Phase three of Rhode Island’s process of reopening is currently underway. With it comes numerous establishments reopening their doors and some restrictions being lifted, even though social distancing and wearing masks in public are still in effect.
Gigs are still somewhat scarce, but this current situation gives full-time musicians like Warwick’s Mike Giammarco a chance to resume their craft for a live audience. It’s still unclear what the atmosphere will be like at these bars and restaurants, but he’s willing to try it out.
Giammarco’s first run of performances in this “new normal” will be at Finn’s Harborside at 38 Water St. in East Greenwich on July 24, Aug. 15 and Aug. 29.
We had a conversation recently about how he’s been holding up since March, taking it all as it comes, keeping the tip jar at a safe distance, a single he put out in the spring and a new album he hopes to have out later this year.
ROB DUGUAY: Are you still dealing with the same uncertainties you were dealing with back in March when the shutdown started, or have things improved for you?
MIKE GIAMMARCO: Honestly, they really haven’t improved all that much. In fact, it seems like there’s more uncertainty because a lot of places I normally play in Massachusetts and in Connecticut aren’t open yet. Rhode Island has only a few that are opening back up and no one knows if they’re going to stay open or shut down again. It’s been interesting, to say the least. Even though I have some gigs, in March I figured everything would come back all at once and everything would be cool. Now we know it’s not the case and it’s probably not going to be full-time work for me for quite a while.
RD: It seems like Rhode Island is ahead of a lot of other states when it comes to reopening.
MG: Yeah, everybody is on a different schedule and a different timeline. Rhode Island is actually better off than most places, but a lot of places aren’t doing entertainment yet. They’re half capacity and they don’t want to pay acts yet, which is understandable, but it’s still tough.
RD: You’ve also been doing a ton of livestreams over the past few months. So going forward, do you plan on making this a regular thing, even in a post-pandemic world, or do you think livestreaming is only appropriate for this current time we’re in?
MG: Livestreaming will definitely be a part of what I do as a musician, but it won’t be as often. I haven’t done as many lately. I think it’s just because a lot of folks jumped on that bandwagon and now you don’t see as many people doing them these days. Because it was so oversaturated for a little while, it kind of took the luster out of it. Everybody was really excited at first but now it seems that less people are tuning in. I think people miss watching live music. It’s a fun way to connect and I do enjoy doing it.
RD: But it’s not like the real thing.
MG: No, you don’t really connect with an audience. You might connect with a few people here and there in select fashion.
RD: What are your feelings going into these shows you have coming up at Finn’s? With the social distancing, do you think that it’ll be awkward or do you plan on taking it like any other gig you’ve done?
MG: I’m just going to take it as it comes. I’m not going to make any plans going into it. I know I’m going to have people there, at least for the first one. My fiancée, her family, my mom and a few other people want to come out and see me because they haven’t seen me in quite a while, so I’m at least looking forward to having family there. I don’t know what to expect, to be honest with you, so I’m going to go in there and do what they say. I hear that I won’t have to wear a mask while performing, I’ll just be further away from people, so we’ll see. I’m not really sure.
RD: You probably won’t be able to figure out what you’re doing until you get there and they tell you where to play and everything else.
MG: Yeah, exactly. Nobody has explained anything to me yet as far as what the process is going to be like and what I’m going to be up against. Most of these places are going to be half capacity, I’m not sure about Finn’s because they’ve started already with some performances. I did see from some of the people that I know have played there that they weren’t wearing masks. I assume that I’m going to be socially distant from people, like always, while being isolated and perform with the tip jar being as far away from me as possible (laughs).
RD: Yeah (laughs).
MG: Hopefully people aren’t afraid to come up and tip. It’s a new thing for everybody and it’s a whole new world we have to get used to. I’m so used to wearing a mask anywhere I go while staying away from people, so it doesn’t take long for human beings to adjust to new things when you do it day in and day out.
RD: Back in May, you released a new single titled “Two Years Gone.” From listening to it, it’s definitely one about heartbreaking and longing. Do you find when you write songs like these that it can be cathartic?
MG: Yeah, I do. In the past, I’ve done that a bit with quite few songs for my own sake. I wrote a song called “Ghost” a while back that was along the same lines but it was more of me getting anger out. “Two Years Gone” is getting sadness out but also dealing with questions and basically putting an end to the thoughts of it. I want to get it out, get it out of my brain and it’s gone.
That’s what is so good about music. Now I go back and play it, I don’t get the same emotion out of it because I’m out of that situation, but people can still relate to it. It’s a song that many people have come up to me and thanked me for writing and they can take it in different ways. Somebody came up and told me that it was two years since their father passed away and it hit really close to home. I may have wrote it for one reason but the listener can make their own definition out of it, that’s what I’ve been learning even more these days. You kind of write music for everybody and they create a meaning out of what they hear.
RD: You’ve been teasing the release of a new record for a little while now, so do you have a release date set yet?
MG: Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a damper on that because I wanted to have it released by now, but with Chillhouse Studios in Boston being shut down for quite a while, Will Holland and I stopped working on it. I’ve already talked to Will about going back in and getting started back up again, so I don’t have a date but I’m thinking that it’ll most likely be released either in the late fall or early winter.
To learn more about Mike Giammarco, follow his Facebook page, “Mike Giammarco Acoustic.”