Live music sidelined in the pandemic. Artists found new creative outlets

Succeeding in the music business is never easy, but throw yourself into a global pandemic and it’s an even tougher task. However, for budding musicians Nikki Barber (Minks), Matthew Paige (Dee Oh Gee) and Luc Schneider (Margo Price, Orville Pecketc.), they were able to put their creative energy to use in other ways when they were sidelined from touring and had to turn to other sources of income.

Rather than taking jobs waiting at tables, bartending, or working in retail to pay the bills, these artists have instead turned to making embroidery and custom outfits, old-school hats and even incense, candles and other household items.

Keep reading to find out how the three musicians were drawn to their respective side businesses, where they draw inspiration from, the biggest challenges they face, and more.

Nikki Stitch by Nikki Barber

Bridgette Aikens

For Minks singer Nikki Barber, she’s been working and creating her own outfits since she was a ninth grader in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. After moving to Nashville, she began undertaking modification work for others under her business name. Nikki Point before getting into side hustle once the pandemic hit. According to Barber, she briefly studied fashion before moving to Music City, but quickly realized upon arrival how much music and fashion were intertwined.

“People want to wear an outfit that they feel good in on stage,” Barber said. wide open country. “For a very long time, it was just for me doing outfits before turning to modifications on the side and fully committing to Nikki Stitch during the pandemic when I desperately needed something else to do. .”

Due to all of her clients commissioning her for custom work, her influences vary from project to project. However, Barber says she particularly likes 60s and 70s fashion, nudity costumes and cross-stitch items when it comes to her own wardrobe and tries to sprinkle that same flavor into the work. of its customers when it can. In just a few years, she’s done it all, from creating a jumpsuit for Liza Anne, a nudist costume and other outfits used by Riley Downing and thrown in the “Start It Over” music video, and a pair of overalls for Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick.

“I grew up listening to Dr. Dog, so it was a fun, full time working with Eric,” Barber said.

She has also worked with Elizabeth Cook and Todd Snider. During these jobs, she had the pleasure of exploring each artist’s expansive cabinets, which she described as one of the greatest joys of her job.

“When I worked with Elizabeth and Todd, it was so fun to explore their wardrobes and all of their favorite outfits,” Barber said. “My favorite thing about alterations is getting to know people through their clothes. So many clothes tell a story and are a big inspiration to me when it comes to other projects. “

Although turnaround times for each job vary, she generally sources her supplies from one of three places: Jo-Ann fabrics and craft store, online and on Creative reuse of turnip green, a second-hand art supply store in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood of Nashville. This can sometimes be a very time-consuming undertaking, but well worth it. Barber says that while she enjoys both sewing and making music, balancing the two can sometimes be stressful. That being said, she also wouldn’t trade to go back to the bar until the wee hours of the morning as a side gig like she used to.

“Music is my top priority and will always come first, but I also love to sew,” says Barber. “It lights up my brain and my crafty side in a way that music doesn’t. At the same time, when I’m too busy with one or the other, it can be easy to feel like you don’t give it the time and attention it deserves I try to remember that I’m lucky to be able to use my hands in any way so the fact that I create in any way either is a good thing. It’s a constant learning experience to figure out how many clients I can take on in a month and within manageable timelines, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

Matt Hatter by Matthew Paige

Matthew Paige


Matthew Paige of Dee Oh Gee is another Nashvillian who makes custom clothing — hats to be precise — and also sources from Turnip Green, among others. The rock ‘n roll frontman started making hats for himself a few years ago from leftover leather from bags he was making at the time. Much like Barber, he opened up to commissions at the start of the pandemic to keep the money coming in and has stayed busy with work ever since under his business name, Matt Hatter. Paige says there’s just something about the old fabrics she finds at Turnip Green that don’t exist in most new clothes.

“I like to go [Turnip Green] because I literally avoid going to landfill everything I bring home from it,” says Paige. “I’m a big fan of upcycling and limiting my waste as much as possible. Also, the new fabrics are a bit boring. The old stuff gets busier, has a better story to tell and more funk.”

As for the hats themselves, Paige specializes in one specific style, “the newsboy.” Also called “the taxi driver”, “the eight panel” and “the big apple”, the hat has a long and storied history dating back to the peasant days of Irish and English farmers through the 1970s in New York and in the early 1900s in Imperial Russia. as portrayed in movies like fiddler on the roof.

“It’s one of those hats that doesn’t belong to any particular group, but rather has been adapted over time to suit the needs of whoever was wearing it at the time,” says Paige. “There’s the Irish who wore the high and the tight, the super musicians who wore the big and the floppy, and everywhere in between.”

Paige says hats of this style are hard to find in good condition at vintage stores and through other secondhand means, leading her to fill a void by making them while building a community with others. doing the same. This kinship has led the group to promote each other’s work and share tips on how to improve their hats.

As a result, it only takes Paige three hours to start and finish one of her hats. With prices ranging from $75-99 per hat, Paige says he loves the alternative way hat-making offers him as a creative outlet and the purpose that comes with it in relation to his music.

“It’s so satisfying to be able to finish something because in my other life with music, I feel like nothing is ever over,” says Paige. “The song is never over, the tour is never over… It’s a constant journey that often has no end in sight. While I love it, there’s also something very satisfying in the permanence of making a hat and delivering it.” to its new owner.

Forestdale by Luke Schneider

Luc Schneider

Angelina Castillo

In 2019, Luke Schneider, a pedal steel veteran who has toured with everyone from Margo Price to Teddy & The Rough Riders, Orville Peck, Lilly Hiatt and others, began working on a signature scent to burn during of his new age style solo shows. After some experimentation, he came up with an incense made from 100% essential oils.

“I wanted to create a scent to burn during my shows that would help etch the memory of it in the mind of the listener,” Schneider explains.

Attendees at his shows immediately loved the smell and bought what he had for sale at his merchandising table and places around Nashville like Grimey’s faster than he could make them.

“It took off faster than expected and I couldn’t keep up at first,” says Schneider. “I was caught between two worlds, because while things were taking off with the incense, I was also on the road a lot with Teddy & The Rough Riders and Orville Peck. Once quarantine hit and I was off the road, I had a lot more time to spend making incense and expanding my product line.”

Now, in addition to incense, Schneider also manufactures beeswax candles, muscle warming ointments, soaps and much more under the name forestdale. As he expanded his offering, one thing he was hesitant to expand was the varieties of incense he offers. In addition to his signature scent, he also created a custom scent for his friend and fellow Nashville artist, Erin Rae, available only at his merchandising table.

Aside from the sale table and Grimey’s, Forestdale products are available at nearly 30 stores in Nashville, from Vinyl Tap to Third Man Records, in addition to nearly a dozen out-of-town locations, from Vermont to California. According to Schneider, one of his biggest fans is none other than Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead.

“Any time [Bob] is in Nashville, he stops at Third Man Records and buys their entire supply of incense,” says Schneider. “I was able to meet and talk to him years ago when I was still in Margo’s group, but that was before I started making incense. It’s crazy to think how something I originally did to burn into my own shows gets burned by Bob Weir.”

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