Nashville singer-songwriter Michaela Anne has been enduring an especially trying and emotional pandemic. While the performer was pregnant with her first child, her own mother suffered a debilitating stroke. At the same time, her career and that of her husband and bandmate was drying up. Now, just a few weeks before returning to the live stage with a performance at Bonnaroo, Michaela Anne is in disbelief as Covid-19 cases surge because of the highly transmissible Delta variant. In her own words, the vocalist and new mom talks about why it’s imperative that the live music community finds a way to continue to perform for fans, even if that means requiring proof of vaccination to attend a concert.
I don’t think the answer is to cancel and shut down at this point. I don’t know how we’re going to do that. It’s not just the artists, but people in the industry who have been out of work for so long, and somehow survived this long. I’m not sure if people outside of music and the industry understand how this has impacted all of us whose careers have either been postponed or dramatically altered. It’s something we’ve spent our lifetime working toward, training for, and investing in.
So I think [a vaccination requirement] is a good policy. I’m coming from a family that has many mixed views on vaccine requirements and the vaccine itself, but I think this is a positive, because our industry depends on large gatherings of people. A lot of us haven’t been able to work at all for a year and a half. The science shows that in 99 percent of cases, vaccinated people aren’t hospitalized or die. If this policy is proving to help keep people safe and therefore keep us working, it is 100 percent what we need to do, if there’s not going to be some larger national leadership.
I have my first show back in over a year and a half at Bonnaroo. We have other festivals and a club date in September, and we’re constantly talking about “Is this responsible? How is this going to affect the baby?” And if it doesn’t affect her, if one of us gets sick, as self-employed musicians, we can’t afford that. We need to care for our child and be able to work. We have no sick leave, we have no protections. So what’s been on my mind much more is “Am I being a responsible partner? Am I putting our family at risk?” Not just “Am I putting myself at risk” — not to mention a whole other community if I’m hosting or participating in large gatherings.
“I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable, but please respect that this is what we’re trying to do to keep ourselves safe.”
I have family members who would [object to vaccine mandates], and I don’t like to take an approach toward conflict of “Well, fine, screw you.” So I’d say [to those who may object], “I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable, and I can understand the reasons why you might be uncomfortable, but please respect that this is what we’re trying to do to keep ourselves safe.” It’s not going to one show once a month or once a week. Musicians’ livelihoods depend on them being in large gatherings night after night to just get by. If you care about the artist, then try to understand what is attempting to be done to keep everybody safe and get people back to work.
I hear people on the whole individual freedom conversation, but there are so many things we require in our society to be able to participate. Like wearing shoes and shirts. I know a vaccine is further than an item of clothing, but if it’s a requirement to participate in something that could potentially harm people if you don’t meet that requirement, then it is completely fair.