For this edition of Mother Church Pew’s Off The Stage series, we catch up with folk-pop singer and songwriter, Van Plating.
About the Off the Stage Series:
For most music fans, the forty-five minutes that a band spends on the stage is all they can see. However, when the guitar cases are closed and the venue’s floor is littered with empty beer cans and trash, most bands load their gear into the van and return back to their normal lives. In COVID times, even that connection has been limited.
Mother Church Pew’s Off The Stage is a series that celebrates a band’s path to where they are and the things they do behind the scenes to stay there.
From Van Plating, in her own words:
Right before COVID hit, my career was on an awesome trajectory, with lots of solid press, a growing listener base, and tour + festival dates rolling in.
It felt like after years of waiting, I was finally on the right track and set up to succeed at the thing I most love to do. Then March 13th happened (The date FL shut down) and like all artists in my field, our world came to a screeching halt and then went down in flames. The last show I played was a songwriter’s round on March 3 in Orlando. The last show I attended was the following weekend – Brandi Carlile at Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa. March feels like a lifetime ago now.
When the Florida shut-down announcement went out, I did everything a gal could do to get ready for an indefinite stretch of at-home time with the fam.
I got every pool float they had at Target, essential groceries, a respectable-but-not-crazy amount of toilet paper, some hand sanitizer, an obscene amount of popsicles, and a kitten. One of my besties who lives alone came to stay with our family so she wouldn’t be quarantined by herself.
Our main babysitter, who is also a close family friend, lost her job at a local restaurant so we made arrangements for her to be the only one in and out to care for our kiddos and be backup while all three adults living under our roof attempted to work from home AND remote school four small children. We set up a quarantine pod with two other neighborhood families so the kids would have each other. We took turns going to the grocery store to limit impact.
I had made recording plans but we put those on hold. Bryan Elijah Smith, who co-wrote “Brid On A Wire” and was tapped to produce my first three singles of the year, and I would facetime fairly frequently to check in, talk through songs and run ideas by one another.
My best friend who lives near NYC was experiencing even more intense times than I was, and we made it a priority to Facetime more often than we ever have before. My writing room, being closed down, meant figuring out how to write at home in a house full of people. I set up regular office hours in my bedroom, lit some incense (palo santo is my favorite), and went to work, as I watched tour dates and festivals cancel and my friends sign up for stimulus and hope for the best. It was hard. There was definitely a grieving period. The kids think the kitten was for them, but really she’s MY emotional support animal.
How it’s going:
I’ve written somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 songs in quarantine. No small miracle. My marriage is stronger than it was because we’ve had to face ourselves and work out our shit. My kids are thrilled to be in school again. When Florida opened up phase 1, I flew to VA to record three songs with Bryan (observing all of the COVID protocols, of course) and we filmed a music video for the first single, “Bird On A Wire.” I pivoted my model for the next year and started thinking hard about what my goals will be and what the plan of attack would be for Van Plating from 2020-2021.
I dreamed a lot about recording a full body of work over this period of time, somehow. I worked really hard on myself. Being present where I am, not always on to the next thing. Focusing on my relationships with the human beings in my immediate vicinity. I rested. Even with all the writing, my schedule was SO OPEN for the first time in over 10 years. I got in the sun and read books, and wrote songs, and parented and wife’d and friended my friends. I cut out the extras and got back to what matters to me, which is art, faith, and my closest relationships. We closed back down, not completely, when COVID cases spiked again and it was back to the basics. I was so thankful to have been able to sneak away and get some work in, and made myself content to wait and see what was next.
I kept right on writing up til about a month ago, when I was tired. Tired of living the same day over and over with a varying kaleidoscope of emotions. Crazy, being on a rollercoaster that never moves outwardly but inwardly is the wildest ride of your life. The return of precedented times will be greeted by me with a warm hug and a high five. And maybe a fist bump or two. So anyway I said forget it with my daily routine and started ripping out bushes in front of our house.
We moved into our home 6 years ago and have created this magical jungle paradise in the backyard, but the front yard looked like a bank parking lot.
Just giant blocks of hedges and bushes as far as the eye could see. So my bestie and I ripped out 60 bushes over the course of a week or two and I went on a grand planting adventure, sourcing a wild conglomeration of botanical beauties from local nurseries all around Polk County. It was so good for my soul to dig in the dirt under the Florida sun. My husband was feeling the same way about his job, so he designed and built shutters, a new fence gate, and trellis for my bleeding heart vines to climb out front. It took a month to design and install but now it’s like a brand new house with this incredibly colorful, tropical Eden. It makes me smile every time I look outside.