Thursday, January 7, 2021

Bumping into... Lisa Conway

Bumping Into... is a series of mini-chats with a variety of peeps that you might run into in some of our local music communities. (There's a bit of an intro and my thoughts behind the series here.)

How are you? Where are you?

The short answer is generally okay, though there are highs and lows feelings-wise throughout the days. I’m in Guelph, in an apartment downtown that I share with my partner, Andrew, and our cat Gremlin.

What have you been up to since March or so?

Time has been moving very differently, but a variety of things!

One of my main commissions this year was an original score for a German-Canadian theatre collaborative production, and though the rehearsal periods and premiere were delayed several times, it actually somehow still happened. I worked on the music remotely and attended rehearsals via livestream instead of travelling to Germany, which presented its own challenges, but I was super thankful to be able to finish the work I’d started early in the year.

I played just one show in 2020, a little set outside in Toronto with my dear pal Karen Ng, which felt truly magical and grounding - I didn’t realize how much I missed singing my songs to people. Haven’t felt the most inspired to write regularly (for me) until about a month ago, but managed to release a single and video over the summer for fun, put together another single for a Guelph fundraiser compilation.

I’ve been doing some mixing work for other folks - had the pleasure of mixing a film score for Rebecca Bruton, and have also started mixing Victoria Cheong’s next New Chance album. Been taking piano lessons for the very first time which sometimes hurts my brain but in a good way, sang some stuff on some records and for a film project, finished up an old grant, am teaching Garage Band courses over Zoom and doing some grant writing consultation + editing for first time applicants, making mixes for campus radio, lots of walks and wanders outside, park beers with pals.

Have you found any new ways to do old things? How are you feeling about the shifts in how music is being made/shared/listened to?

I’m grateful that previously to this year I had an interest and ability in home recording (as well as gear!), and was fairly used to collaborating remotely and independently, emailing ideas back and forth. It’s honestly better for my social anxiety to do takes and write parts on my own, at my own pace, rather than in front of people in a studio. I can’t imagine the adjustment to these new ways of working if one didn’t have an already established solo writing practice or familiarity with the technology - I feel really lucky in that regard.

I’ve listened to more music this year than previous years - making mixes for Mixcloud and radio has been a really nice framework for keeping up with new releases. Bandcamp days are so so great! Definitely been buying a lot of music, and more intentionally catching up on releases made by pals.

The livestreams I’ve tuned into have been pretty enjoyable as a viewer, and it’s been exciting to see folks experiment and be creative with incorporating visuals and other mediums, making short films essentially. I really dearly miss the intimacy of bodies gathering in a small space, and chatting with other artists about what they are up to, but I’m having an easier time wrapping my head around livestreams when considering them as a separate and new presentation format or medium, rather than a replacement of what we did previously. Shot and recorded a few stripped down live performance videos completely solo, and got a really nice response to those on instagram, which felt nice.

Been really appreciating the new normal of video chatting, especially since previous to the pandemic both my mom (in BC) and my aunt (in Switzerland) insisted video chats “wouldn’t work on their phones”. They have been gloriously proven wrong and I’ve been able to even talk with both of them at the same time! Yay technology.

Overall this year was really important check-in on my not-so-healthy work / life balance - as a freelancer, I’ve found it really hard to take days off - so I’ve been trying to actually take one or two days off a week for the first time in my life, like an actual (guilt-free zero expectations) weekend.

Any works of art that have been a light for you in these times? Anything that's just been a good diversion?

I’ve found podcasts to be great company on walks or while doing the dishes for some time - been grateful for comedy podcasts like Comedy Bang Bang continuing to bring me joy and laughs during the more isolated days. I also have been really enjoying Black Frasier (Phoebe Robinson) and Couples Therapy with Naomi Ekperigin and Andy Beckerman.

During the March lockdown, Karen and Lane (Halley) and Andrew and I started watching The Sopranos for the first time, and would meet weekly on Zoom to discuss the episodes. We blasted through all the seasons and watched the finale on a projector in Lane’s backyard with some baked Ziti and sliced meats. It was so nice to have an excuse to check in weekly, and super fun to discuss things like AJ’s fashions or Tony and Carmella’s latest argument.

Definitely watching a lot of great television (standouts include I May Destroy You, Haunting of Bly Manor, Normal People, In My Skin, Feel Good) as well as regularly tuning in to a livestream of a snow leopard family that mostly just nap in a zoo in Australia. Been playing more video games than ever before, and trying to do so without guilt! I’m also super excited about cross country skiing these days, that’s been a wonderful winter distraction, as well as cooking projects.

How are you feeling about 2021?

I’m feeling optimistic though simultaneously very unsure. Trying to keep my expectations low. I’ve been starting to work on a new record and chipping away at that, and record-related dreaming and scheming has been a true lifesaver.

Anything else we'd chat about if we bumped into each other?

I would want to hear all about how you were! And be so excited to have a conversation lol. Missing that small talk .....

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