Photo: Mark O'Neill
Photo: Mark O'Neill

The Covid Chronicles… Jeremy Fisher

As the father of two young children, Juno-nominated singer-songwriter Jeremy Fisher has had to face the same challenges self-isolation has presented to other young parents. In response, he recently launched his Facebook Live series, Jeremy Fisher Junior, airing every Saturday morning at 11 a.m. EST. Produced in partnership with Hidden Pony Records and Verite Films, the 30-minute show for kids and their parents aims at reducing some of their stress through song, while offering a few lessons on reading, science and other subjects wherever possible.

Taking inspiration from the morning TV shows we all remember watching as children, Fisher encourages his audience to participate and explore their own creativity, while providing home-schooling parents with some activities that are part of the JK to Grade 3 curriculum. In the process, the show has also given Fisher some artistic focus during this time when touring is not possible.

The concept appears to be catching on, as this week’s show on May 16 will include a special appearance by Vancouver indie-rockers Said The Whale, with other guests slated for upcoming episodes. You can tune in by logging on to Facebook.com/JeremyFisherJunior.

This show is a great idea, and a great opportunity for parents and kids to take a bit of a break from everything together. How has it been for you to take on this new role?

It’s been a real morale booster. I’ve been talking about doing something like this for a while, but never found the time in my schedule, which is funny because in “before times” there was a lot more flexibility. I decided it was important and my family has supported me by helping to make time in our schedule.

I also find it inspiring because after doing the show live on Saturday morning, it’s posted every Monday on my website, JeremyFisherJunior.com/learn, so parents and teachers can use the activities throughout the week to get kids active, singing, dancing, and even reading while they're learning from home. Knowing that I'm supporting others and giving back at this difficult time has had a big impact on my mental health and wellbeing. I hope it does the same for others.

I imagine everyone has strong memories of the music they heard as kids. What are your fondest memories, and has that influenced at all how you perform these shows?

I can remember listening to ABBA in our family station wagon and going to see the Hamilton Philharmonic at Hamilton Place when I was growing up. I just loved being in a beautiful theatre and the anticipation of a show starting when the lights went down. So in that way, even though I’m doing a simple livestream, I want it to feel like a SHOW! It’s important to me to interact with the audience and get them inspired to sing and move along with me. It’s got to be an active experience, and I think that’s what has made it special for me as well.

As far as your own new music goes, how has the pandemic affected your plans, and what can audiences expect to hear from you eventually?

I was nine songs into my next album when the pandemic lockdown became a reality in my house. Since then I have not been able to work on it, even though my studio is 10 steps from my back door. Writing and recording require big swaths of time for me to focus and sweat over details. Right now, I only have a small window each day that I can work. The rest of the time I'm just trying to keep up with being a dad to my four-year-old and three-month-old kids. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to carve out some time to get back to it this summer and I really, really hope to have something new out in 2020... even if a full-length album doesn't drop until 2021.

How has the inability to play live affected you overall?

Well, I have to say that the Saturday Morning Special has been a stabilizing force in the reality of not being able to tour. I need to play music for and with people, as I've come to depend on it artistically and emotionally. I do make most of my living from touring and so that leaves a big question mark where my future income should be. Like a lot of people, I have had to cut back my monthly spending. While it's been a challenge, secretly I love it. Being thrifty is a value I hold dear, dating back to my beginnings when I used to tour North America on my bicycle. When touring does start up for me again, expect to see patches on the knees of my jeans, old strings on my trusty old guitar and a joyful smile on my face!

What do you believe the longterm effects of the pandemic will be on the music industry?

Live events aren't going to be the same for a long time, if ever again. I think a lot about my colleagues who are experiencing greater uncertainty than I am at this time: agents, promoters, sound techs, lighting techs, venue owners... the list goes on. While I'm the person up on stage that everyone is looking at, we're all indebted to these people for creating and maintaining the fun live shows we all enjoy. I think there is going to be a big overhaul in this area, but I can't yet wrap my brain around how that will look. I do know that for all of us in creative pursuits, innovation is survival and with our support, the good ones will persevere one way or another.

On the other hand, I see so many artists—myself included—suddenly embracing technology in a way they were loath to before. You don't need to hear me go on about the cliches of us living in a digital world, but I think we are getting a crash course in how to connect with an audience over social media in a meaningful way. My hope is that when we can get closer together in real life, this will help us do just that.

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