Social justice singer/songwriter Heather Mae is acutely aware of the mental health crisis simmering just under the surface of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the 2020 Singing OUT Virtual Tour, Mae and fellow singer Crys Matthews offer fans a reprieve from life on lockdown as well as a reminder that despite social-distancing, we are never alone.
“As my therapist says, ‘Nobody is operating at base level right now. Not the accountants, not the musicians and the entertainers.’ Mae muses. “I’m a mental health advocate. I literally released an album last December (Glimmer) that’s really a tool masked as a pop record to help people get through the dark and to feel understood, and to go on.”
That’s what Mae’s music and live shows are all about. So when the Tuesday, June 16th tour date at The Ark was cancelled (along with the rest of the tour dates), it was the helper who needed helping.
With no light to guide them, Mae and Matthews realized they would have to spark their own. As fate or good fortune would have it, Matthews and Mae had already been hosting a series of virtual Sunday night concerts dubbed Apart Together to combat COVID ennui. The success of that series made them realize that the show could go on despite the darkened venues.
The result is the Singing OUT 2020 Virtual Tour, a celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month featuring music, games, giveaways, and enough positivity to send the pandemic packing — if not just for a few joyful hours.
Reflecting on the transition of the tour from live venue to living rooms, Mae recognizes that the solution to the cancelled tour was clear from the very beginning: “We’d done it [the Apart Together series] every single night for 10 weeks, and we’d get a minimum of 1000 people that tune in. We also do Patreon Zoom concerts for my fans — I call them my “Amazing Humans.”
She laughs while confessing that this new normal also poses its fair share of challenges (“I have to be my own tech and audio engineer!”), but quickly regains her composure as the conversation turns toward gratitude. “I’m flexing muscles that I never ever flexed. I feel like I am developing, so that I can be a better version of me for my fans — who are really going through a hard time.”
It’s apparent those growing muscles are getting a good workout. In addition to Mae’s musical endeavors, she launched a mental health positive book club, practices virtual Harry Potter Yoga, and hosts virtual painting sessions.
“I’m just trying to find different ways that I can continue the work that I was doing before. But honestly, I think I’m doing a better job at my job than when I was touring because I don’t have to be crazy focused on something like finding a hotel room for my drummer and me, or looking for a plane ticket. I’ve transitioned my focus.”
On the flip side, “It’s tough! I know such specific details about my fans. I see them on tour and I fill up their cup. Then at the merch table, I hug them and make them feel like ‘we can do this together!’ It’s not as much looking out at the crowd as it is the end experience that I miss.”
For over 50 years, The Ark has offered artists and audiences a space in which to create that experience together. Throughout those decades, events such as the Stonewall riots in New York triggered seismic cultural shifts that signaled a move towards greater equality for members of the LGBTQ community.
In time the pandemic will pass, and The Ark will reopen. Until then, as long as there are voices to be heard, there is hope to be found. Fill your homes with the sound of hope on Tuesday, June 16 at 8:30pm. Tickets available via Side Door Access here.