Introducing No Depression’s Fall 2020 Journal: Going Green
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the opening letter from the editor — we call it “Hello Stranger” — in our Fall 2020 journal, “Going Green.” See more of what’s in this issue here. We hope you’ll consider subscribing — digitally or in print — to support No Depression’s music journalism all year long.
Like many of you, I presume, I’ve been coping poorly in quarantine. My mind only focuses in short bursts and it won’t stop taunting me after midnight with a looping reel of my most embarrassing memories. My muscles are atrophying, my mane has surpassed ’80s hair metal girth, and our incredible team is sick of hearing me joke each week that time is meaningless.
I’ve been buying and lot of vinyl to feel better and to support musicians who can’t tour as well as indie record labels and shops struggling in this time. The old soul singers and jazz vocalists (notably, a purple and white swirled copy of Aretha Franklin’s I’ve Never Loved a Man the Way That I Love You from Vinyl Me, Please and a black and gold marbled copy of Nina Simone’s Black Gold purchased through New York City’s own Turntable Lab) — with their push and pull of hope and sorrow — help temper the loads of loud, fast, and fatalistic punk rock I tend to turn to in times of trouble.
But in between chopping vegetables, washing an ever-accumulating pile of dishes, and counting how many times I can rearrange all the furniture in my studio to these and other soundtracks, I often find myself sitting in silence. The weight of more than 150,000 American deaths, as well as an immediate future without gatherings (musical or otherwise), hangs in that silence. I stare at the walls, the overflowing bookshelves, the instruments lined against the wall — all quiet. And I stare at my plants, watching them grow in the inhospitable environment of my apartment in a locked-down city in a fractured country in pandemic-ridden world.
I was never able to keep a plant alive before the pandemic. After two succulents and a snake plant died in my last apartment, my friends gave me a light-up neon cactus with a note that read, “At least you can’t kill this one!” (I did apparently kill its batteries, though!)
Since quarantine, I’ve procured and repotted an aloe plant, impulse-bought a string of fishhooks, and nurtured a pothos, which has even managed to regenerate its tails where I took cuttings for an unsuccessful attempt at propagation. I watch in silence and awe as the fishhooks split off at their ends to trail even longer and the heart-shaped pothos leaves arch out of their cocoon-like casings to unfurl and embrace the light from my west-facing window.
In fact, I seem to be modeling their behavior. I’ve taken to photosynthesizing on my stoop almost daily. I bring a book or a magazine or write things (like this essay) longhand in my favorite Public Supply notebook. I leave my MacBook inside on its charger, try not to check Twitter on my phone, and let the sun work its restorative magic on my indoors-softened skin and grief-hardened heart.
Watching the big city continue to change and bud and grow without us in it has forced me to slow down. And to be honest, I hate it.
But it’s also forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with the limited earth around me in this moment. We chose the theme of “Going Green” almost a year ago to address sustainability in roots music in time for the 2020 US election. Our goal was to depoliticize climate change by telling human and musical stories of how we have changed, and must change, in response to the world around us.
The pandemic, of course, changed everything. Stories about greening tours and festivals got scrapped. Musicians pushed back album releases. Almost everyone struggled to find the creative energy to write or shoot photos or draw or design or even sing.
Despite it all, I think this issue is one of our smartest yet. “Going Green” explores new academic fields and the history of environmental protest songs. It uncovers the hidden environmental costs of both streaming and vinyl record production, while offering solutions on greener products and practices that can be utilized within the world of roots music. There are profiles on artists growing 21st-century victory gardens and essays from others fostering their own special connections with the land and the water.
Staring at my plants and sitting in the sun forces me to stay grounded, present, and patient, even in these chaotic times. I try to remind myself that change happens slowly, in nature and music. Here at No Depression, we’re proud to be a part of that change, doing our part to work for a more environmentally just and culturally diverse future for all.
Enjoy this playlist highlighting music from artists featured in the Fall 2020 issue, including songs from Ani DiFranco, Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Neil Young, Pete Seeger, Uncle Tupelo, Nikki Lane, and more.