The following Q&A is part of the CN&R’s Bring Back the Arts campaign, an interview series featuring artists and leaders of Butte County arts and music venues discussing their efforts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Since graduating from Chico State in 2013, Max Minardi has been a professional performing musician, so it probably goes without saying that he took a hit during the coronavirus pandemic. “I did more digging out of the savings account than I was hoping to,” he admitted during a recent interview. With his charming and humble approach to performing a wide range of cover tunes (and a few originals), the Chico-based singer has become a popular figure locally and regionally as he’s performed his way into a career as lounge/restaurant/wedding singer.
The CN&R checked in with Minardi to see one local artist was recovering as the state and his profession have started to reopen.
Are things back to normal for you?
The past few months, things have been getting back to normal—in pretty big quotes there. It’s starting to feel good, man, getting back to playing. I’ll have had 15 gigs [in July], which is pretty decent. My general resting pulse during a normal year is closer to 20 [per month], but 15 is still many shows better than it was a year ago.
Has the market for performers returned all the way?
A little bit. On one hand. there’s the quote-unquote money-making stuff, and those are more the cover gigs at like Reno, the casinos, weddings, and bar gigs and restaurants. And on the other side—which I consider more touring—is when I get the opportunity to play my own music and I take that on the road. So, in the capacity of going to Reno and that kind of stuff, yes.
How have people been responding to getting to listen to live music again?
It’s really strange. I was in Reno, I guess this was about a week and a half ago. People are always pretty kind, but [the music is] very wallpapery sometimes. But we got a lot of really genuine [reactions]. One person almost came to tears, came to talk to us and said, “You’re our first concert since being locked down, and it’s just so great to be able to hear music.” Generally, people seemed really grateful to have an outlet for that type of musical catharsis.
Once it became evident that the pandemic was going to keep live shows down for a prolonged period, how did you respond?
My biggest challenge was developing that gameplan … especially balancing the ethics of where was OK to play and the circumstances under which I was comfortable playing. It was tricky, but I think over time it kind of developed on its own.
Do you feel safe playing out now?
I do. I feel good with the vaccination that I’ve gotten.
How’s it felt to be back at it?
I feel great. I’m a big fan of—to some extent—overworking myself. I love [the] hustle. I love sending emails, and writing contracts, and driving long distances to corporate events. That kind of stuff really fulfills me. I love it. I love staying busy.
Related this week: “Staging a comeback“