Walter Martin – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Walter Martin – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“I’m an optimistic person but not necessarily about the future of our world.”

Apr 21, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

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 Walter Martin (formerly of The Walkmen).

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.

Last week Martin shared a hilarious new COVD-19 themed song, “Quarantine Boogie (Loco),” that featured guest vocals from Matt Berninger of The National. It was shared via a video that also featured Berninger. In connection with the song Martin is hoping to raise money for City Harvest to benefit New York City public school kids in need. The song is very much of the times, humorously getting into the challenges of being quarantined with your spouse and kids, home schooling, the toilet paper shortage, the live streamed concerts from Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, and a Netflix show everyone is talking about. Stuart Bogie also contributes horn accompaniment to the song. “Quarantine Boogie (Loco)” was our #1 Song of the Week, because in these dark times some much needed levity is very much welcome.

Martin had this to say about the song in a press release: “I made this song hoping to make enough of a fool of myself to inspire people to join my City Harvest team and donate money. They are doing amazing work feeding people in NYC right now, and helping get food to public school kids who rely on school breakfast and lunch. I hope you can laugh at my song during these hard times and please join my City Harvest team and donate HERE.”

Martin released a new solo album, The World At Night, in January via Ile Flottante Music. It was his fifth solo album since The Walkmen went on hiatus in 2013.

Read on as Martin reflects on his COVID-19 experience so far. Martin also submitted photos of himself under quarantine.

Where are you 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’m with my wife and two daughters in Upstate NY. My wife usually travels a lot for work so we are all thankful to be together this much but yes, tensions rise easily—my girls are six and seven and know how to drive us crazy.

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?

Yes, thanks. We are all feeling fine thankfully.

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 exist in a small air pocket on the underbelly of the music business where somehow touring is not required. I mostly write for TV, film, or work with my publisher on licensing my songs, so I’m okay for now.

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 do not trust Trump in the slightest, obviously. He is a monster. I think [New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo has been really good—smart and honest, putting out real information and getting things done. Before all this happened, I was already very fearful about world leaders’ ability to get important things done together. Look at the climate crisis. So I’m pretty fearful these days. Not a great feeling. I’m an optimistic person but not necessarily about the future of our world.

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

I read The New York Times and The Washington Post. And for health and mental health information I follow my sister Dr. Lucy McBride, who is a brilliant and kick ass MD in D.C. She started a social media campaign to spread facts not fear during this crisis. Follow her at—it’s the best info out there I think.

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

I hope things change. I hope people change and the world changes and becomes kinder and less selfish and less horrible. Things were going in a pretty bad direction before all this and I guess the hope is that this crisis wakes us up a bit. We’ll see.

If you have school-aged kids, how have you been dealing with homeschooling and how are your kids adjusting to life at home and away from friends?

We have two girls in public school in Brooklyn. Somehow their amazing teachers have mastered the art of virtual teaching very quickly. It’s very, very inspiring. The girls are still learning, still seeing their friends, and still interacting with their teachers. I’m so thankful for these wonderful teachers—and for my wife who has been working so hard with the girls while I’ve been working on music.

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?

It took my parents a little bit to get as serious as I was early on. I had to…raise my voice a few times. They are in D.C. They got really serious about social distancing etc. about a week after I did. Thankfully they are dong fine and my sister (the doctor) is nearby.

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?

Honestly the best way to support me right now is to join my team at City Harvest and donate to help feed NYC public school kids in need during this crisis. I released a ridiculous song last week to raise awareness for this important non-profit. They are doing incredible work and they need money! Join my team and donate here.

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

I listen to Bob Dylan’s new song “Murder Most Foul” when I go running. It’s like a dream come true for me. A 17-minute gorgeous droning song with Bob talking about everything under the sun. It’s fantastic. Kind of like he’s tapping all us lowly songwriters on the shoulder and saying, “Hey. You’re doing it wrong.”

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’m a reluctant performer so I don’t do the live-stream thing. I’d rather make recordings. That’s where I can do my thing. So, as you guys know, I released a new song about lockdown called “Quarantine Boogie (Loco)” last week. I got some friends to record remotely and made a video on iMovie.

Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?

I run a lot but I don’t stretch and during this time I’m trying to be patient and to stretch before and after I run. It’s so fucking boring though.

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?

It has actually been a very productive and busy time for me. I have tons of stuff in the works for various projects so my mind is very occupied.

Beyond the obvious items (such as toilet paper), what things have you made sure to get from the grocery store when stocking up? And, also, do you have any toilet paper?

Yes we have toilet paper. I got spooked very early in this thing and I got all the stuff early, hoping we’d never need it. People made fun of me. Being an anxious, fearful person pays off occasionally. Stay safe.

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