Kaleigh Baker and Matt Walker are about as partnered up as you can get. They’re members of the rock quartet Someday Honey. They play duo gigs together. They live as a couple in a rented house in St. Petersburg, where they write and record songs together.
So when Kaleigh came down with a respiratory illness a few weeks ago—and subsequently tested negative for COVID19—they felt extreme measures were called for. The couple quarantined in their house, sleeping in separate rooms, doing their best to observe social distancing.
This story is part of a series about how musicians are coping with life during the COVID-19 pandemic — from creative, financial and emotional perspectives. The subjects are those who make their living as full-time musicians, not as a sideline. If you fit into this category and would like to share your story, email: [email protected]
“It’s unnatural to stay six feet from someone in your own house,” Walker said. “It’s hard to remember. She’s cooking and I’ll walk behind her and goose her.”
Baker and Walker stuck to the plan pretty well for nine or 10 days, they said, but on Wednesday, March 25, with Kaleigh feeling better, the pair decided to make some music. They got a little inebriated.
“We wrote a song and recorded it,” Baker recalled. “Later that night, he knocked on my door wanting to crawl into my bed.”
Was he allowed entry?
“Of course,” exclaimed Kaleigh, who sings lead and plays acoustic rhythm guitar in Someday Honey. Making music: a proven aphrodisiac.
The song that the couple created, which they describe as having a Parliament/Funkadelic feel, is titled, “I’ve Got a Six-Foot Feeling We’re Gonna Be Here For Awhile.”
It’s nice to know that some fun and games are happening at the Baker/Walker household. But grimmer realities are obviously at play as well. The house, fairly big and rather ramshackle, isn’t cheap to rent. The couple have a modest cash stash, but “after this month’s bills, we have no money,” Baker said. Added Walker, the band’s lead guitarist: “It’s dependent on how cool our landlord is going to be.”
Their small financial cushion provides some comfort and forestalls panic mode a bit. Like many other working musicians in the Bay area that find themselves newly out of work, Baker and Walker feel for friends and peers who are worse off than them. “I know people who have literally 35 bucks in the bank—with kids,” Walker said.
The couple spent the first few days of their under-one-roof quarantine on a cleaning spree, “using a neurotic amount of bleach and ethanol—but not [mixed] together, not together,” Walker said with a chuckle. “We got chemical burns from the first few days.”
Baker said she has washed her hands so much that her fingertip no longer opens her smartphone. Until their recent night of collaboration, Walker and Baker had been working on music in their own impromptu ways.
“I usually strum stuff like Jim Croce songs on an acoustic when I’m home,” Walker said, “Lately, I’ve been picking up my Strat more, playing Albert King licks. I was jamming to a [legendary jazz guitarist] Wes Montgomery track earlier. It was terrible. I’m definitely yearning to jam. And I really only see my friends at my job.”
Baker, who didn’t sing for eight straight days, misses performing more than Walker, who describes himself as a “hermit by nature.”
“There’s fear involved in not being able to work,” she said. “And I miss playing in front of humans.”
She does have one very specific music goal: “By the time we get out of this, I want to be able to play one rippin’-ass solo on electric guitar.”
During her isolation time, Baker has jotted down stream-of-consciousness lyrical ideas, some of which will turn into songs.
“Musicians at home all day,” she mused. “We’re creative people, but it’s hard with this [virus] stuff going on to find inspiration. You don’t want it to sound manufactured.”
Baker generates an income stream not affected by the shut-down of live performance. She writes and records songs for a company called Musicbed, which licenses material to film and television that’s generally played as incidental or background music. She releases the material, most of it in the contemporary pop realm (and some of it quite good), on streaming services under the name Ma Baker. The work doesn’t bring in much revenue yet, she said, certainly not enough for a safety blanket.
And the tunes are, in fact, manufactured.
“I am conflicted about it,” she admitted. “It takes a little bit of my soul. To make a song just to make money. For me, it’s a weird juxtaposition.”
On Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29, Baker and Walker performed streaming duo gigs in association with The Ale and The Witch and Southern Fried Sunday in Orlando. They did it again on Sunday, April 5. Despite some initial technical problems—it was their first ever livestreams—both performances were successful, delivering joy to online audiences of up to 200. They took donations via PayPal and a tip jar. Both Baker and Walker were a little squeamish about accepting contributions.
“I want to feel like we’re able to offer something that doesn’t turn into complete charity,” Baker said prior to the shows. “A lot of people have it worse than us. We want to give people something that they’ll want to give us a couple bucks for.”
Money-wise, the duo fared pretty well with the livestreams. Although they preferred not to reveal an amount, Baker/Walker brought in enough to make a difference in their cushion fund. Then there’s the bigger picture—and all the worry, uncertainty and moments of sadness and fleeting desperation that rears up from time to time.
“I’ve just sat and bawled, and I’m not really a crier,” said Walker. “I get bummed—mostly about my parents. Fortunately they’re fine. The normal protocol is to go over and be there. But I am the biggest threat to them. All I can do is call them. It makes me feel helpless.”
Baker has a take that’s more wide-angle: “It’s frustrating watching people close to us that aren’t taking this seriously.”
Although both admit that their contrasting personalities—him more logical, her more emotional—can at times cause tension, the bottom line is that they have each other.
“I live with my favorite musician and my favorite person,” Walker said. “So I can’t complain too much.”
Kaleigh Baker & Matt Walker might perform live from their living room again as part of Southern Fried Sunday.
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