, provide peace, anger, laughter. It can stimulate the imagination, and make you feel any and all emotions. That’s what’s so wonderful about music and has been for me since I first heard it. It made me feel something.”
“On the other hand,” he added, “if you’re in the music business-whoa! Panic is what you feel.”
Addressing the current moment, he added, “everyone has been hit and hit hard by this virus because of all the cancellations and shut-downs. I shudder to think what will happen when inevitably some of us actually get sick, or worse.”
“And so the initial response has been to take to social media and try to make up for it. Hawk your wares via the internet. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the need to do this completely— missed gigs and lessons, bills to pay, and driving it all, IT’S WHAT WE DO! And everyone from big stars to beginners are doing it. Some are good, some are great.”
“For want of a better description, the playing field is level. Someone described it as a virtual Folk Alliance at 2AM, as you wander aimlessly down the hallway of a showcase floor. “Step right up! Step right up!” For the time being though, I’m staying away from it. I may put a few new guitar pieces up in a while, if I ever get them recorded to my liking.”
Whatever unfolds, music will play a role in helping the world get through and to pick up the pieces on the other side.
“The word ‘unprecedented’ has been used so frequently but it’s true – we have no template for how to prepare for the future now,” Mollie said. “I just hope when it’s over that music will still be able to calm some of the savage beasts that lurk about in our world. We sure weren’t able to do that before this all happened. I hope it’s possible after.”
Keep up with Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore on their website. This interview was conducted via email the week of March 23, 2020.