An interdisciplinary artist known for her powerhouse vocals and performances, PaviElle French discusses the challenges of being a musician during a pandemic and performs solo.

How have you been staying motivated?

Well, I just won’t stop. This is what I do. I have some projects coming up later in the year and I’m still practicing for them. I’m still gearing up for the mindset and the will that we are going to do this, and taking advantage of technology, and doing this livestream stuff and making it work. We’re still here, and it gives me hope that we can continue working and be creative about the way that we do it.

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PaviElle French reflects on her new symphony, “A Requiem for Zula”, which honors her mother, Zula Young, as well as Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood where she grew up.

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Has the pandemic/stay-at-home restrictions changed the way you write?

Because we’re all in this, I have to figure out how to reconcile this before I can write about it. I have to understand where I’m at before I can interpret this as an artist to other people and try to uplift other people. I have to process what’s going on in my life with everything, so it’s happening in real time. I’m thinking as an artist, too, to document these things, to document my feelings. I’ve been doing a lot of prompt work and stuff like that, and it’s been a long time since I’ve really sat down and written – with the exception of my symphonies – with written prompts. What am I feeling? What’s this going to turn into, my thoughts and my hopes? Living amongst the uncertainty, I still really feel okay because I know it’ll be alright, like I’ve come out of harder things. Not to downplay anything that’s going on, I just know we’ll make it through this; there’s no doubt in my mind. I don’t feel hopeless; I don’t feel apathetic about the uncertainty…. [I’m] just quiet, listening to what the universe is trying to tell me, and to listen and find truth. That’s how I’ve been handling it, like we’re here, so I need to figure out other ways to continue my growth in this particular situation, as opposed to being real and being in this situation right now. It’s self love to do that because I can’t sit here and feel like all is lost because then I’ll set my momentum that way. Everything I’ve been working for – I cannot stop!

How have you been staying connected with your fans?

Social media. The band and I just did a livestream show with Icehouse and Vemos to raise money with the Sanneh Foundation and The North Stands for hospitality workers. It was good to see my fellas; it was so good to play with them even for that short set and being social distant, just to feel their energy, so that’s been like a quick fix to perform for a second and feel that. Also, just being able to stay connected on Instagram, and a lot of people have been reaching out to me to do these sessions and play music and record myself… It’s like keeping your face out there in a different way now. It’s totally a blessing to be working at this time, but once again, it shows me there’s super potential in the direction that we’re going in that we’ll be able to continue the work.

Production Team:  Eric Pagel, Mike Phillips

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This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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How have other Minnesota musicians fared during the pandemic? Check out the rest of our Pandemic Performances. 

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