Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
A group on social media provides a new home for artists in New Mexico
By Christina Stock
Very few artists were hit as hard as musicians when the health regulations were set in place amid the COVID-19 crisis. Many of these artists travel from town to town and gig to gig, such as Patrick Hamilton is. Hamilton considers Roswell one of his home bases. In a phone interview, he shared his experiences with the pandemic when it first hit, locking down all means to make a living in his chosen profession.
“Unfortunately, it (the pandemic) came at a pretty bad time for me and a lot of people,” Hamilton said. “I typically winter in Texas or New Mexico — someplace warm. I have a couple of home bases and I usually leave in spring, so I lined up some gigs and classes to teach. I usually hit the road pretty broke. I just started off the first week of March; I hit the road and people started talking about the coronavirus and COVID-19 and China. Then — it was about a week into the road — I think after my first little gig and everybody started canceling.”
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Hamilton said that at first he hoped that it would blow over, but more and more of venues canceled. “I had to find a place to stay, so I held up in a hotel for a week and spent all my money, thinking something is going to happen,” he said. “I was just outside of home in Texas, near Denton, Texas and I headed up here (to Roswell) because the only gig that hadn’t canceled yet was the brewery and the job corps. They both canceled as I got up here. I have always been a pretty resourceful traveler, so I thought when worse comes to worst, I can go and street perform, but when I found out why the gigs were canceling, coffee shops, bars and gatherings were all closing down — there was no place to go. You can’t go stand in front of a bar or downtown because there is nobody there.”
Hamilton found a place to perform, he said, “Marie Manning is the booker there (Roswell) and found the talent last year for the UFO Festival and she’s a tremendous supporter for all the bands. I’ve been watching her live stream here in Roswell every day. She had several people over to do live-stream concerts because their gigs are canceling, but she’s still trying to keep the music going. I played that on Friday and then, luckily — this is my second home — I have family and friends in town, so I am staying with a friend of mine.”
Hamilton joined a local Facebook group that was created by singer and songwriter Ila Perry, who is known as Nova Rush. Perry had been staging open microphone (mic) events at the brewery where she worked. With social distancing, this stopped as well, but she found a new media to support her artist friends and perform herself. In a phone interview, she explained how it works: “It’s kind of how open mic works when you go into a bar or restaurant. You play a few of your songs, it can be originals, covers, whatever. The idea is to go in there and it being live and that way I give artists a chance to attach their PayPal (in her Facebook group) and that works like a virtual tip jar for people to watch.
People are watching at home and are enjoying the music that is playing and if they really dig it, they click that link and shoot you a couple of bucks. It helps artists because we all have tours and shows canceled because of the coronavirus and the pandemic happening. Also, it gives us a time to reflect on our music and ourselves as an artist to work on our music and have a chance to show it to people. We get an idea of what we want to do with our art.”
Perry was inspired by another group, she said. “One of my friends is a musician in Ruidoso, he added me to this group, and it’s just full of people all over the U.S. It’s not specifically for one area. Everyone is getting together and supporting each other. Let’s be there for each other while the pandemic is happening. People are going to look back 20 years from now, asking, ‘Oh, you were part of the pandemic? What did you do? Sit home and do nothing?’ No, that’s not what we’re doing. We are staying home, but we are doing something productive and are involved in the community. So that’s when I got the idea, if someone can do a random group on Facebook, why can’t I? I did it specifically just for our area. When I first started the group, it was Roswell open mic, but I have so many friends all over the state of New Mexico who are also artists, so I decided to change it to Open Mic (New Mexico). Everyone around the state and the surrounding states can go live, share a video, tell us who they are and share their music that way. And it’s got quite a response — the first week we had over a hundred people in it already. I try and go live on it at least once a week. It’s pretty cool, I am excited about it. I am glad Patrick (Hamilton) is in there. I know he doesn’t live here, but he’s been here multiple times and that’s OK.”
Perry found the group gave her a new positive feedback that live events didn’t have, such as it not being limited to a certain time or day. “That’s the beauty of it,” she said. “It can happen any time of the day, any time of the week. It could be 3 a.m. and you really are digging this song, you can jam it live. That is the difference between the physical open mic opposed to a virtual one. You meet so many people, I just met a friend from El Paso, Texas, and he is a wicked great guitar player and he doesn’t think he’s good.
He posted a video in the group, and he got a lot of positive feedback. Now he wants to play more live online. He would have never had that experience if I hadn’t invited him in to it.”
Perry is also thinking about the time after the pandemic when everything is back to normal. She sees the group as a good way of networking and to plan shows.
“This group really helped me a lot,” Perry said. “It helps to make you more confident too. You get all that feedback, because it never goes away, so constantly people are seeing it and sharing it. There is continuous feedback, which is what I like, and it’s not 20 minutes and it’s done and nobody can see it again.”
Other local Roswell talents in the Open Mic (New Mexico) group are singer and songwriter Bryan Crawford (country music); singer and musician Matthew Shriner (alternative music) and singer and musician Mario Rodriguez Noriega (contemporary/alternative music).
For more information, follow @NovaRushMusic or join Open Mic (New Mexico) group.