With 250 of her gigs cancelled since the first lockdown, singer Serena Grant has really had to adapt over the past year – from bringing out a charity single to bringing live music to the doorstep.
I was born in Chelmsford, and my parents moved to Sudbury in Suffolk when I was 4 years old, so Sudbury is all I’ve known! I got on well at school, achieved good GCSEs, but didn’t enjoy 6th form and A Levels so much! I went into full time work and then formed a band in 2012. Since then music and acting have been my passion. I’ve always been full of determination and ambition, but life seems to always have other plans!
Unfortunately, in January 2020, my grandad passed away. Workwise though, everything was looking hopeful. I had filled the calendar for pretty much every single weekend and had numerous weddings booked over the summer, as well as festivals across the country. Everything was looking positive and I was so excited about the new opportunities.
The first lockdown hit me really hard. I went from being full of hope to losing everything – 250 gigs cancelled (so far!), all my income lost, my mortgage lender pulled out of the sale on a flat I’d been approved to buy, and I lost that, as well as already paid solicitor fees etc. I became really down and really struggled – and drank a lot of gin! But having something to focus on really helped. It lifted my spirits and it felt good helping others too. I learnt that if you put your mind to something, whatever it is, you can make it happen.
I needed something to focus on and put my mind to when I was feeling particularly down. I played about on my keyboard and came up with some basic chords, and then thought through the lyrics. Whilst lying in bed that night, I thought, wouldn’t it be lovely to make this into a charity single, Stay Home, and raise money for the NHS, who have done and are doing such an amazing job? And the next day I started the project properly and got to work. It certainly exceeded my expectations in a sense that so many people wanted to be involved and it made me feel really honoured that they wanted to be involved in my idea! The charity single could be re-released seeing as we’re now in lockdown #3 and a similar position to how we were nearly a year ago now!
Musicians flocked to Facebook Live when lockdown was announced. I used to do a live stream every week from the sofa. I really enjoyed it, and people were kind and generous. But after a while, life went back to normal for a lot of people and my views went down. When pubs reopened, I was super excited to get back out there and start gigging again. I was over the moon and contacted many venues, and I did get quite a few gigs booked in, especially in some lovely pub gardens and even socially distanced festivals. Some weddings even still went ahead – I performed on a boat on the Norfolk Broads on a seven-hour cruise for a small wedding celebration! But by winter, bookings dropped significantly and by Christmas, which the year before was my busiest and most profitable time, was bleak. However, in the New Year I did a Facebook live gig recently and I really enjoyed it – it went really well. I’ve also started doing socially distant ‘doorstep gigs’, to help people celebrate special anniversaries and birthdays albeit in their driveways!
I’d love to say that I’m full of confidence and that things are looking up. It’s such a shame as, like many other musicians, I gave up my full-time job to follow my dream. I built up my little business from nothing and, especially over the last couple of years, been really pleased with how well things have been going and so proud of how far things have gone and given the opportunities that I’ve worked so hard for. I even had an employee working for me too – and was approved for a mortgage as a self-employed individual which I never thought would be possible! But now, so much has changed, I’ve even found myself applying for ‘normal jobs’ to continue my income, and for a distraction to all these disasters! I just hope that things will get better soon for all musicians, and the whole entertainment industry for that matter – as what is life without music?