John Batdorf, this week’s featured artist in the Central Oregon Creative Artists Relief Effort, was putting the final touches on a new album when the pandemic struck. Needless to say, his planned supporting tour was canceled. With time on his hands and the world changing around him, Batdorf started writing. “It was a positive thing artistically, not so great for the world healthwise,” he said.
“But it was great that I was able to write a song, which ended up being ‘Last Summer,’ which (was) the name of the CD. And it’s just a song about our struggles with what was going on at that time … and how we just hoped it would go back to the way it used to be.”
Despite that, Batdorf knows there’s probably no going back to exactly the way things were before.
Eagle Crest resident Batdorf, known for his work with folk-rock duo Batdorf & Rodney and band Silver, has played music professionally since the ’70s. But he had never seen anything like COVID-19 and the effect it had on the music industry and life in general.
“Even my kids that were 34 when it first happened and 35 now, they just kept asking, ‘Have you ever seen anything like this before?’” Batdorf said. “You know, because usually you can say, ‘I remember when that happened before, and we were able to blah blah blah.’ Well this was so weird, and nobody knew it seemed like in the beginning, obviously because it was so new to the world. And the way it escalated was really scary. We were lucky that we live here in a bit of an isolated place, although it did end up hitting Deschutes County pretty hard there for a couple of months.”
“Last Summer” came out in June, and Batdorf played three online shows last year — not quite the deluge that other artists have done. He also played an outdoor show at Faith, Hope & Charity Vineyards.
“I just spent the summer being outside, fishing and playing pickleball,” he said. “I didn’t have any desire to write or sing. I did a few online concerts. But then in November, I was inspired and I started on this little writing spree.”
That resulted in the six-song EP, “An Extraordinary Ordinary Life,” which Batdorf released in March. He wrote the EP with help from longtime songwriting collaborator Michael McLean, who also co-wrote the song “Last Summer.”
Batdorf is in talks to play a limited capacity, socially distanced show at the Tower Theatre sometime in May. “I want to start playing in front of real faces and not just a computer screen,” he said.
He’s glad to see CO CAREs stepping up to help working musicians.
“It’s like this everywhere; none of the venues can be open,” he said. “And all the people that play, especially the people that play in the coffee shops or play in the local breweries, they’re dependent on those nightly gigs. It’s going to be devastating for them.”