As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table. The only other living things in sight are my marmalade-colored cat and a stash of red flowers wilting in a blue vase. It’s been just over a week since things took a turn for the worst, coronavirus-wise, in the U.S., and like many of you, I’m just trying to figure out how to exist right now and care for those around me who may be more vulnerable. Working from home has its perks, but I’ll admit I’m starting to feel a little nutty. You know who else is on the verge of losing it? Vanessa Hudgens, apparently. The actress went live on Instagram earlier this week and made some pretty questionable comments about the spread of COVID-19 (she has since apologized). “It’s a virus, I get it,” she chirped. “Like, I respect it. But at the same time, like, even if everybody gets it, like, yeah, people are gonna die, which is terrible but, like, inevitable?” Wow. Someone needs to get a new publicist (or maybe some, like, empathy?). Most traces of the unfortunate occurrence have been expunged from the internet, but I haven’t forgotten.
Thankfully, there are leagues of other, dare I say more thoughtful celebrities putting Instagram to good use during this period of social distancing. For musicians, that can look like a flood of new live videos, a Q&A or a live stream, and there are a few folks who have taken extra care to make your feeds a little less gloomy. Here are 10 artists who are making really great #QuarantineContent (is that a hashtag yet?) despite how bleak everything may seem. If you like what you hear/see, give them a follow, and, if you’re feeling extra generous, find a way to support them. Everyone affected by this virus—especially touring independent musicians—could use a little boost right now.
1. Scott Avett
Scott Avett, of the Avett Brothers, has an unverified personal account on Instagram, and lately he has been straight ripping on a banjo in a string of self-recorded live videos. Let a conductor-hat-clad Avett and his “feral banjo” take you for a walk below.
Good morning from me and this feral banjo. #emptylivingroomconcert
A post shared by @ avettar; on
2. The Tallest Man on Earth’s Kristian Matsson
Kristian Matsson, who records those raw and rumbling folk songs under the Tallest Man on Earth alias, isn’t exactly new to the Instagram game. A follow for him is a follow for live music content all year round, not just during pandemics, but you may find his skilled picking even more delightful to behold right now.
When I need a break in life I play a simplified version of Lost Lula by Pharis & Jason Romero ( @pharisandjason ). It gives me comfort and wacky, pleasant ideas. We’re doing pretty things over here today, but also lay on the floor exhausted over trying to figure out how to be a person these days, and that is ok. There’s no need to be anything impressing right now, just breathe and think about what you’re grateful for, the things that are really important. Sun was shining today and I saw a birch tree like the ones back home in Sweden, in America. I love you.
A post shared by The Tallest Man On Earth; (@spkmatsson) on
3. Joan Shelley
Another consistently great folk music follow, Joan Shelley is a warm spirit in an otherwise bland Instagram feed. This week, she added “a new song to the collective song book of the great shut-in of 2020,” and even her rough draft is better than most people’s final product. Her gentle songs about nature will provide a much-needed moment of escape from all things pandemic.
Adding a new song to the collective song book of the great shut-in of 2020. I went to write an acapella song, something that could lend itself to multiple voices. So learn the refrain, add a harmony if you can, and I hope to sing with you all soon (It goes without saying that our spring touring is going to be postponed. I’ll let you know when we sort all that) Meantime, cheers yall While this rock’s still turning While our star still shines Hear the crickets calling To the hawks in flight Over hills and valleys Between rock and sky Sound a thousand colors In this narrow light Like the fading flowers On a climbing vine So few precious hours To be you and I Over hills and valleys Between rock and sky Calls the child arriving Heaving heart’s first cry So sing joy and sorrow In this fold of time Like there’s no tomorrow Raise your glasses high Over hills and valleys Between rock and sky To the ones that made us And the ones for whom we’ll die *and thanks to my friend Max Porter for the lyrical assists
A post shared by Joan Shelley; (@joanshelley) on
4. Mary Chapin Carpenter
This week, veteran folk singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter started a new series called “Songs From Home.” For the first episode, titled “Live From My Kitchen,” she performed the song “Edinburgh” from—you guessed it—her kitchen while her dog Angus trotted around underfoot. If that’s not the definition of peak soothing quarantine content I don’t know what is.
A post shared by Mary Chapin Carpenter (@marychapincarpenter) on
5. Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee
Earlier this week Kevin Morby posted a video of himself boxing a punching bag while listening to The Strokes. Tonight (Thursday), he has plans to go live on Instagram with his partner Katie Crutchfield, who you know as Waxahatchee, and the virtual show is sure to be entertaining and spirited. Tune in at 9 p.m. EST to watch the pair play some songs, welcome some special guests and just hang out.
A post shared by Kevin Morby; (@kevinmorby) on
6. Jason Isbell
Country singer/songwriter Jason Isbell is a shoe-in for great Instagram content any time, but he’s been upping the dose since our collective quarantine began. He has shared clips of everything from himself noodling around on glossy guitars to his daughter Mercy performing a medley with a kazoo and maracas.
A post shared by jasonisbell (@jasonisbell) on
The gang announced a quarantine beard-growing competition. Need I say more?
Quarantine beard and hair growing competition. Everyone’s beard has a head start on me, but I’ll be in the lead really soon. I’m like the Joe Biden of beard growing. We’ll post updates every Thursday. – TG
A post shared by Dawes; (@dawestheband) on
8. Kacey Musgraves
If you like your quarantine content served hot with a steaming side of yeehaw, look no further than country’s happy-sad queen Kacey Musgraves. Tip: the good stuff is in the stories.
link in bio
A post shared by K A C E Y M U S G R A V E S; (@spaceykacey) on
This one is probably a given for most people (seeing as the flautist/rapper/international pop sensation has more than 8 million Instagram followers), but there’s never a bad time to juice up your social feed with a little of Lizzo’s token positivity. She recently pushed a video of her playing a whimsical cover of Roscoe Dash’s “All The Way Turnt Up” on some kind of wooden pipe (as in: a rustic flute) while incense filled the air as a “meditation and mantra to promote healing during this global crisis,” and it’s as lovely as you’d expect.
A meditation and mantra to promote healing during this global crisis. Use at your own pace. Love you!
A post shared by Lizzo; (@lizzobeeating) on
10. John Mayer
The sometimes arrogant, always shredding John Mayer already has a weekly Instagram Live program called “Current Mood,” and if you’re already rolling your eyes, check out some of his previous guests: Maggie Rogers, FINNEAS and, most recently, Dave Chappelle. During Chappelle’s episode, the pair shared their insight on our nation’s current infatuation with panic-buying toilet paper.
Dave Chappelle joined me on last night’s @currentmood and offered compelling insight as to why people stock up on toilet paper during times of crisis.
A post shared by John Mayer ; (@johnmayer) on