Against the Odds
Music has been described as both the language of the soul and the universal language of mankind – but what happens when the music stops? We spoke to Elfin Bow for our most recent issue of Like Minded magazine to find out what she did when the authorities pulled the plug on live performances…
The current climate is proving to be a creative and productive time for many, not least for artist Elfin Bow. But things were very different in 2020. Here, she tells us how she’s dealt with extraordinary times and how she made it her mission to stay positive. Her family and friends may know her as Elizabeth Anne Jones, but in the world of music she is always Elfin Bow. With creative talents aplenty, she is an artist in the broadest sense of the word, with art and teaching sitting comfortably alongside her main work as a musician. As Elfin Bow she has played extensively to audiences across Liverpool – her home city – and throughout North Wales, where she now lives, as well as many other places far and wide.
“I perform as a solo artist but put together a band when the situation calls for it,” says Elfin, who was planning a tour across the UK as well as gigs in France and the USA before the pandemic ground things to a unexpected halt.
“I was making plans to record my next album, play festivals and gigs and do more collaborations,” she says. “My calendar looked very busy with creative schools projects so I was unsure how I was going to achieve it all.”
It was taken out of her hands when Covid put a stop to everything, forcing her to take time out and rethink her plans.
“The pandemic gave me time to really think hard about what I want from my music, to finally get set up to record music and videos at home and collaborate with other bands and musicians remotely,” she explains. “I continued teaching because I teach online anyway.
“I also completed a 31 Days of Drawing project which allowed me to share my creativity with my online audience, improve my video editing skills and develop more ideas for Elfin Bow merchandise.”
She would be the first to admit that art in the broad sense is her world: she lives and breathes it, she says. She has a portfolio of projects and work that help pay her way, including teaching, gigging, recording and making art commissions. But she hasn’t always lived life in a creative bubble: six years ago it was drastically changed by a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a condition that causes widespread pain and extreme tiredness. She made the decision to leave her full-time teaching job to become a freelance artist and musician.
“In the years since, I have learned to be incredibly determined and resilient in order to build a career, with incredibly loyal and supportive fans. I feel very held by my community right now,” she says.
She has both given and found inspiration through her Facebook group ‘Be in Flow’ – an anagram of her creative name. “It has become a wonderfully uplifting and inspiring community that acts as an antidote to all the negativity on the news and on our timelines,” she says.
Her on-going creativity does not hide the fact she lost income through cancelled gigs and school work and, along with many other artists, she felt the strain financially. Her partner, Gary Edward Jones, is also a musician.
“My husband had tours and dates in the US cancelled just when a major theatre-based project was really taking off,” she says. His successful Something About Simon project came to an abrupt halt, with a postponed tour in Holland and an eight-week run off Broadway, NYC.
“Online gigs brought in very reasonable funds but you couldn’t do them too often,” she explains. “I performed several. For each one, I took great care to make it different from the last, to dress the ’set’ to make it as magical as one of my physical gigs and to make sure I engaged with people listening in.
“A lot of effort went into getting the sound right – days of research and investment in equipment – but I think it all paid off in the quality of the experience for everyone involved. I would continue to do them every so often.”
Elfin Bow has been fortunate to find an appreciative online audience. She found herself in a situation that no-one could have predicted and that took everyone in her music community by surprise.
“What I heard from other musicians in my wider community was a very mixed bag,” she says. “Those reliant purely on income from performing and recording were left near destitute. Others found ways to survive. The worst was that we had no idea how and when the live music and recording scenes could safely and sustainably return. I do know quite a few that had never been busier recording remotely and creating online content. It proved to be a very creative and productive time for many.”
Elfin Bow would like to see more financial support for an industry that has, in effect, been brought to its knees.
“I am not aware of any ways that musicians were supported through this in Wales, beyond their own fan base support,” she says. “Individual artists and musicians felt like a forgotten tribe in support packages that may rescue organisations to some extent. The arts have been squeezed and neglected for years. There are competitions, funding streams and opportunities to apply for but they are fiercely competitive and require a huge amount of work for little reward, if it comes at all. And yet, everyone relies on the arts for entertainment and to improve quality of life, and especially so during the pandemic.
“We need more sustainable support moving forward – tax relief, affordable spaces to work, ways to improve skills to become more independent, better funding for venues to pay performers more than expenses – I could go on and on. What I do know, is that for most musicians, music is the core of who they are and we give everything of ourselves to do our best work. That deserves recognition and celebration by making it a viable way to live and work.”
Elfin Bow is forced to wait, patiently, for the chance to perform live for fans old and new. She misses them. “The audience is everything!” she says. “I do it for them and it is also all about the atmosphere and magic that you create with your music in that moment.”
She kept busy and premiered a new music video for a version of Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties under the moniker of A.B.B.A on her YouTube channel.
She also worked on her Patreon page, a platform which gives paying fans access to creative content. “I’m in a creative upsurge right now so I’m going where the ideas take me,” she adds.
In an exciting new development Elfin Bow has signed to Peacock Sunrise Records and has released ‘Rainbows & Gallows’ an EP and digital bundle. She is also planning some Instagram and Facebook Live events.
“I need to stay positive and productive. And to continue to grow my fan base online in as meaningful way as I can.”