- 20 Apr 21
As part of our special feature on the impact of Covid-19 on the Irish music industry, Jess Kav shares her experiences, and looks to the future...
How has the impact of Covid-19 affected you and your career?
Gigs! I have no gigs. I never realised how much I needed performance as a way to regulate my emotions. So much movement and conscious breathing is involved in singing and it was doing wonders for my emotional being and body. The partying afterwards may have been undoing the good work, but that’s okay. I find myself regressing to a teenager and dancing around my room every couple of weeks just to get the energy out of me. Oh, and my self esteem is in the toilet.
What is the worst aspect of it all for you?
I rely on connection and I miss having that with other musicians and with the audience. There is a great sense of achievement from walking out of a venue or a studio after playing a gig or recording a song. I miss that very clear sense of achievement of a job well done.
People with high rent or with large borrowings have been worst hit. How have you been, has it been hard to survive?
I’ve been lucky as I’ve been able to access the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. There were some issues and I was taken off it, so I had to contact my TDs in order to fix the issue. I was being ignored by PUP and being laughed at for the fact I expected anything to happen in less than five weeks. That was really stressful. My People Before Profit, Right To Change and Green Party TDs were very receptive and I would have been in serious trouble without them sorting it out for me. I was shocked as to how uneducated the PUP system was on self-employment. I would like to be in a position one day when social welfare systems don’t interact with artists with contempt.
Were you in a position to try anything new or different?
I’ve been writing poetry and critical essays to try something different and have really enjoyed the process. Poetry organises the mess in my head and critical essays get a lot of the frustration I have at society out on a page. It gives me a sense of autonomy that I can play and create without the need of a band or a producer. Despite that, I very much miss working alongside a band or collaborating with a producer in the same room.
Mental health has been a huge issue for a lot of people involved in music. How has your experience been in that regard?
It has been extremely difficult. It hit me hard in September 2020, when I realised we had missed a whole festival season. I just felt so incomprehensible. The inability to share that grief with other musicians was also extremely hard. Somehow though, I also feel like I have grown more over the last year than the last three years combined.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
I’m sceptical. It’s a very easy world to control without music and art. At the same time though, society has been without live music for over a year and many are feeling the negative symptoms of that. I hope it makes people appreciate the necessity for musical expression and the need for connection. Many musicians have had a lot of serious contemplation which will hopefully give them a lot to write about. I expect a renaissance and I am hopeful.
• Jess Kav is a singer, songwriter, poet and activist. She toured worldwide as a vocalist with The Waterboys before embarking on a solo career and forming BARQ.
'Music Industry in Ireland: Where To Next?' is a special feature in the current issue of Hot Press, running to over 20 pages, featuring music industry professionals as well as artists including Moya Brennan, Jess Kav, Luka Bloom, Fia Moon, Kneecap, Gavin Glass, Mick Flannery, King Kong Company, Mary Coughlan, Rosie Carney and many more.