Timothy Showalter of Strand of Oaks – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, October 25th, 2020  

Timothy Showalter of Strand of Oaks – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“I have not been able to get tested yet but I had all the symptoms and it was unlike any illness I ever had.”

May 29, 2020
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We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with Timothy Showalter of Strand of Oaks

We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people). 

We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in. 

Showalter is the main creative force behind Strand of Oaks. He was born in Goshen, Indiana in 1982, but for many years was based in Philadelphia, PA before more recently moving to Austin, TX. He’s been through a lot in his near 38 years of life (including once having his house burn down and surviving a potentially deadly car crash with his wife Sue) and hasn’t shied away from baring his soul in song. There were more demons to face before he could begin recording his most recent album, 2019’s acclaimed Eraserland. Showalter found himself crippled with self-doubt and convinced he would never write another song. Concerned for his own wellbeing, he took a trip to the Jersey Shore, in what a press release announcing the album described as a “spiritual pilgrimage.” It was then that some of his friends came to his aid. His buddies in My Morning Jacket, especially Carl Broemel, heard Showalter was in a bad way and offered their assistance in recording the next Strand of Oaks album, that they could be his backing band. So Showalter got to writing and demoing the new album in February 2017, alone in Wildwood, NJ. Then the album was recorded in Louisville in April 2017.

The majority of My Morning Jacket (Broemel, Bo Koster, Patrick Hallahan, and Tom Blankenship) back-up Showalter on Eraserland, which also features Jason Isbell and Emma Ruth Rundle. Kevin Ratterman produced the album. All of the album’s singles made our Songs of the Week lists and the album landed at #5 on our Top 100 Albums of 2019 list.

Read on as Showalter reflects on his COVID-19 experience so far. He also submitted a photo of himself under quarantine.

Where are spending the quarantine and who are you spending it with? If you’re spending it with other people, have you found that the quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension?

I am spending this time down in Austin, TX where I live. We bought a house last summer. I’ve actually spent a lot of time during quarantine learning to be thankful for so many things. Having many tasks and projects [have] kept me busy everyday and Austin has been my dream city for many years and just the weather greatly improves my state of mind. Most importantly I get to spend everyday with my best friend. My wife Sue is the kind of partner that I just being around, even before all this we kind of created a world that just we can inhabit.   

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?

Thankfully yes. My family is mostly in Indiana and healthy. I actually at the end of February got extremely sick for a week. I have not been able to get tested yet but I had all the symptoms and it was unlike any illness I ever had. My fever got a point where I was hallucinating and had like three blankets over me and still shivering. I hope I can get the antibody test to clarify if I had it or not.   

What’s your daily routine been like? Have you spent much time outdoors? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home?

As I said earlier I have been joyously busy being outside moving rocks, gardening, building furniture; all the stuff I never got to do living in a apartments in Philly on and off for almost 20 years. This spring was already going to be scheduled for me to write a new record so I’m actually almost done writing.  

What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term? 

I’ve had to clear away an entire summer of shows and festivals which is definitely sad.  Strand of Oaks is a blue collar middle class band, so I’ve kind of always operated like it could all go away at any minute so I’m pretty prepared for downtimes. I have opening bands that have much higher operating costs than me at this point. I just hate spending money anyways which always helps. Also my wife has a worked extremely hard in her career so I always joke that I belong to the bank of Sue.  

Do you trust the government and our leaders (such as President Trump) to effectively deal with the pandemic? What most concerns you about the response of elected leaders at home and abroad? 

I don’t want to give that fool anymore time than he already gets. What I trust most is science and the fact that there are still incredibly smart people in this world that are working very hard to get us out of this pandemic. I optimistically hope that just like when we went to the moon, right now all the smart people are shooting for the same target.   

How do you think the crisis will affect this November’s U.S. presidential election? Will it make it easier or harder to defeat Trump? 

All we can do is vote him out, and try and eradicate this nightmare.  

Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful?

I think everyone should be careful with how they consume news. Its purpose should be looking for facts and trying to decipher what is important and weed out the rest. It’s also something that does not help your state of mind when you constantly are adding to your own existing anxieties.   

What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home?

That’s very hard to say. I really hope this centers our society into reassessing what’s important and that is just taking care of each other and looking out for what’s best for us all. Speculation can be dangerous, especially when this pandemic evolves and changes hour by hour.  

Are your parents, grandparents, and others in your life who are at risk taking social distancing seriously? If not, what lengths have you gone to in order to convince them to stay inside?

Very much. My grandma is 87 and she is using great precautions, as well as my parents.  

What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time? 

My best hope is that the music industry puts artists first. We are the creators and why any of these people have jobs. Without us they have nothing. Just protect the creators at all cost.  

What is the best way fans can support you financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowd sourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight? 

I have a very supportive and amazing fanbase so I’m very lucky to have those fans. I cherish them. And yes all of the above try and find direct ways to support the artist and when the time is right to start playing shows again we’ll all celebrate together.   

Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine?

My biggest hobby right now is work. I know it sounds generalized but I love creating work to do. It’s the Hoosier in me coming out. Idle hands opens the door to so many unnecessary problems. Starting and finishing a task is the greatest way to fight the darkness. 

Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?

I have done a few and enjoyed them thoroughly! My main problems come with making them sound good. I also love playing solo and have done it for years but at the same time miss being a rock band and having that visceral connection through volume. In other words I miss drums!!!

Has the quarantine been a fertile creative time (are you writing or recording new music, for example) or have you found it hard to focus on creative endeavors? 

As I said earlier I had already planned for this time to write a new record so that takes up most of my days. It’s all consuming in the best of ways. I found it very centering to mix manual labor and deeply creative work. It’s a great match for me.  

www.strandofoaks.net

www.strandofoaks.bandcamp.com

www.twitter.com/Strandofoaks

www.facebook.com/strandofoaks/

Also read our 2019 interview with Strand of Oaks on Eraserland.

Also read our My Firsts interview with Strand of Oaks.

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