Phone a friend: Musicians share how they're doing during coronavirus crisis


Jill Riley, host of The Current's Morning Show.
Jill Riley, host of The Current's Morning Show. (James Napoli/MPR)
Phone a friend: Ben Gibbard (Part 1)
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| 00:06:24
  • Phone a friend: Ben Gibbard (Part 1) 06:24
  • Phone a friend: Ben Gibbard (Part 2) 02:48
  • Phone a friend: Lori Barbero 08:19
  • Phone a friend: Har Mar Superstar (Part 1) 06:16
  • Phone a friend: Har Mar Superstar (Part 2) 10:11
  • Phone a friend: Alex Rice 04:42
  • Phone a friend: Adam Weiner 08:14
  • Phone a friend: Chris Thile 07:41
  • Phone a friend: Ben Jaffe 05:37
  • Phone a friend: Merrill Garbus 07:44
  • Phone a friend: Jim James 05:41
  • Phone a friend: Colin Meloy 04:24
  • Phone a friend: jeremy messersmith 09:02
  • Phone a friend: Patterson Hood 05:18
  • Phone a friend: Dessa 12:23
  • Phone a friend: Har Mar Superstar (Part 3) 11:03
  • Phone a friend: Mark Mallman 08:25
  • Phone a friend: Caitlyn Smith 08:03
  • Phone a friend: Joey Burns 06:39
  • Phone a friend: G. Love 07:41
  • Phone a friend: Bob Geldof (Part 1) 04:18
  • Phone a friend: Bob Geldof (Part 2) 07:13
  • Phone a friend: Lissie 10:41
  • Phone a friend: Roy Freid of First Avenue 07:02
  • Phone a friend: John Munson 08:51
  • Phone a friend: Sam Roberts 06:22
  • Phone a friend: Grzegorz Kwiatkowski of Trupa Trupa 05:18
  • Phone a friend: David Huckfelt 06:57
  • Phone a friend: Craig Minowa of Cloud Cult 09:28
  • Phone a friend: Declan McKenna 05:27
  • Phone a friend: Nur-D 06:48
  • Phone a friend: Craig Finn 07:08
  • Phone a friend: Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate 07:10
  • Phone a friend: Mavis Staples 06:34
  • Phone a friend: Dave Simonett 09:01
  • Phone a friend: Mason Jennings 06:00
  • Phone a friend: Thao Nguyen of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down 07:52
  • Phone a friend: Sims 09:17
  • Phone a friend: Adam Levy 06:14
  • Phone a friend: Chris Koza 09:49
  • Phone a friend: Brad Shultz of Cage the Elephant 06:20
  • Phone a friend: Sylvan Esso 06:48
  • Phone a friend: Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons Part 2 04:53
  • Phone a friend: Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons Part 1 05:46
  • Phone a friend: Vicky Emerson 06:06
  • Phone a friend: Lucius - part 1 05:16
  • Phone a friend: Lucius - part 2 03:44
  • Phone a friend: Bobby Maher 06:51
  • Phone a friend: John Moe 07:56
  • Phone a friend: Alison Mosshart 08:43
  • Phone a friend: Cameron Kinghorn 06:29
  • Phone a friend: Fancy Ray 07:36

For the last couple of weeks on The Current's Morning Show we've been having our musician friends call in from their homes all across the country and beyond. It's been so nice to hear their voices and get some insight into what is happening in towns across the nation and what the lives of musicians look like right now, from the quarantines to the social distancing to online performances and recording new music.

One thing is clear, and that is how deeply these folks care about their fans and keeping the relationship with them alive, even if that means adopting new forms of technology or expanding their idea of what connection looks like. Here is a collection of the conversations Jill has been having, and we thank these musicians for calling in and taking the time to chat with us during these unprecedented times.

