Glasgow-based singer and songwriter's live streams provided some of the earliest examples of how artists are rethinking getting their work out
Things have moved on since Stina Tweeddale started her online music sessions on the Honeyblood Facebook page. Originally broadcast live from the Glasgow-based singer and songwriter's Iceblink Luck studio, Tweeddale's half-hour nightly solo sets augmented by occasional guests were some of the earliest events to rethink how artists can get their work out there during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With all live dates curtailed till further notice, Tweeddale — the driving force behind Honeyblood across three albums since forming the band eight years ago — began the shows as a practical way of filling the gap, as well as supporting herself and fellow musicians. Tweeddale set up a GoFundMe page, inviting those tuning in to donate, with all proceeds split between those who took part in the shows and Help Musicians Scotland, the independent charity set up to support those on the frontline of such an insecure profession. In the current climate especially, with everyday physical and mental well-being under constant challenges, the organisation provides a vital lifeline for all musicians.
Over the first week, as well as solo turns by Tweeddale, there were mini shows by her Glasgow-based peers Emme Woods, Carla J. Easton aided by regular band member Paul Kelly, and Martha Ffion with keyboardist Beth Chalmers. Once lockdown was imposed, Tweeddale decamped to her living room for a week of guest-free sessions, which drew much love from many who tuned in.
All this was gamely filmed by Iceblink Luck's other half, Robert Kilpatrick, who also acted as live audience and sounding board, passing on comments and questions from those watching. In the midst of all this, Tweeddale premiered a new video for Honeyblood's song, 'Gibberish', which appeared last year on the third Honeyblood album, In Plain Sight. Over the course of two weeks of broadcasts, Tweeddale effectively created a new cottage industry, ramping up her independent ethos and aesthetic considerably.
'I've never really done anything like this before,' Tweeddale said during the first week of the Honeyblood online sessions, 'and this is the first time I've ever live-streamed a gig. I thought I'd just go for it without any planning, but my mum said to me after the first one that we should probably get a better camera.'
Necessity being the mother of invention, Tweeddale and co. retained a lo-fi informality to each show, which were performed first from the sofa at Iceblink Luck, then post-lockdown with Tweeddale perched on a rocking chair at home. This may be a far cry from what Honeyblood are used to, but better this than be stuck with a series of dates they're unable to honour.
'I initially had a tour in place,' says Tweeddale. 'I was going to do a solo tour, but in the end I decided to concentrate on doing more writing instead, and now, with everything that's happened, I feel like I've dodged a bullet.'
As well as showcasing her own back catalogue, reinvented for solo electric guitar, Tweeddale has featured a host of covers across the sessions, making the likes of Atomic Kitten's 'Whole Again', 'Dreaming' by Blondie and even 'Heroes' by David Bowie very much her own. These stripped-back and slowed-down renderings reinvigorate each song with a melancholy perhaps brought on by this period of extended solitary confinement.
With the current state of lockdown looking likely to go on for some time, what happens next is anybody's guess. Tweeddale was supposed to be supporting Foo Fighters in Spain in June, but the ongoing slew of festival cancellations both at home and abroad is starting to make dates only a couple of months away look increasingly unlikely. The gig in Spain in particular means a lot to Tweeddale.
'I was booked to play with Foo Fighters once before in Edinburgh at Murrayfield in 2015, but Dave Grohl broke his leg, and it had to be cancelled.'
Whatever happens with future live dates, having reached the initial GoFundMe target, for the time being, at least, the Honeyblood online sessions are on pause. Tweeddale is keen to start working on a solo album, and following what might arguably be looked on as a dry run at it online, she wants to use all the time at her disposal to develop song ideas.
'Everyone's making bedroom albums now. I'm going to get so good at producing DIY after this.'
An archive of Tweeddale's online sessions remains on the Honeyblood Facebook page. Like so much other work created during the COVID-19 lockdown, this provides much more than just a glimpse of an artist at work in public. It also provides a series of snapshots of Tweeddale during a seismic historical moment that looks set to form a much larger portrait of the times, with assorted online ventures proving essential to surviving them.
As Tweeddale says, 'We're all in the same position, and this is about keeping your head a little bit. The world is hopefully not going to end, and we will get through this. I suppose doing this is also about managing this weird time that we're going through at the moment, and not letting it get to us. If it's helpful for musicians to make a bit of money, that's great, but more importantly, if it can help bring a bit of joy to people watching, then it's been worth doing.'
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