Today marks day 57 of the UK's lockdown since March 20. It's been easier to cope with the situation knowing that our relatives are safe but I know everyone has found it difficult to adjust to the new normal. In my environment, I don't know many people who haven't not worked for the last ten years of their lives. And myself, even on my days off, I have always been busy with my own projects. Then suddenly, we find ourselves with so much time on our hands that we even have time for an actual break, a pause to relax and reset our batteries. We're not exhausted, we're not starving by night time and we're not desperate to sit down anymore. It's a wonderful feeling, and catching up with hobbies has been one of the strongest ways of connecting with ourselves again.
One of the greatest things about staying home is the opportunity to play your favourite music any time at any volume. Suddenly though, music no longer becomes just a background but rather something that keeps you company. Like a good friend that will adjust to any one of your moods like a perfectly fitting glove. And it is no secret that the best music in the world comes from England; The Beatles from Liverpool, Queen from London, the Kaiser Chiefs from Leeds...
This next story comes from a true music enthusiast from Leeds, where music is the soul of the city and home to over sixty bands who've made it to the charts.
"I know these times have made a lot of us evaluate and reflect. The forced slower pace of life has given people time to really think.
One thing I've rediscovered is music. Sounds strange, as music is always around; whether it's playing in the background at work, on TV shows, blaring out of a stranger's headphones on the bus... I've always loved music, my younger self spent all her spare money going to gigs and festivals and loved it more than anything.
I've been lucky enough to see some amazing artists live. I found that nothing makes me feel as alive as being in a crowd of people, all there for the same reason. When that special song starts to play – the one that is the most popular or most loved and that resonates with every single person present - and the crowd rejoices... everything else in life is forgotten; all that is important is that moment and the outside world doesn't exist.
I remember seeing The Killers at a festival years ago. I was in that moment. Nothing else existed. “All These Things That I've Done” was playing out and every single person in the crowd was singing out at the top of their lungs. Friends and strangers alike were jumping up and down in unison, their arms around each other's shoulders. For those few minutes, there was only one aim: to sing, surrounded by others who felt exactly the same. No judgement, no inhibitions; just a pure love for the music. There was only one thing that managed to distract me in that moment. A guy somewhere around me shouted out, “This is what you live for!” I turned to the friend I was with and we both smiled. We knew it was true.
Of course, that's something that can't happen right now.
Over the years, I seem to have listened to music less and less. It somehow became a rare treat to just sit and listen to music (or dance around the bedroom to it). I've tried and failed to pinpoint a specific time when this happened. Is it something that happens as you get older and “life gets in the way”?
But the last few weeks, life has paused. There's nothing to get in the way of. We have suddenly been left with nothing but time.
Of course, we know the benefits music has on a person's brain; it reduces stress and anxiety, improves memory and has even been shown to provide a level of pain relief. But there's more to it than that. It has a way of reaching the soul without even trying. If you're overjoyed, there's a song for it. If you're heartbroken, there's a song for that. Someone else's thoughts and feelings are put down in music and sometimes they resonate with you so much, it's as though you could have written them yourself. Victor Hugo once said, “Music expresses that which cannot be spoken and that which cannot stay silent.” At a time like this, those words have never felt more apt.
One evening, I was feeling fed up, tired and trapped in the situation we have all found ourselves in. Scrolling through Instagram, I came across one of my favourite musicians playing a few songs, just him and a guitar in his kitchen. Within an hour, I was happy, energised and inspired, finding myself singing along and even dancing a little. A person I've never met (apart from the time when I was 17 and queued up at 5am for a CD signing way back in 2006...) had managed to completely lift my spirits. He read out from the comments all the different countries that people were watching from: Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Japan... People from all around the world were watching, all for the same reason and it suddenly occurred to me. There it was again - that feeling of unity, shared love of music and joy - that live music brings you. For those few moments, nothing else mattered apart from the music.
The next day, with a renewed energy and enthusiasm, I started playing the keyboard for the first time in years. I've been writing more and more everyday, with old, forgotten songs brought back to life and new, exciting discoveries also found.
The soundtrack to my Lockdown."