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Creativity under COVID: An artist’s story

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Life under COVID-19 is tough. Everything has changed—and keeps bloody changing.

Luckily for you, dear reader—I have a salve for that soul of yours.

Meet Dean Abbott. A Canberran crooner that will give you an instant lift with his chilled beats and life-affirming vocals.

While many of us have put public endeavours on hold, Dean has done just the opposite—launching his first EP (which has already raced to #6 on the Apple Music singer/songwriter chart) and snagging a hotly contested spot on last week’s COVIDEO Virtual Gigfest.

“It was great to be part of such a good class of musicians,” says Dean. “The versatility of the music scene here in Canberra is something special. And the Virtual Gigfest was a beautiful intention with a lot of love behind it.”

“With regards to releasing the EP, the timing just felt right. It was ready to go. I didn’t change plans or timelines as a result of the pandemic—I don’t have a secret release formula or anything like that! It didn’t cross my mind about holding off.”

Lead single off his All The Leaves EP is called Healing Energy—a beautiful track about forgiving yourself and moving on from the past.

“The timing for this song was actually pretty relevant. COVID has forced us all to sit with ourselves more, and that can be an uncomfortable thing—I know that’s something I find challenging at times.”

“We’re all caught up in this endless cycle of distracting ourselves rather than being with ourselves. But right now we’re being somewhat held in this space of stillness which is creating a lot more reflection as well. Healing Energy is about being real, and finding love for ourselves flaws and all.”

Dean Abbott with son Josh.

We’re all well aware of the impact COVID has had on our ability to go out; dinner with family, drinks with friends, and of course the live music sector.

“I was doing two or three performances a month at places like Rodney’s at Pialligo, Verity Lane in the city, PJ’s in Tuggeranong and at weddings and private events. Overnight, that all vanished,” says Dean.

“I miss it immensely; the energy of a live audience, their presence and seeing them connect with my music. While it’s been great to see the industry adapt to digital gigs, it’s just not the same—it’ll never be the same as a live show.”

Like us all, Dean’s adapted to make the best out of what can be described as a bad situation.

“I’ve been moving forward, laying down my upcoming album with Mat (Paese of Sugar and Cream Music) and rehearsing with the band for when we can perform again,” he says optimistically. “I’ve just leant into it and have actually found myself enjoying the stillness.”

In many ways, and like many artists, music became a way to not only express himself and delve into those swirling and difficult emotions of early adulthood—but also a lifeline.

“Being raised by a single mum, I never had a positive male role model around. As I started entering early adulthood, I felt lost and insecure. I didn’t know what being a man meant for me. I ended up in a ‘party’ cycle, using drugs and alcohol to suppress my insecurities. I was able to become a shapeshifter and become whoever I needed to be to fit-in and in turn, losing myself as a trade-off.

“It was incredibly self-destructive time. I’d always been such a driven person, and I just stopped—I plateaued in life. I eroded my sense of self-worth,” Dean recalls.

Dean is now a father to a 5-year-old son, Josh, and is determined to be the dad he wishes he had.

“I lead by example with how I live my life and music is a reflection of that as well. It’s making choices from love instead of fear. I’m telling him (Josh) what you put out, will come back to you. That it’s ok to be vulnerable and that it’s so important to have love for ourselves.”

Now that’s something we can all get on board with.

Dean Abbott is set to perform on 8 August at Blackbird Bar in the city (COVID restrictions pending). Keep an eye (and ear) out for his debut album, set to be released later this year.

You can also visit Dean’s website for more information and stream his music via Apple Music and Spotify, see his video on YouTube and follow his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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