Checking In: Little Mazarn’s Lindsey Verrill Bought a Kayak with Her Stimulus Check

How to stay afloat when there is no Plan B

Captured Sunday, April 26, for Chronicle photographer David Brendan Hall’s extensive mapping of musicians and their animal muses, Lindsey Verrill’s image beat out hundreds in becoming the cover of the paper’s May 8 issue. The banjoist’s duo with saw player Jeff Johnston as Little Mazarn remains equally Austin iconic for its hypnotic roots divinations.

Lindsey Verrill and Lightning (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?

Lindsey Verrill: I am at home with my dog. A small group of friends and neighbors including Jeff and Rich Russell of the Lonesome Heroes have become a pretty tight family unit. We take care of each other.

AC: At what point did C-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?

“In August, I started tutoring a homeschool group of friends’ kids. That has been an awesome way to stay solvent and keep my mind off what’s going on. Kids are funny. They all want to play the saw now when they grow up… or the banjo.”

LV: Jeff and I were on our way home from playing a festival in Missouri when people started texting us that SXSW was canceled. We were slightly delirious from driving nonstop, but we were like no way, what the hell is going on, this is serious. Friends were texting me about setting up DIY shows for bands that were en route to Austin.

At first, I was like yes, yes of course, but as time passed and news came in, those plans got canceled too. On my birthday right before SXSW, I was sitting in my pal Amy Annelle’s kitchen eating cornbread with her and Ralph White when we started to hear of a lockdown. Lockdown?

It didn’t seem real.

We had a whole spring and summer of plans to tour in the U.S. and Canada, play at the Nelsonville Music Festival in Ohio, see friends and record. Of course, it was all canceled. It was a pretty depressing spring.

I went through some dark times and loss, both personally and professionally.

Thankfully, I haven’t lost any close friends or family members to the virus, but losing John Prine was a really low blow. And my heart is with Max Baca [hospitalized in San Antonio with COVID on Nov. 13]. Hopefully by the time this is published, he is out of the hospital.

Verrill and Johnston perform during a Daniel Johnston tribute at Mohawk on October 10, 2019 (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person?

”I think our community is going through a lot of grief right now. I can only speak for myself, but I am realizing how much I took for granted. On the bright side, it’s helped me get clear on what matters to me, who shows up for me, and what I still love about music when everything has been stripped away.”

LV: I think our community is going through a lot of grief right now. I can only speak for myself, but I am realizing how much I took for granted. On the bright side, it’s helped me get clear on what matters to me, who shows up for me, and what I still love about music when everything has been stripped away.

People have been thinking about social justice… speaking truth to power. I think that’s important. Jeff, Rich, and I have been spending a lot of time out on the river. We bought kayaks with our stimulus checks.

AC: Everyone’s had to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?

LV: Music was always my plan and backup plan. If playing music for people didn’t work out, I could busk on the street. Never in a million years did I imagine a scenario where I couldn’t even do that.

I know a lot of people have made online shows work for them and that’s cool, but it wasn’t really my thing. People are having to pivot, to be creative about… staying afloat. This summer, I became a licensed yoga teacher, which has always been something I’ve wanted to do but never had the time or resources.

“Music was always my plan and backup plan. If playing music for people didn’t work out, I could busk on the street. Never in a million years did I imagine a scenario where I couldn’t even do that.”

In August, I started tutoring a homeschool group of friends’ kids. That has been an awesome way to stay solvent and keep my mind off what’s going on. Kids are funny. They all want to play the saw now when they grow up – or the banjo.

At the start of lockdown, my friends Garrett T. Capps and Will Johnson asked me to contribute to some recording projects remotely, so I got a little home studio setup together. It has been the best thing to come of this! Recording for real at home, I don’t know why I didn’t do that before.

AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?

LV: I have been listening to Jana Horn’s new album Optimism, Love Lives Where Rules Die by Suzanne Vallie, also Little Wings, Bill Callahan, Serpent With Feet, Alice Coltrane. I love tuning in to KOOP and KMFA. It’s like that scene in Almost Famous where Kate Hudson says something like, “You can always go to the record store and hang out with your friends.”

I’ve been missing so many people and places during this time and listening to music reminds me… we’re all still here.

Pandemic bandanas


Check out the entire Checking In series.

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