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IT was 10 years since he’d gone out on his own but instead of celebrating his milestone decade Liverpool musician Chris McIntosh spent most of 2020 at home like everyone else.
“It’s as if that year didn’t happen, that someone pressed pause,” he says.
But if nothing else it’s given him a renewed feeling of optimism and an urge to move positively into this year and the future: “It was a hard year, an incredible year,” he admits, “but it feels amazing to be getting back to it all and having that sense of purpose again.
“Just seeing gigs announced, and posters on the walls again, makes everything feel that bit more positive.”
Chris, 39, resists ‘stating the obvious’ that last year was a terrible one. Most of his income comes from live music and events – he’s also a host for bongo’s Bingo – and everything came to a stop.
“For the first two months it was almost enjoyable,” he admits. “At that point of course we didn’t know it was going to go on for another 12 and it just felt like a couple of months that we could be off work and then get back to it, that it would otherwise be okay.
“I have got two children, Martha who’s eight, and Juno who’s one, and my partner Anna was off on maternity leave. So we did get chance to spend time together as a family unit, time that we will never have again which is, and was, good.
“But as time went on it became obvious that it (Covid) wasn’t going away and it became darker.”
Chris was furloughed for about six months from Bongo’s and received financial help from organisations like copyright collective PRS for Music and the Help Musicians UK charity: “It did get difficult without that financial security. It was worrying when you sat down to do the accounts as a family.
“But I still got some money from royalities that were really welcome every three months and Anna went back to work and so that helped, although the NHS isn’t renowned for being the most generous. When we were teased with the thought of going back to work, it was about making it through until then.
“We were lucky in many respects but we had to pull together.”
When lockdown first happened, with his other band Haarm, Silent Sleep founder, singer and songwriter Chris was just about to release a single with a series of live shows to promote it.
“We didn’t know whether to go ahead and release the single or hang fire and wait,” says Chris. “We gave it a go but it didn’t work, so we decided to take the foot off the brake and take a year off, although we did loads of writing.”
Chris did start live-streaming shows on his own.
“With the band, we decided the time was better spent with our families and writing. I live-streamed shows on my own with Silent Sleep. It’s easier to organise with just yourself, technically and logistically, so I just set up in my home studio with a webcam and an account that fans subscribed to.
“I did it a lot at the start, behind the scenes stuff, production sessions and live streams. I enjoyed it and I think there will be a positive hangover from lockdown with more musicians live streaming.
“But it will never replace live gigs and the interaction between the artist and the audience.”
It’s a big time for Silent Sleep. Its 2015 album, Stay The Night, Stay the Morning, which was originally released digitally is now being released on vinyl.
“My friend Graham Jones, who owns Defend Vinyl record shop in Smithdown Road, and I decided to start our own label (Defend Vinyl Records) with only vinyl releases and this will be the first.
“We are pressing 250 copies so it’s a limited edition and then doing shows from September. I will probably do something in Liverpool with a band and then an acoustic tour throughout the UK.
“Haarm and I have had our year off and we’ll be recording again later in the year.”
As for most musicians now, Chris says the shackles are coming off and audiences can’t wait to get back into venues.
“I think the industry will come back. There is such an appetite for entertainment whether it’s live music or theatre, or whatever; people are desperate to get back to it.
“Keeping an eye on the Covid numbers, every day seems to be going in the right direction and as long as people feel they are in a safe environment, they will be raring to go.
“There will be such a flurry, it will make up – or start to make up – for some of the losses. I’m looking forward to it and I’m feeling positive. I think we all are.”
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