CORPUS CHRISTI – Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down live music venues, festivals and concerts all around the world, effectively putting hundreds of thousands of musicians out of work. But out of the dire straits this unprecedented situation created arose a new way to experience and discover, music and hear the stories from musicians themselves – all from the comfort of listeners’ living rooms across the globe. Fans can also help out performers by giving them ‘tips’ through Paypal and Venmo.
Locally, the Corpus Christi Songwriters have been hosting virtual performances every Sunday at 7 p.m. on their Facebook page. One of the founding members of the group is Mathis native Garrett Wieland who performs sometimes on the curated shows as well as on his personal Facebook page, facebook.com/garrett.wieland.
“The nice thing about all this online stuff is people have been sharing the livestreams and bringing my attention to stuff that I hadn’t seen before,” Wieland said. “So I’ve been discovering new artists, and I actually get to see people that are usually playing the same night as I am, and I actually get to see them online, so that’s pretty cool.”
He added that what he’s seeing throughout the digital landscape is that sharing an artists livestream in Facebook has become more than just a click of a button for the performers. It’s a gateway to new fans and new followers that’s connecting people like never before.
“It’s saving a lot of artists and singer/songwriters for sure,” Wieland said.
The Sunday night performances also caught the eye of the Texas Music Office in Austin who recently began sharing some of the livestreams and went on to start following them all on social media sites. They also help promote the ‘quarantine jams’ on their site as well.
Wieland, who is also a member of the band Independent Thieves, was ready to release his first solo album, What Keeps the Heart Afloat, when the pandemic reared it’s ugly head, and he lost his day job.
“I recorded it at the end of last year and the beginning of this year over at Sound Machine Studios in Skidmore with Mason Shirley,” he continued. “I drove out there for a couple weeks, and we recorded every Wednesday so the song album is done; it’s mastered and ready.
“The second I got the first single out the cornavirus thing hit, and I got furloughed, so everything I’m saving is going towards my mortgage and groceries.
“It’s going to be on hold for a little while, but I’m thinking about maybe releasing another single just to have it out because I know that right now people are sitting at home listening to music.”
Wieland even drove out to his parents’ house in Mathis to do a photo shoot for the album’s cover art wearing some of his dad’s old cowboy gear since some tracks are influenced by that era.
“The first single was inspired by Billy the Kid, and the second single was actually inspired by a black cowboy in the 1870s from the Texas panhandle,” he said. “So there’s songs inspired a lot by the Old West.”
So why did the singer/songwriter decide to go solo?
“We all just got so busy, and everybody has day jobs, and two of us have kids so we just got really busy with that,” he explained. “And I had a lot of stuff that I was working on that was kind of inspired more by Townes Van Zandt and stuff that didn’t really fit the band mold. This is stuff that I could play with just me and my guitar, and that was kind of the impetus for this.
“I knew that we weren’t always going to have a chance to make music as a band just because of us being four grown men. And if I needed to go on tour for this, I could do that, and it would just be easier to do with me than the four of us.”
He said he had songs stored up for six or seven years that just didn’t fit with the sound of his band but would perform them whenever he played solo shows.
“The songs are story songs,” Wieland continued. “Stuff about the Old West that I’ve read because I love reading and a lot of stuff gets inspired by that. It’s inspired by movies, inspired by mental health and just a just a bunch of different stuff.”
While his first single is called “Outlaw’s Farewell”, Wieland and his music aren’t going anywhere just yet.
Find out more about him and listen to the first single at garrettwielandmusic.com.