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Whitney Shay finally tours Europe

Seven countries, twenty shows, zero infections

Whitney Shay: glad to be gigging again.
Whitney Shay: glad to be gigging again.

In the days before the pandemic, it would have been exceedingly difficult to find a San Diego musician with a busier schedule than blues and jazz vocalist Whitney Shay. “I was doing at least 20 gigs, sometime 30 shows a month,” said Shay on the phone in early December.

And even after the lockdown hit, Shay didn’t just lie around. “Well, you know, I tried to stay busy. I went back to school [online] to study graphic design. I also used the time to have virtual writing sessions, and I was able to do a few outdoor performances in the summer. I did some livestream concerts and shot some music videos. So I was active the whole time. The biggest challenge for me was not being able to travel, because in 2020 I was set to tour all over the world. Then everything stopped.”

Shay is one of few San Diego musicians to have signed an actual contract with a record label (the Germany-based Ruf Records offered a three-album deal in 2019), and she was eager to tour Europe for the first time in her career. She finally got the green light to go in September. “All the dates had been rescheduled, some of them three times. We were able to play in seven different countries and we did 20 shows, which was amazing. In the U.K., it was the first concert in over two years. In some countries like Denmark and Sweden, we played the day they lifted their restrictions. It feels like we really timed things right, because some of those countries are locking down again. It went really well, people were so ready to get back to live music again.”

After she logged that first European tour, Shay got back to gigging in San Diego. “I’m extremely busy right now. This month, I have 25 gigs, so I’m back to full steam. Most of my musician friends tell me they are back to being as busy as before, if not busier. But I think the difference now is that we can be a little choosier about the gigs we decide to play. One thing I hope to get better at is arriving at a healthier balance between life and work. I’m trying to make time for everything else. Before, it was always work first.”

And she is letting herself be cautiously optimistic about the future. “Well, I’m vaccinated. I think we all have to decide how to negotiate what life is like in the live music industry. I mean, I can’t do my work without being in front of crowds of people. So, I try to take whatever precautions I can. Everyone has to assess their own risk and have their own plan, and hopefully, everyone ends up getting the vaccine.” These days, she says, “Some things haven’t changed. I do notice that a lot of gigs are outdoors. Some concerts and venues have precautions in place, but others don’t. It’s different in San Diego as compared to Los Angeles, which seems to be more restrictive. Ultimately, I’m kind of at the mercy of the venues where I perform.”

Six String Society: The 27 Club

  • Thursday, February 10, 2022, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
  • 21+

You can catch Whitney Shay at the Belly Up Tavern on February 10, playing the role of Amy Winehouse with the Six String Society’s 27 Club show.

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Whitney Shay: glad to be gigging again.
Whitney Shay: glad to be gigging again.

In the days before the pandemic, it would have been exceedingly difficult to find a San Diego musician with a busier schedule than blues and jazz vocalist Whitney Shay. “I was doing at least 20 gigs, sometime 30 shows a month,” said Shay on the phone in early December.

And even after the lockdown hit, Shay didn’t just lie around. “Well, you know, I tried to stay busy. I went back to school [online] to study graphic design. I also used the time to have virtual writing sessions, and I was able to do a few outdoor performances in the summer. I did some livestream concerts and shot some music videos. So I was active the whole time. The biggest challenge for me was not being able to travel, because in 2020 I was set to tour all over the world. Then everything stopped.”

Shay is one of few San Diego musicians to have signed an actual contract with a record label (the Germany-based Ruf Records offered a three-album deal in 2019), and she was eager to tour Europe for the first time in her career. She finally got the green light to go in September. “All the dates had been rescheduled, some of them three times. We were able to play in seven different countries and we did 20 shows, which was amazing. In the U.K., it was the first concert in over two years. In some countries like Denmark and Sweden, we played the day they lifted their restrictions. It feels like we really timed things right, because some of those countries are locking down again. It went really well, people were so ready to get back to live music again.”

After she logged that first European tour, Shay got back to gigging in San Diego. “I’m extremely busy right now. This month, I have 25 gigs, so I’m back to full steam. Most of my musician friends tell me they are back to being as busy as before, if not busier. But I think the difference now is that we can be a little choosier about the gigs we decide to play. One thing I hope to get better at is arriving at a healthier balance between life and work. I’m trying to make time for everything else. Before, it was always work first.”

And she is letting herself be cautiously optimistic about the future. “Well, I’m vaccinated. I think we all have to decide how to negotiate what life is like in the live music industry. I mean, I can’t do my work without being in front of crowds of people. So, I try to take whatever precautions I can. Everyone has to assess their own risk and have their own plan, and hopefully, everyone ends up getting the vaccine.” These days, she says, “Some things haven’t changed. I do notice that a lot of gigs are outdoors. Some concerts and venues have precautions in place, but others don’t. It’s different in San Diego as compared to Los Angeles, which seems to be more restrictive. Ultimately, I’m kind of at the mercy of the venues where I perform.”

Six String Society: The 27 Club

  • Thursday, February 10, 2022, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
  • 21+

You can catch Whitney Shay at the Belly Up Tavern on February 10, playing the role of Amy Winehouse with the Six String Society’s 27 Club show.

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