Above, listen to each interview. We're also posting transcripts of these interviews one by one, and adding links as those features become available. Some interviews are scheduled but have not aired yet; scroll down to find out when you can tune in to listen.

jeremy messersmith

"I'm actually terrible at meditating, but I am very good at sitting still for like an hour at a time, is how to think of it. But it does help kind of like, shrink the world a little bit."

full interview

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie

"In this time, with what we are going through right now, people are really craving connection and kind of respite from their isolation. I think there are people out there who are fans of our band or my music. They're given an opportunity to kind of interact with me and, then conversely for me, getting a chance to interact with them feels really good. It feels like we're all kind of in this together because we are."

full interview

Lori Barbero of Babes in Toyland

"Me being an empath, I don't really feel sorry for myself. I feel bad for everyone else. I just wish I could save all the dogs, all the world, all the people."

full interview

Har Mar Superstar of Heart Bones

"We kind of came up with the idea to make a coloring book of a bunch of local artists including: Dillinger Four, Atmosphere, Nur-D, Gully Boys, Trampled by Turtles. The list goes on: Replacements, Babes in Toyland. [We're] making a coloring book that'll benefit the Twin Cities Music Community Trust that First Avenue set up for their staff and the performers that are out of work...I've pivoted to coloring book publishing, basically."

full interview

Alex Rice of Sports Team

"We're quite lucky, because the way we engage with our fans is very social-media-based. They're basically sitting at home looking for things to watch."

full interview

Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie

"This is a trying time but just like through the history of this country, there've been very difficult times, we rose to the challenge and we came out stronger. You know, the service that you guys at The Current provide on the radio is so important right now. Think about when we were in the Great Depression, and all of a sudden people were getting their news from the radio. That's really when radio exploded in this country, and people were listening to music and they were listening to President Roosevelt speak, and it was a way that people — as despondent as they were — they saw there was a future for us. I am excited to see the energy that I'm seeing from all my neighbors and all of my pals. We're all putting our heads together and we're going to try and make this a better world. Art is a part of that world. Art does not stop."

full interview

Chris Thile, host of Live From Here

"In the backdrop of all the fear and anxiety that we are all feeling, it's nice that we can still all work with that urge that we all have to make something and share it with people."

full interview

Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall Jazz Band

"New Orleans is a very outside city. Everything happens outside. Music happens outside. People are outside. It's very unfamiliar to see a city quiet."

full interview

Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs

"Any musician I talk to, artist that I talk to, these practices are our sanity. So I need my daily practices. I need my vocal practice, I need all these things. Yes we are recording, yes we are still trying to figure out how to mix our album remotely, perhaps, or do it in a way that we can get music out to the people sooner rather than later. And I think that one way of being present is to be in our bodies, and to, you know, as I've been talking about feeling what's going on in ourselves, but I think that's also dancing and moving — celebrating our lives and celebrating our bodies — so I love delivering kind of what's in the collective conscious with a beat to dance to."

full interview

Jim James of My Morning Jacket

"For year now we had to move on without making a living from our album sales, and we always said that they might be able to steal our album sales but they'll never be able to steal the live experience. Now that's gone."

full interview

Colin Meloy of the Decemberists

"It kind of is surreal, trying to fight the urge to refresh the Twitter feed, trying to establish better phone mental health hygiene standards for myself."

full interview

Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers

"Revel in the things you have and know you're not alone. We're all kind of in this together. God, I miss the rock shows. I miss playing, I miss going to see shows. I still go to as many shows as I did when I was much younger and I can't wait until this all passes and we can all go out and have a beer with friends."

full interview


"That impulse to write new material - I don't feel like I've totally been struck by that because I think a lot of my head space is occupied by wanting to stay abreast of what's going on. I don't think I've ever consumed news as voraciously as I have in the past couple weeks. On the other hand, like every other performing musician you have weeks and then months and then many many months of work canceled very quickly."

full interview

Har Mar Superstar

"We went full bore and made a 28 page coloring book in a 6 day span...I'm already sending out for the third printing of it which is insane."

