Sudbury-born and now Bury St Edmunds based Singer-songwriter Serena Grant answers our questions on being a musician, the hardships off lockdown, and coming out the other side of a pandemic and getting back to gigging.
MR: Can you tell us a bit about you and your music…
SG: I am a solo singer/songwriter from Sudbury, but have recently moved to just outside of Bury St Edmunds. After several years of working “normal jobs”, I decided to quit and make music my living and I’ve been singing ever since! I’ve worked with bands, collaborated with other musicians, and now I’m looking for opportunities to pursue next. At the moment I sing and play guitar and also DJ at weddings, parties, festivals, whilst writing my own originals around this also. I’m trying to find my own stamp in the music industry, as I’ve found I love writing anything from chilled acoustic to dance to punk rock!
MR: What inspired you to get into music, and has it always been part of your life?
SG: I have always had a passion for singing, I feel like I wasn’t born to do anything else! I remember singing from the age of four and receiving genuine compliments and it just kind of went from there. Growing up listening to a variety of genres and attempting to copy them helped me develop my own voice too.
MR: It’s been a really tough time for musicians over the past couple of years, what did you do to keep busy?
SG: Oh yes, it’s been the worst! Everyone in the entertainment and hospitality industry particularly has been hit tremendously. I lost over four hundred bookings just like that, and many more following on. After wallowing for some time about it all, I needed some focus, so I came up with the idea of writing a song, all about being away from loved ones and having to be in lockdown essentially – I asked other musicians to all record their parts at home and send them across and it became a song that I’m really proud of, “Stay Home”. I also created a video featuring over fifty willing people and about five pets too! – and decided to make all proceeds to go to NHS Charities Together. It really gave me some positivity during a difficult time, and I wanted to give others some focus too.
In early 2021 – when we were in lockdown number three I believe! – I had the idea of doing “Doorstep Gigs”, where clients would book me to travel to a loved ones house and sing in their driveway, their garden, their garage – all socially distanced with my little busking amp – and learn and then play some of their favourite songs. I really enjoyed doing this as quite often the recipient didn’t know I was coming and it would be a birthday or anniversary surprise for them! It was a lovely heart warming time that shed a bit of light on some dreary isolated days.
MR: How did you keep your mental health in check too?
SG: I have to admit, lockdown was awful for me personally – I really didn’t cope very well. I won’t go into details, but 2020 was probably the worst year for me mentally. I got myself into a hole and couldn’t get out for some time! Not only did I lose my whole business and income, but unfortunately both of my Grandparents passed away, I lost a property I was set to buy as I’d suddenly lost all my income, and had various relationship issues also! It certainly wasn’t the best time and I struggled to get through each day.
MR: Did this inspire your writing?
SG: I remember it really clearly – I had rented a small cottage out for a short time as I thought it might help me mentally, and I was sitting on the sofa there with my guitar. And I started singing exactly how I was feeling, expressing it through melodies and words, and plucking strings on the guitar. Through tears, I wrote a song. And that was the moment I started feeling a little more positive as I had something to focus on, and could almost put exactly how I felt down on paper and through a melody. I began to feel a little brighter ever since that moment.
MR: Did you end up doing any virtual gigs during the lockdowns – and what did you think of this new way of providing entertainment?
SG: Yes, I got into a routine of doing one or two every week! I actually really enjoyed it. It was so lovely to read peoples comments, play requests – as I had my iPad beside me I could find any song anyone wanted and play it on the spot. I loved learning new songs, and people were very kind and generous too. It was almost like a virtual chat with fifty people or so, playing their requests and having a bit of a sing song really! It also gave me a reason to get dressed up, and get all my PA gear and lights set up so I didn’t get out of practise.
MR: What did you miss most about live gigs, and how has it felt being able to perform again?
SG: People clapping! One thing that was weird was playing a song virtually, finishing, and then silence; so it’s been nice to hear applause after songs! It still feels weird being around others – are we socially distancing or not – and Covid is still very much about, so naturally many are still wary. The first time I went back on a proper stage I cried though – it was a lovely emotional moment and I realised how much I’d truly missed it.
MR: Given that many are still uncertain about returning to gigs, is there anything you would suggest music fans can do to keep supporting the music industry and independent artists?
SG: You don’t have to physically be at a gig to support a musician. A “like” on Facebook, a share, really does go a long way. Listening, downloading, streaming an artist’s single, watching their video – anything like this, it may seem small but I can assure you it would mean the world to the artist.
MR: Where can people catch you next?
SG: As these are always quieter months, I don’t have a huge amount of gigs at the moment! So I’m spending time organising and planning the busier months. Coming up I’ve got a few venues I have residences at and lots of Weddings! In the summer though, I’m looking forward to playing at events such as Foodies Festival, Morley Festival and Ibiza Brunch. I usually post my upcoming gigs on my Facebook/Instagram pages – so check them out!
MR: As a fun one to end on: if you could do a duet with anyone who would it be and why?
SG: Ooo that’s a tough one, I would love to sing with Dave Grohl, that would be awesome.
MR: Is there anything else you wish to add?