The mental state sits fragile at the best of times, but being locked away, forced inside, and away from regular routine, is weather for a perfect storm. As we passed the 100 days mark since lockdown, I cant help but look back on the last four months. With everyone I have met and talked to along the way, musicians in particular, they have all found interesting and different ways of getting by – both in terms of looking after their mental health and in more practical ways too, namely finding an outlet for what is often ceaseless creativity.
Matthew Doyle, lead singer of Drogheda band Rowdy Outsider, has been making music and performing live for years. Now that all performing and production has ceased, how was he coping? Although the self-titled introvert says he welcomes these times of reflection and quietness, it must have taken some kind of toll on him. Surely?
“It’s such a weird world,” he tells LouthNow.ie. Even in these dark times Matthew sounds as chipper as ever. To find out how things are now, one must take into account how things were. “I was great before everything. I mean you’re hearing things about Covid and you’re like, ‘Nah, it’s not going to affect anything’. Even when I was at work you hear things but just keep thinking that it was never going to affect us. Then the next week everything was shut down.” Matthew works as a guitar teacher in Drogheda.
“But yeah everything was going great, the band was doing really well. Then in the middle of March when everything got shut down it was like, ‘Oh, this is serious’. Even with the first couple of weeks people didn’t realise how serious it was. I don’t think it was until the end of April when I was starting to get scared, it was dragging on. I’m a bit of an introvert who likes being at home doing nothing. But then after a while it just gets a little bit draining, not being able to see any of your mates, or not being able to gig.”
For the first time since secondary school Matthew found himself with nothing to do. “I am normally quite happy on my own but I found myself being on my own with nothing to do for the first time since school. I had no work or band or college work to do. It was actually nice for a while. But after that it just started to get painful,” the 19-year-old said.
In unusual circumstances everyone found themselves coming to terms with very new struggles; facing new challenges that they were forced to overcome. But everyone was in the same boat, everybody was affected – some more so than others. “Even getting up was a struggle,” Matthew admitted. “You would go downstairs and ask; ‘What are we doing today?’ You look for hope at the end, everything is so negative around you. No matter who you are, or how happy a person you are, there’s nothing you can do to block out how much negativity is surrounding you. It gets everybody down, I think.”
Everyone has their own coping mechanisms, without which they would struggle to get by. Meditation, writing, speaking to family and friends; whatever you can do to keep yourself afloat, you do it.
“I was literally writing a song a day,” Matthew explains. “The way I write songs, I will record a demo, it will take me about seven hours to do it. Then I just took it as a nine to five job, which just left me with the evening time. It was nice. The evening was so much easier than the middle of the day. I just took myself away in the daytime. I then started painting with my dad.”
There will not be a house needing a lick of paint, a DIY list gone unchecked or a shed needing a clear out by the time the Covid-19 pandemic has fully come and gone. We’re nearly there, you would hope. At one point, it felt as if the country collectively picked up a paint brush. Accountants became architects, publicans turned into painters, for a while at least.
The mind needs therapy to get through the days. For Matthew writing was his therapy. “It’s like painting, when you have something to show for your day, it kind of helps me understand how I feel. Putting thoughts out.”
In the midst of a period in which opportunities were lost and people in every walk of life, at each stage of all sorts of journeys saw plans put on ice, Matthew considers himself and his band no different. 2020 was lining up to be the year of Rowdy Outsider with Doyle steering the ship.
“In March we were lining up our own single release. We thought we were being really clever putting it out on Friday, the 13th (March). That morning the government limited indoor gigs and then a couple of hours before our gig [to mark the release], the show was cancelled. I mean, we still went out but it just wasn’t the same. Our last gig was five months ago.”
The gig in question was at regular haunt Odd Mollies, on Peter Street in Drogheda way back in mid-January. It’s been a while. The single, I Only Said Goodbye To The Moon, is available to stream.
For the uninitiated, Rowdy Outsiders have been making waves in Drogheda for some time and in the last year, more widespread recognition has come their way. The band’s debut single ‘Say the Night Will Never Come’ made an impression in industry circles and they have built a loyal, energetic following in recent times. The pandemic put a halt on their forward momentum but it’s expected the appetite for live music will emerge undiminished, in whatever form it returns in.
Is there light at the end of this tunnel? Matthew certainly seems to think so. “When they started accelerating the road map out of this, the day before that we literally thought we wouldn’t be able to play a gig until next year. But in the last couple of weeks there’s been talks of gigs possibly returning at the end of the summer.
“Right now, nothing is glaringly different in my life. I’m nearly back to normal. Once I can get back to the band I’ll be happy. We’re working on our next single, depending on how the next few weeks go, we could still have a positive end to 2020.”
Photo Credit: Kelan Molloy (@kelanmolloy).