Creative Block: The Impact COVID-19 has on artists

Nyle Paul | Staff Writer

Courtesy of RJ $tackhouse

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase nationwide, artists are finding themselves maneuvering through this “new normal” with a restrictive, unpredictable nature. 

Here at our home by the sea, we have a large community of artists, all of which specialize in different art focuses. With the coronavirus not letting up on its rampant expansion throughout the nation, we wanted to get insight on how these artists are handling their craft amid this “new normal.” 

Reginald Baker Jr. is a 2019 Hampton University graduate from Richmond, Virginia. He was an audio production major.. He is a musician, songwriter and producer that goes by the stage name “RJ $tackhouse.” 

To give a bit more insight on his artistry, $tackhouse goes in depth with his craft and the musical influences that inspired it.

“I describe myself as a music artist because I try to mix genres when I feel inspired,” $tackhouse said. 

  “I started rapping in middle school when I got my first MacBook computer and started producing around that time, too. Now I still do rap, but I try singing, too. I’m not a good singer, but that’s why we have Auto-Tune. I just try to mix my electronic sound with natural sounds. My influences musically are Michael Jackson, Drake, Frédéric Chopin, Anita Baker and, more recently, Brandy. Other than music artists, I get inspiration from nature, life experience and storytelling. I always take the rapper approach to my music, but honestly, you’ll never know what you get when I drop something.”

As coronavirus cases continue to increase across the nation, the financial hardships that were imposed are getting heavier. The physical restrictions set in place are also challenging many artists’ capabilities. $tackhouse shared his experience with the difficulties he ran into and how those difficulties have affected his craft. 

“It’s been very inspiring. I haven’t really gotten any new equipment and software. Just been making music on my phone,” $tackhouse said.

“I didn’t know you could turn your iPhone into a studio until the pandemic started. And I created two albums off it, Self Care and Self Harm. I was never inconvenienced because I always make music at night when I have nothing else to do. I won’t go to sleep until I make a song or at least get an idea out there. I’ve slowed down now because I have a new day job, but I still get it in on the weekends. The only thing I wish I could’ve done this year was be in more live shows. Just to get my name out there to more people.”

Artists’ motivation has been affected by the pandemic as well. In most cases, two outcomes have been produced: artists were encouraged to become more disciplined in their craft and tap into their unlocked creativity, or they have lacked the motivation to continue their craft. $tackhouse touches on the pandemic’s effect on his artistic motivation. 

“It helped me find my first album theme and second album theme, so I’m happy for that,” $tackhouse said.

 “Self Care, the album I started before quarantine, was basically me complaining about life and being depressed,” he said. “The second one, Self Harm, was more about me exploring my sound and expanding on new ideas I got over finding myself. It was more experimental, I guess, and I had more features on it, so it was also a collaborative effort which is kind of new for me. I used to not work with other artists before 2018.”

Creative block is a commonality among almost all artists. With the setbacks that the pandemic imposed, artists may be more prone to creative block. Stackhouse explained whether or not the pandemic personally affected his ability to access his internal creativity.

“Not at all,” $tackhouse said. “The only thing that keeps me from thinking of anything to create is being busy with work. 

“I never have any song ideas when I’m at my day job. I get all my best ideas at night when I’m tired. Although when I go outside and spend time doing things by myself, I come up with ideas. I do a lot of exploring. The more exploring I do, the more ideas I get, usually. I have had writers block, though. Like right now, actually. That’s because I feel drained because I’ve been making and pushing out so much music this year. Usually, I take a long break from releasing music and just keep experimenting until I find the right song to make. If I find a  central theme for a project, I expand on that and keep it to myself until it’s time to reveal it to the world in full.”

With the mental, financial and physical challenges that the pandemic has brought along, it brings about the question of how some artists have been able to keep focus on their art during this difficult time. The HU alum shares how he has been able to remain focused on his craft and encouraged creatives to get a true sense of self and discipline.

“I work out a lot and changed my diet to be a little bit healthier,” $tackhouse said. “I say just explore outside by yourself. Don’t talk to anyone and keep a mask on, but go outside and be away from others. I go to the mountains like every month and hike. Sometimes with my friend Rondy. That’s when I clear my mind and get away from reality for a day. 

“Also, stay off social media so you can have time to think and breathe. Then come back because you might find your next song idea on the internet. I started doing other things too, like painting. I’m not good at it, but it’s something to keep me sane. Drink tea, meditate and stretch, too. That’s what I do.”

It is without a doubt that RJ $tackhouse has been putting in work this year. His fans certainly cannot wait for what he has in store. To give a little more insight, $tackhouse touched on some upcoming projects that he has in store.

“So I’m featured on two projects this Halloween,” $tackhouse said. “The projects are by REK Productions and Young Carrot. I have a song with my friend Nása that comes out Oct. 23, so by the time this comes out, it’ll be out. It is called ‘Silence.’ That’s my introduction to my R&B’-ish type sound. We also have a music video for it filmed by the one and only 4kMalcom. I’m working on a collaboration project with Nása, too, but the release is to be announced. I’m also working on an R&B album that will most likely come out [in] 2021. I think I’ve tapped out my project meter for the year.”

RJ $tackhouse can be found on Instagram @therjstackhouse, where some of his music is featured. His music can be found on all digital streaming platforms under his name, RJ $tackhouse. 

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