Honky-tonks, dance halls and live shows all came to a screeching halt at the hands of the coronavirus.
Musicians around the world lost their way of earning a living, but the hit taken by Texas country music artists has been especially hard. Artists like East Texas native Dylan Wheeler are now having to look for alternative ways to support their music careers, including social media live shows and pushing their merch sales the best they can.
Wheeler said he would no longer be playing the big shows he had planned for the first half of 2020, including a March 21 show at The Tap in College Station.
“This was supposed to be my breakout year, so it's really hard to not get to play all of the bigger shows that I’ve never gotten to play before,” Wheeler said.
Before the state announced shelter-in-place recommendations, Wheeler released a brand new song titled “Hey Baby” that he only got to play in front of a crowd twice.
“The scary part is by the time this is all over with, I don’t know how old the song will be,” Wheeler said. “Obviously I would have liked to play it for more crowds, and that was the plan, but the response it's gotten from social media and things has been incredible.”
In an effort to play to some sort of crowd again, Wheeler teamed up with his good friend Kolby Cooper for their “Bros in Robes” song swap on Instagram live. The pair’s livestream brought a crowd of hundreds, exposing Wheeler to a variety of new fans.
“It was really nice to see the new fans because I mean that's how I make my money and stuff,” Wheeler said. “Kolby and I both got our start at The Tap in College Station, and we’ve struck up a friendship. It’s not all what social media sees. He had talked to me about doing the live and said, ‘Hey I really want to do it with you,’ so I loaded up and went to his house and we knocked it out.”
Construction science sophomore Matt Bailey said artists like Wheeler need more support in the time of COVID-19, so he does what he can to support them and their music.
“I try to stream their music and watch their live streams when I can,” Bailey said. “If I can’t, I’ll send it to someone else I know likes them, and they’ll watch it and hopefully keep spreading their music.”
Several artists have released new music during quarantine, including Parker McCollum with his new single “Like A Cowboy.” Bailey said although McCollum didn’t write this particular song himself, he’s still a big fan.
“My favorite to release new stuff so far is probably Parker,” Bailey said. “Even though his song wasn’t written by him, it’s still a good song and it still tells a story like one of his would. Not everyone has always written their own songs so I thought it was neat to hear him sing something someone else wrote for him.”
Industrial distribution senior Kevin Villegas said before shelter-in-place began, he attended concerts whenever he could in order to support artists like McCollum and Wheeler. Although the format is a little different at this time, he doesn’t plan to stop streaming their music to help support them in any way he can.
“I love listening to everyone and the reason, at least for me, is they bring a sign of hope and try to help others with their music to always look at the bright side no matter what,” Villegas said. “Plus, listening to the music helps me relax and just enjoy the moment and it creates memories.”