DJ Soul Sister does not want to give the impression that you — not me, not anybody — should be working your way through this coronavirus-induced lockdown by doing anything in particular. It’s not like she thinks you’re doing it wrong if you don’t come out of this situation with a multi-million dollar business or the ability to crochet a king-sized blanket or you’ve got a sourdough starter that’d make your grandma proud. It’s just that, in order to get herself through this whole insane moment in history, DJ Soul Sister has found ways to stay productive, to stay interested, to stay busy.
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Though sometimes there are nights when she, like all of us, just lies awake and finds that doing nothing is a task unto itself, the New Orleans artist, who’s most at home behind a turntable and in front of a dancing crowd, has learned new ways to get new editions of her weekly WWOZ show on the air. She’s methodically organizing her collection of vinyl records, rediscovering pieces of music and mementos she thought she’d lost.
Because DJ Soul Sister, whose given name is Melissa Weber, is rich in the one thing we all seem to have on our hands lately — time — the quarantine has also offered her the opportunity to, for the first time, learn to digitize those records she’s reorganizing and use Spotify.
“All of the things I’m doing are something to make time pass for me and stay sane,” Weber said. “Because all of this is very serious to me. It’s not like, ‘Oh, this is adventure time.’ For me, it’s not.”
You can see that sober approach to this moment in the Spotify playlists, which Weber describes as a kind of musical journaling.
The playlists, she said, are “like a diary of just energies that I’m going through, and each one has a theme, and each one is inspired by what I’m hearing, which is how I play live anyway, through energy and inspiration, not just playing songs or music in an uninspired or unconnected sense.”
Find DJ Soul Sister on Spotify, and that’s evident in the titles she’s given each list: There’s a series she’s called “Funkering Down,” a mix called “Rain Rain Rain: Mellow Madness,” and an homage to the records that took her through adolescence in the form of “Melissa’s Middle/High School Hip Hop Crate.” There’s a place she’d rather be (“At the Hole in the Wall With My Set-Up”) and even evidence of her own insomnia (see: “4am Feeling: Sweet Soul for a Sleepless Night” and “No, I Still Can’t Fall Asleep Either”). One playlist, dedicated to the kind of music that can make you sweat, came after she’d started dancing to a DJ set streaming online.
“I was just feeling in my body, ‘Oh, I need this,’” she said.
“All I work with is vinyl… it’s not a shtick”
Unlike other DJs and DJ artists, Weber hasn’t made the leap to performing live on Facebook or Instagram — not yet, anyway; she’s bought the gear but “the idea of technical difficulties freaks me out.” Still, she’s channeled some of that energy into her WWOZ shows after rediscovering an old turntable that plugs into a USB port she bought some years ago. It was still wrapped up in the box. With the help of WWOZ’s Dave Ankers and Murf Reeves, Weber learned to pre-record her weekly Saturday night shows.
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“Literally all I work with is vinyl… it’s not a shtick,” Weber said, explaining that she had to learn to work with MP3s for the first time.
Though she said her approach to crafting the shows has remained the same, being at home and finding various records throughout her collection as she’s been reorganizing and cleaning has offered the opportunity to throw in some rarer tracks.
“I have my entire home collection at my disposal,” she said, as opposed to whatever she’s brought to the radio station.
“I’m taking one day at a time.”
Still, Weber said, she misses the immediacy of offering up a piece of music and having an audience experience it simultaneously. It may mean she might eventually crank up all that gear she bought to produce a live-streamed show, or it might not.
She, like so many of us, is taking the quarantine one day at a time.
“As opposed to recording, where you can go back and fix something, once it’s live, there is no fixing, so that is a hurdle I have to overcome,” she said. “All the other hurdles, I’m taking one day at a time.”