Mark Mallman

"Music can increase your dopamine levels and music unites people and can remind you of times in the past and so if you can collectively recognize music that incites within you some type of positive mental attitude - you can weaponize your emotions."

full interview

Joey Burns of Calexico

"I've asked myself a lot of questions - what ifs, what's gonna happen. I have to be honest with you I started crying yesterday at the end of the day. It was a really tough day. Earlier in the day I wrote a letter to Elton John. I don't know why I did but I needed to reach out to somebody and I heard his music in the morning and I was touched by his voice and songs. I don't know where it will go but it felt good doing that, and I encourage everyone to write to your friends, your loved ones, your favorite artists. It helps to know that we're all here for each other."

full interview

Caitlyn Smith

"We released the album on Friday the 13th just as everything was shutting down this month. Everything got canceled a few days before. So it's been strange but it's been really cool because in this time where everyone is slowing down and things are shutting down people are turning to music as their healer and helper."

full interview

G. Love

"I do well but I gotta work. I'm teaching online guitar classes, I got about 12 students - guitar, harmonica and songwriting. I've been doing two streams a week - Thursdays at 4 pm EST and Saturdays at 5 pm EST. The theme is to give back to some of the people we work with. This Thursday is a split between our team and legendary club First Avenue in Minneapolis. As musicians we can bring love, positivity, and music to lift people up."

full interview

Bob Geldof

"Lockdown. People making do. A sense of individual responsibility married to a social conscience. An awareness of the fragility of being human. Governments acting too slow, making the wrong decisions in the heat of the crisis, but any government would do that. People imagining that we will all learn from this and we'll emerge better, but that's nonsense. We won't. We'll just go back to where we were."

full interview


"I have gone live a few times on Instagram and I've been relearning my old songs. This is the best situation for me to try to relearn my old songs that I've been procrastinating learning how to play. I'm trying to make sure I keep some things free and I'm here to be a distraction/comfort or entertainment."

full Live Virtual Session

Roy Freid, First Avenue

"One of the biggest changes (over time at First Avenue) was when we tore up the dance floor - the plexiglass whatever. We thought it was just going to be rubble underneath but it ended up being the best dance floor in the city."

full interview

John Munson

"Instead of yelling, go ahead and give a hug and say 'I'm having a hard time right now and we're gonna get through this together.' Do it with your wife, your lover, your kids. Love one another. That is the best thing for this moment right now."

full interview

Sam Roberts

"I am locked in my basement hiding from my children upstairs."

full interview)

Grzegorz Kwiatkowski of Trupa Trupa

"Maybe we'll establish a better community worldwide in the future. Very often this kind of tragic situation brings some light and hope and new solutions for the whole world. I think we should have an optimism. I'm sure that because of the darkness we can produce some light."

full interview

David Huckfelt

"I think right now everyone misses being across someone they love who's far away that they can't see. Especially with a little baby that we love and he's got to meet them on screens right now and it's better than nothing. But I miss seeing the faces, you know?"

full interview

Craig Minowa, Cloud Cult

"It's an opportunity to slow down and let all of those moments of awe catch up to us. When we ultimately do come out the other side of this, maybe we're all changed a little bit."

full interview

Declan McKenna

"It's strange for everyone because we had a very busy year planned. But with such a big picture involved it's hard to even think about anything but staying home. I'm taking the time for what it's worth and trying to get rest out of it. It's a good time to create if anything. Trying to take the positives where they are and take each day as it comes."

full interview


"I have a brand new EP that I'll be dropping this Saturday called 'Trapped In My Room'. I was like, 'I need to do something with all this creativeness'. This was like a return to roots. I got with my pad and pen, recorded with everything in my room. It was like a MacGyver of how to make a great record with just the stuff you have around you."

full interview

Craig Finn

"My partner Angie is a nurse here in a hospital in Manhattan and she's caring for COVID patients, so we are currently living apart due to safety. It's very difficult. She's calm and brave and professional and I'm in awe of her. But it's a lot."

full interview

Steve Wynn, The Dream Syndicate

"Who knows when we'll be able to do that part of our lives again, to be out there playing music on the road. But on the flip side we're used to being in confined spaces like vans, backstages and hotel rooms so being home and listening to music and reading books and watching movies and TV shows fits into a lifestyle that we know well."

