Things we learned in isolation, by your favourite musicians

We asked musicians what this year's strange days inside have taught them.


Lockdown was quite the trip. Providing a whole lot of time for self-reflection, here’s what some of our favourite musicians learned from all that time spent alone.

Jehnny Beth

“In isolation I have learned about the value of solitude. ‘Isolation is the gift’ writes Bukowski in his poem Go All The Way. For artists, isolation is one of the biggest parts of the creative process. We isolate ourselves to write, to think, to sing, to record… while the world remains busy and moving forward. Today, the whole world has stopped, we are at home, forced to face the walls that suddenly act like distorting mirrors. We can’t help but feeling anxious even though we know it’s only temporary. Welcome to isolation. Welcome to feeling detached, unplugged, estranged, apart, alone: welcome to your gift. Don’t resist it. Through this sense of otherness, even the faintest spark, you will soon see better from the side, you will hear the secret information you did not have, a tune that didn’t have a mouth, and you will go running after it. When the world is frightening, intimacy is one’s only self-defence. ‘There is no other feeling like that’ says Charles ‘You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

Andy Dunlop, Travis 

“The main thing I’ve learned in isolation is that pressure produces diamonds. As I, like everyone I’m sure else, trawl through the mountains of terrifying news on TV and social media every day the one thing that really stays with me is that in times of crisis, it’s the kind hearted and generous spirit that rise to the surface to help. (In a complete reversal of fortune, for once all the turds seem to be sinking!)
From our amazing heroes in the NHS to the people delivering food to the vulnerable, humanity has shone through and my one hope is when we get through this and all come out of our houses blinking in the light that we remember who really runs this country. Also, I’ve learned my piano needs tuning.”


Blaine Harrison, Mystery Jets

“There has been this very palpable, growing sense of polarity in our society over the past few years. I strongly echo the sentiment that the pandemic felt like the universe’s way of teaching us to see ourselves as a whole again. It’s kind of like the earth sent us all to our bedrooms to have a long hard think about what we’ve done.

We’ve been slowing down, paying our attention to our bodies and our mental health and finding new ways to connect with others. We’ve been getting to know our communities better, reaching out to vulnerable people.

This unforeseen world event has given us a rare insight into our dependency on these systems which govern us. Consumerism, the ever turning wheel of globalisation, perceived career success, the destructive influence of social media over our self-worth… Most of all it’s reminded us of the importance of interconnectivity and how to be self sufficient, which is of course the enemy of consumer capitalism.
Something we’ve been hearing a lot during lockdown is this phrase the new normal. As opposed to what exactly? The old normal? Surely at this point it is so clear that nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working. If we go back to the way things were then we will have forgotten the lesson.

One of the most insightful revelations about lockdown is that FOMO was cancelled. There was nobody throwing parties you weren’t at, or going on holidays which you should have been on. We’ve all been home, alone with our demons. But once you get to know them they can be quite good company.

A month or so into lockdown I was getting a bit lonesome so put out a message on Craigslist offering to dog walk for vulnerable people in my neighbourhood. I occasionally received replies but they mostly came in around 3am and seemed to be from people misunderstanding what dog-related services I was offering. In retrospect I guess I must have been posting in the wrong column.”


“Be kind to other people, and yourself. I think we can be really critical of who we are, when we’re really nice to other people. We should remind ourselves to try and appreciate the small things we do for ourselves during the day.”

Harrison Swann, Talk Show

I realised early on that the best way for me to stay positive was to try and be productive, write as much as I could and just create in general. The need for routine was pretty obvious so I tried to get into good habits, like getting up (reasonably) early and going for a run. I’m gonna sound like one of those cheesy Insta-health-gurus but starting the day right really helped to get the ball rolling. The other thing I realised in lockdown was being persistent, when I was getting frustrated and close to giving up, the importance of working through the difficult days proper helped. I didn’t want to come out of lockdown, having achieved nothing but walking round the park or baking banana bread 500 times, just because I got frustrated with one guitar part I couldn’t be bothered to re-write.


“I think in quarantine I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and I feel like I’m just now reaching my ultimate best form as Saweetie.”

Bree Runway

“That you gotta take good care of yourself and spend quality time with those you love. Because 2020 has been such a year….”

Alana Haim, Haim

“I always love my me-time… but that being said, it’s a rollercoaster. You wake up one day and you’re like, “OK, I’m going to be OK,” and then there’s other days where you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t do this.” It’s just knowing it’s OK to not be OK… you just have to roll with the punches, just keep it going.”

Rufus Wainwright

“One thing I’ve learnt in isolation: the true meaning of the expression. LET IT GO!!!!!!”

Alex Edkins, Metz

“What I’ve learned is how much I was depending on live music in my life. I’m realising how much of my mental health and even my physical health was connected to going to shows and playing shows, and how my social life was basically almost 100% based on the music community here and around the world.”

Carly Rae Jepson

“It’s been an adventure! I’ve definitely had different phases and I can’t complain today. I’ve got into my groove with how to creative. I’m starting to have a few breakthroughs. Everything that’s going on is obviously horrible, but on a personal level I’m trying to figure out how to find the positives of this new normal. My girlfriend said something wise to me: ‘Everyone in the world who is working on themselves and being better for the world should come out of this situation a slightly if not extremely changed version of themselves.’ It is time for self-improvement. It starts there: What’s going on, how can we be helpful, how can we be a gamechanger in our own way for the betterment of everybody? Also, it’s a gift in a way. A gift of time that we would never normally take to be introspective and work on ourselves. Popping bubbles is very healthy.”

Tiana Major9

“Vulnerability is good. Being myself is the best thing – people want me to be myself, and that’s all I really learnt how to do. Something fun I’ve done is learn how to make bao and ramen. I love Asian food!”