With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to wreak havoc on the world at large, musicians and venue owners alike have been scrambling to find programming alternatives that utilize the organizing power of the Internet. Digital broadcasting platforms like Instagram Live and Twitch have become the new gathering place for artists and performers looking to reach their audiences and provide much-needed entertainment that they otherwise would be delivering in person; in other cases, some unplugged, at-home performances have become primetime television events.
Many artists who had plans to go on tour in support of new projects have now been forced to change course. R&B duo Lion Babe, for example, had an international tour scheduled for this year before closures and safety precautions effectively placed all their forthcoming shows on hold. With their sophomore album Cosmic Wind having just celebrated its first birthday, the pandemic’s timing couldn’t have been more inopportune. Still, singer Jillian Hervey and producer Lucas Goodman valued the importance of bringing their music to their fans, regardless of how they do it.
“We saw the immediate bump in how Instagram Live was changing and that people were really using it much more than they were before,” Hervey tells Forbes. “You have to always stay on the pulse and say, ‘How can we show what we do with this? How do we fit in?’”
Thus, Lion Babe’s “Around the World at Home” Tour was born. The twelve-show run, which kicked off last week, invites viewers from countries around the globe to tune in to intimate shows every evening. Fans are only allowed to RSVP for the show corresponding to their place of residence, and shows are broadcast via Instagram Live with the venues that Lion Babe had originally partnered with for their in-person tour.
For Hervey and Goodman, the biggest priority with Around the World at Home was ensuring that they create an experience for fans that maintains the excitement of a live show while balancing the inherent impersonal nature of communicating through a screen. “You feel the same sense of responsibility to have fun and put on a show and make it visual and dynamic,” Hervey says. “Afterwards you have the same kind of rush because in a way it’s different, but it’s also still us sharing our art and what we do—just in this new way.”
The home performances of the Around the World at Home tour have pushed Hervey and Goodman to wear many different hats out of necessity: as their own venue managers and workers, they’ve had to be in charge of staging elements like lighting and vocal mixing entirely on their own. While this could prove to be too much of a challenge for others, Hervey and Goodman believe that their experience as independent artists has uniquely prepared them for moments like this, and provided them with pieces of equipment and stage dressing along the way that has now come in handy. “We’ve always needed to have the ability to know that we don’t have to rely on getting products and renting things, and that we can be really productive on the fly if an idea comes or an opportunity arises like this one,” Hervey says. “We’re just playing all the roles; it definitely takes a lot of work, but it’s exciting and affirming to know that in this time we’ve been capable of doing it.”
Clearly, Lion Babe is focusing their attention on the good things that this new medium brings, rather than lament the limitations of a virtual concert compared to the experience of a live show. Their Cosmic Wind album, for example, which would likely be performed against an elaborate stage setup and in front of a screaming crowd, is complemented by this format rather than compromised. “It lends itself to a different type of performance,” Hervey explains. “That was a very personal album for us, and I think with the topics on it, we can really say stuff in between songs and let you guys in to how we are as people more.” She notes the “closer, intimate energy” that these performances come with as something that everyone who watches can experience for themselves, rather than just those who are in the front row at their live shows.
The tour wraps up tonight with a special show as part of Crown Royal’s Royal Sessions series, which aims to uplift artists and give them a performance platform when both them and their fans are confined to their homes. While much of their time in lockdown has been spent putting the Around the World at Home tour together, Lion Babe has also found time to work on new music, including their newest single “Can’t Get Enough.” “It was definitely interesting how [‘Can’t Get Enough’] came together,” Goodman laughs. “It was our first time we did a virtual recording session; we had live strings on it and we did a Zoom with the string player.”
Adjusting to this new normal hasn’t come without its hurdles, but both Hervey and Goodman acknowledge that it’s presented a good opportunity to evaluate their priorities as a group, as well as hunker down and create new content in the coming months. “Our strategy has been to just move with the times and try our best to do whatever feels the most ideal for everyone, whether it’s logistically or spiritually,” Hervey says. “Once this tour is over, I’m sure we’re going to be missing that adrenaline rush, so we’ll probably have to either jump back into the studio or just keep staying creative.”
Still, Lion Babe isn’t looking at their foreseeable future as a depressing limit on what they can do. Instead, they view it as a perfect time to prepare for when they’re finally able to perform in front of their fans face-to-face again. “I think no matter what ends up happening, we definitely want to go on tour. It’ll be nice to be able to connect with even people that we’ve now met through these virtual experiences,” Hervey muses. “I don’t think we’ll stop.”