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Musically adjusting to the times: A Q & A with Damein Wash

By Davis Coen | special to the Oxford Eagle

Very few Oxford musicians work as hard at their craft as Damein Wash.  The devoted singer, songwriter, arranger, and pianist could be easy to find performing around town on a typical week (unless out on tour), but like most in his field he’s been sidelined for the better part of the spring and summer by the global pandemic.   

Originally from Hickory, Mississippi, Damein grew up in a family that encouraged his pursuit of music, and he began participating in music programs at a young age.  He also grew up singing in church, and has been steeped in the gospel and spiritual genres ever since.

Between playing without band accompaniment, or with his wedding and party band the Soul Tones, the U of M graduate–with a degree in music education–would have ordinarily had a bustling season of live shows.  He recently addressed his feelings about being a live performer during times when musicians are now able to perform with caution, after the long and unexpected hiatus.   

Q: When and where was your first music engagement since the beginning of the pandemic, and what did it feel like to perform again after a while?

A: YAC (Yoknapatawpha Arts Council) sponsored “Tunes Around Town” Saturday on August 1st–it felt good to perform again.  There was still that same flow, where I got lost in myself, and where my body and mind were in sync with the audience at every phrase–but even more so since it’s a connection we were all longing for.  It was only afterwards, however, that I would have given a big hug to friends and fans who came to hear, or had a lengthy conversation while tearing down equipment…or looked forward to a nice gin at City Grocery.  Another performance for “Tunes Around Town” is this Friday.

Q: Have you found the interaction with audiences to be different with the social distancing?

A: Yes!  There has been little to zero dancing, but less side conversation and more listening. Perhaps the masks curbed some of the chatter.  Yet, there was the same ‘moment’ between us.

Q: Have you benefited in any way from the downtime from performing in public?

A: I reconnected with an old friend–the piano.  I went back and dug into some much needed technical playing; a connection I half-assed in undergrad and moved further away from after at some point, being under the delusion that I was somehow ‘good.’  For 50 days straight I presented a classical piece on Facebook…something I’d never done otherwise, but desperately needed during shelter-in-place.

Q: What changes have you noticed in the type of performances you’ve been doing?

A: I miss travel and large events–hopping a plane every other week.  But I wouldn’t trade the audiences: down-home, cozy, and comforting.  I find myself holding notes longer; suspending the “moment”; more sort of milking it.  Savoring is probably a better word.

Q: Any ideas you can suggest about what we can do to keep musicians working, while keeping the safety of the public a priority?

A: I’m fortunate to have church work still during this time, which is the bulk of my salary. However, I see the need to up my digital videography and recording skill set.

Q: What else do you have in store?

A: I’m working on a digital choir concert with the church.  Also, music and video for a classical composition of mine.  I’ve shipped a green screen to a friend in Pennsylvania to record audio and video on a nine-foot grand (piano). Then I’ll have him ship it back and record the rest of the instrumentalists here.  Big plans!

Damein Wash has music available on iTunes, Pandora, and YouTube.  More information can be found on his Facebook page, or at www.TheSoulTones.com.