Musicians Adapting To Life Amid COVID-19 Restrictions

By Benjamin Cox on June 24, 2020 at 2:46pm

Nationwide touring musicians have had to adapt to a new life of sheltering in place and not playing before crowds. Outdoor venues have begun to allow some live entertainment to return in recent weeks. More restrictions are set to be lifted on June 26th.

For Melbourne, Australia born and Chicagoland-based blues musician, Michael Charles, it’s been an unprecedented time to be a musician – at least that he can remember over the past 5 decades he’s toured the world playing for audiences. “This is what I’ve been doing my whole life and I have never experienced anything like this. I’ve been playing guitar for 57 years. Out of those 57 years, touring has been non-stop, and now it has been 3 1/2 months since my band has played a gig. I finally got together with my guys in the last few weeks. I asked them to get together so we could get some rehearsals in and get ready for some shows that are starting to come out of the woodwork. It’s been an unusual time, which is the best way I can describe it. There’s nothing normal about it.”

Charles played his first gig out in Verona on June 20th and then is making his way down to Oakford to the Hill Prairie Winery for their July 4th Celebration weekend for a Sunday, July 5th headlining gig in their outdoor wine garden. Charles says he’s done what many Jacksonville-based musicians have done over the last several months. He has helped entertain his fans and music lovers with virtual concerts and streaming options. “I’m one of the lucky guys. I’ve got my own full-blown recording studio, so I’ve spent all the time in my studio and I’ve been doing, once a month, I started series called ‘Alone & Acoustic.’ I did that for a good 9 weeks, and the last couple of weeks I’ve put up videos of our band rehearsals. They had some great response. They are letting people know that we are getting ready to get out there again. You kind of got to get a little creative, I guess, in these times.”

Charles has spent the last 30 years in Chicago with a brief layover in Nashville as a blues guitarist and songwriter. He’s been a part of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences since 1995 and has appeared 6 times on WGN for live in-studio performances. He was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in 2015. Charles moved to Chicago in 1990 and held a residency at the original Buddy Guy’s Legends club for 5 years. During that time he played with Chicago Blues luminaries Buddy Guy, Phil Guy, James Cotton, Junior Wells, Eddy Clearwater, and George Baze. Charles met Chicago blues legend Jimmy Dawkins in 1995 and joined his band and later went on tour before beginning a solo career. To date, he has recorded 34 full-length albums. Charles’ “No Hindsight” 2020 tour was set to become his 13th consecutive world tour before the pandemic halted the world’s ability to gather socially and to travel.

Charles says he’s excited to get back out and see his fans again and hopes that everyone stays safe and healthy during the pandemic. Charles’ performance at Hill Prairie Winery on July 5th runs from 2-5PM. For more information, please call Hill Prairie Winery 217.635.9900.