Mavis Staples

"I'm doing ok. I'm holding out. I'm home in Chicago on lock down. You look out the window and it looks like a ghost town. It's pretty dreary, but the sun is shining today. That makes it better."

full interview

Dave Simonett

"To be honest I don't know. It's confusing in a way, stressful in some classical ways...just to have the whole business itself be stuck and turned off and not knowing when it's going to turn back on. A lot of people are going through the same things and I feel like we have a shared uncertainty."

Mason Jennings

"I've been cooking a lot, been painting a lot. And been working on a new record - I'm in a new band. We're finishing up our first record and finishing up virtually which is pretty fun."

full interview

Thao Nguyen with Sean McPherson

"It's easy to lose site of what's happening and what's at stake and the sacrifices people are making...I think the hard part is figuring out how to continue doing things you need to do in your daily life."


"I'm helping with my wife's restaurant at Muddy Waters, I'm trying to do other creative pursuits. With Doomtree we had our shows postponed - the First Ave and Palace shows - so we were trying to think about how Doomtree enters the livestream space, and getting a quality sound together as a livestream is difficult. So we thought about how we could re-approach the livestream format and we made Doomtree TV."

Adam Levy

"I've been writing a ton of music, trying not to listen to the news too much just because that can really wear you down. The ideas are flowing right now, it's just hard to know when you're going to be able to share them other than online."

Chris Koza

"I don't know what's going to happen and I don't know how long things are going to be changed, but I still have work to do. And I still have this relationship with my work that provides me with a lot of joy and a lot of self-identity."

Britt Daniel of Spoon

"We didn't have shows planed, we were kind of finishing up a new album when this all happened and I basically just kept working on the album. I mean I thought I was almost done with it but now I've got all these other songs and the album keeps progressing - it's changing a bit. I think it's even going to get better and better you know?"

full interview

Brad Shultz of Cage The Elephant with Jade

"I was just brushing my teeth for the first time today — don't judge me."

full interview

Sylvan Esso

"Comparatively speaking (in Durham, NC) we're pretty good. We have a pretty low infection rate here and we were one of the places that was very early on the stay-at-home order and so far it's really been working. Everybody's really come together. It's been really cool."

full interview

Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons

"We love what we do as a band and we're trying to think is there a way where we can do something? Exploring what that might look like, and we're hoping to get some new music out whatever shape and form that takes."

full interview

Vicky Emerson

"We want to have an intention where we're in this place to learn and to grow and to listen."

full event listening

Bobby Maher

"In my traditional role I represent a number of artists and over these past few months with live performances ceasing and work in general really drying up and a lot of uncertainty for people...I'm not very good at sitting on my hands and I wanted to try to find some opportunity to make work for people."


"It's so strange to feel the most togetherness maybe ever and be so far apart from one another. But there is a hope and a renewed sense of belief in our community and communities because of this and I really hope that some good comes out of it like the air being cleaner and maybe awareness for one another and also the fact that people are reaching out and having conversations with people they haven't spoken to in years, there are good things that are coming out of this. Hopefully a lot of art too."

full interview

John Moe

"I first started dealing with this when I was in 7th grade - when I was like 12 years old. I didn't get diagnosed until my mid-30s because I just didn't know what it was. I wasn't like moping all the time, I wasn't like a Smiths record, but it just took different symptoms for me. I finally just got to a point where it wasn't manageable but by that point a lot of times depression will have told you you're not worth treating, you'roe not worth getting this checked out, you should just keep quiet about it and I finally was able to push past that with some really great support and get to a doctor."

Alison Mosshart

On what she misses most about live performance: "I think that adrenaline and that connection to people. There's not a feeling on earth that mimics that feeling."

Cameron Kinghorn

"I have been trying to fill my time with as much creative work as possible. I've been doing a ton of home recording which feels really good and that has been a nice distraction for me. I've been just diving into projects then coming out 5 or 6 hours later and being like whoa - where did all that time go?"

full interview

Fancy Ray

"Little Richard was my inspiration for going into show business. I started my career as an impersonator. Even when I did stand up comedy it was like Little Richard doing stand up comedy."

full interview

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