Seven months into the pandemic, music venues–an important economic engine and creative ecosystem–remain largely shuttered. Meanwhile restaurants have opened their dining rooms, bartenders are pouring stiff drinks for patrons in poorly ventilated bars, and corporate offices commenced their pencil pushing.
While he’s no nine-to-five’er, Jax-based singer-songwriter Rick Colado approaches his work with a lunch-pail mentality. After nearly two decades of sonic output across disparate genres, the multi-instrumentalist made music his full-time gig, performing locally, hosting open mic nights, and picking up the occasional bartending shift, in between incessant touring and some seriously prolific productivity under his nom de plume, rickoLus.
So when COVID-19 hit, the doors to Colado’s various workplaces were all but padlocked.
“There was about a week of pure shock once the pandemic hit,” he says of the late-March shutdown. “My family quarantined and all my plans and work went out the window. It seemed like the world stopped spinning for a moment.”
And while venues remain idle, Colado never really sat still. He was one of the first to test the waters of livestream shows here locally, performing upwards of three times per week on Instagram, Facebook, Twitch, and any other platform that would host his uploads. He drilled down on old journals, digging way back to record an EP of tunes he penned when he was 17 years old, which he titled, Seventeen Songs. He started a podcast, composed music for a film, and, once CDC guidelines allowed, started performing for an audience again. Only, his stages now look a little different.
On advice from his wife, Colado began offering his services as a “yard bard.” His calendar quickly filled up, and he began performing solo sets of his rickoLus catalogue in the backyards and on the porches of his fans’ personal property. “I can’t explain how good it felt to hear real applause again,” he says of the yard show performances, which he’s since taken on the road to South Florida and North Carolina.
If he weren’t busy enough, Colado also put the finishing touches on a full-length studio album, Bones, a full-band endeavor featuring piano ballads, lyrically driven mid-tempo compositions, and raucous ragers. Though it carries all the markers of Colado’s singularly chameleon-like lyrical style, which runs the gamut from earnest odes to fangs-out satire, Bones is a personal record, made up of nostalgia driven remembrances of his hometown–Jacksonville Beach.
We caught up with Colado to hear how, with all the noise from COVID-19, he successfully changed his tune.
Tell me about the Yard Shows. Who’s inviting you over? Has it been enjoyable?
The yard shows have been really fun, I can’t explain how good it felt to hear real applause again, even if it’s just a few people clapping. I didn’t realize how much I had been jonesing for that. My wife came up with the idea for the yard shows, she said, “Why don’t you just go play in people’s yards?” I thought it was brilliant. Once I worked out the details in my head and felt like it seemed safe, I posted on social media: “Yard Bard for hire $50 for an hour set in any yard in Duval, 10 people max for an audience, masks required, stage area 10ft from audience.” I got a handful of shows right off the bat–some people I know, others were strangers and fans. I played for a woman’s mom’s birthday party. I played a private show for a couple’s anniversary. I played another birthday party under a tent in the rain. Each yard show has its own very particular vibe. It’s been a pretty interesting and challenging experience so far and I’ve been loving it.
It seems like it’s been a productive six or seven months for you.
Surprisingly, yes. I finished recording Bones and have been getting things ready for a 2021 release. Besides that I’ve recorded and released an EP called Seventeen Songs on Bandcamp, released a few other singles digitally on iTunes and Spotify, etc., started doing a weekly podcast called “I Am Rickolus the Podcast” (available wherever you get your podcasts) and been composing and recording music for an eight-part documentary about Esport competitive PubG Mobile players called Between The Battleground. Also, I’ve been writing a lot of new songs for what I’m thinking will be my next full-length album, but that’s a ways off in the future. So yeah, I feel super lucky to be busy.
And how has this whole open-ended global pandemic shaped the new record?
The subject of the record is nostalgia and growing up in Jacksonville Beach. It’s my hometown record, so it’s not very connected to what’s going on now. However all the business concerning the finishing and release of the record have been affected by the pandemic. For one, mixing the record was different because of the COVID protocol at the studio I was working at: Chase Park Transduction in Athens, GA with producer David Barbe. Usually during mixing I’d be in the control room with David while he was putting it all together, but part of their protocol was no one was allowed in the control room except the in-house engineers. They had a listening station setup for me. I sat out there and we would communicate through the window and sometimes from the doorway connecting the two rooms. It was kinda cool. Back in the old days the artists rarely entered the control room, that was a place for the engineers and record executives. I think this setup helped by giving me space to just listen to the music–no visual distractions or conversational interruptions. I was just listening to my songs being mixed and could make decisions or suggestions based only on that.
It seems like no one has yet figured out a way to make performing both safe and viable, yet. What’s your outlook on the music industry moving forward? Can musicians ever subsist on just putting out recorded music? Can you do yard shows forever? Or are we all just going to have to wait for a vaccine?
My outlook on the music industry is probably as good as anyone’s at this point. There is a lot of adapting going on right now and everyone is just trying to keep moving. I’ve found that, for a small artist like me, I’ve been able to make a humble living by using a combination of patron-based support (like Patreon and Bandcamp), hired labor jobs (composing work, recording work), and consumer based support (like merch and ticket sales). It’s a good time to be self-sufficient and if you have the aptitude for it, all the tools are there to build a career in a very DIY fashion. Maybe the industry will start shifting that way? I don’t know. It’s an uncertain, frightening time, but also exciting and explorative for all of us, and actually, I’m stoked to see where it’s going. And, you know, I wouldn’t mind doing yard shows forever [laughs]. Maybe that is the way of the future.
This article originally appeared as the music feature story in Void Magazine’s winter 2020 issue.