Italian singer Gala opens 2021 with authorial work inspired by a personal situation experienced during the pandemic. Living in New York, after a few months in Paris, the singer-songwriter reveals how this period of confinement has been like when concerts and live performances stopped and with no return forecast.
The music video for the work, entitled “Parallel Lines”, has the collaboration of Nina Paley, a free culture activist and cartoonist who gave life to the song’s lyrics.
By email, Gala spoke exclusively to GAY BLOG BR:
What inspired you to compose Parallel Lines?
I was inspired by a time in my life when I experienced being with someone but feeling completely alone in the relationship. I felt as if I lived a parallel life and therefore: close but distant from the person. When we share a daily routine with someone for a long time, we may come to believe that we know the other person well and can gradually take them for granted. We are less interested in what they have to say, because we assume we already know their thoughts and opinions. So sometimes living under the same roof makes us more distant than if we lived apart. In fact, we grow further apart and come to know each other less than if we were separate but communicating. Maintaining curiosity for the other person is difficult and critical.
But writing about this concept made me think of another level of Parallel Lines. When we don’t communicate with our partner, we begin to live a “parallel life” in our mind. Our dreams, hopes, new ideas and thoughts become a whole world that (when not shared) can really isolate us. We begin to live in our own minds, which we share less and less with our partner. Sometimes our inner world takes over and we feel the urge to separate from whoever is with us because he/she no longer understands.
These changes happen very slowly and suddenly, and then one day we wake up and we have nothing else in common. But love doesn’t go away, love doesn’t go away. So where did love go? We love each other, but slowly we start living parallel lives. And there is a third level. The “father” who lives in all of us. I explain this in thevideo by just posted on my YouTube channel. I explain how we all have a practical life that is made up of our daily actions or habits, their routines and then we have an imaginary life. This imaginary life is very important because it is invisible, yet it informs, changes, creates a practical life.
Do you think that during the pandemic this feeling emerged among couples, living under the same roof but far apart?
Yes, I believe many people are going through similar situations. Many friends wrote to me during confinement, telling similar stories. And after the song was released a lot of people opened up to me about their experiences.
How are you dealing with the pandemic? What were your main challenges?
First of all, all my shows were canceled. Some people were not as affected by the pandemic. Some people really had a great experience because they finally found time to do things they hadn’t done before, things they dreamed of doing but never had the time to do before. Finally, they had the excuse to follow their dreams or explore new territories they previously didn’t allow themselves to explore. Some of my friends were finally able to work from home, something they wanted. In the case of musicians, it was very difficult, because our main income comes from live performances and was totally interrupted.
In my case, it really changed a lot. Not only have my live performances been cancelled, but my routine has completely changed. I love dancing and I take dance lessons every day, which is the joy of my day and it became absolutely impossible. After a year of dancing at Zoom, looking through a screen, I feel a great need to be with other human beings in an environment with live music. I’m also a person who likes to live at night, who loves to explore the nightlife going to concerts, outdoor events, dance performances, DJs… it inspires me when I’m exposed to different artists and music scenes. But that was also completely closed.
Not to mention that I moved from one continent to another, from one country to another, speaking first one language and then another, right before Covid. And that was traumatic. I can’t even imagine how traumatic it must be to be an immigrant who doesn’t want to leave his own country and who has no bond or possibility of employment in the new country to which he moved. I’m lucky in the sense that I have a roof to live in. But it’s true that changing continents after a certain age and not for a short period, not for a holiday, but for a really definite move, is quite traumatic. Especially when you don’t choose, and in my case, I didn’t choose. Add that to Covid and I can tell you it wasn’t the easiest year.
The video has the collaboration of Nina Paley (cartoonist and also free culture activist). How would you describe Paley’s participation in this project?
I was a huge fan of Nina Paley’s work. I saw your two amazing movies on YouTube. They are free and still available there. Watch “Seder Masochism” first, it has some of the most intense and beautiful sequences I’ve ever seen, and animation. His designs are simple, humorous and the use of music is excellent. Your feminist perspective is very powerful. I suggest you watch the sequel at the end of the film, where it shows how the monotheistic religion that believes in a male God has replaced our memories of ancient female goddesses. The world we live in today is a world that doesn’t respect women as it should.
After seeing her movies, I wrote an email and didn’t expect her to respond, but she did. She told me that she never (and wrote this in capital letters) responded to this type of request, but as she loved my song (which I sent in the email), she wanted to collaborate. This was a few years ago and it actually took a few years for us to finally get together and create this project. What was amazing is that it came up during this pandemic, which was the most imperfect/perfect time to do it.
The journey of “Parallel Lines” is a video took a few years and was very difficult and frustrating, but I must say that in this case there was a Hollywood ending. The fact that Nina responded and that we created this simple but beautiful and delicate video and that we were able to show it to the world during this pandemic and help people is really amazing.
And what did the pandemic teach people and you?
The pandemic is still going on. So I’m still not sure about this lesson. So far, it was the most traumatic experience of my life, as I explained earlier, as it happened while I was also moving against my will. I’m still trying to adapt to this new life. I haven’t come to a conclusion about what this has taught me yet. I’m still learning from this process, but I can say that it made us understand that nature is much more powerful than we are.
It’s frustrating but also liberating to realize that we’re in the hands of something bigger than us. But these precarious times stimulate our brains and make us think differently about everything: other people, our jobs, our life goals, the future. I know a lot of people who died during this period, so it’s also difficult at this point to see just one positive aspect of it. I’m still grieving the loss of some dear ones. I’m also killing the loss of freedomand I certainly feel a lot more compassion for people who have to be confined in any place or space for a long time.
I only lived four months in Paris, where I basically went out for an hour a week, and then an hour a day, and I hated every second of it. I didn’t give in, I started taking classes online and tried my best to make each day meaningful and fruitful, but at some point the spirit needs human connection, fresh air, movement, sun and freedom.
What about being an independent artist, focusing on digital platforms rather than major labels, is it worth the effort?
This question is very important, but it is also a long conversation. That would require another entire interview. The recording industry is a tough business, whether in the hands of record labels or digital platforms. And, it’s harder for a woman. And I intentionally say female – not girl. It’s a tough business for everyone, particularly older women. It’s not just a sexist environment, it’s also tough, and ageism is another form of sexism because it’s often aimed at women.
It is definitely very difficult to survive as an independent artist because unless you are connected with a brand ie considered an influencer etc. The music itself doesn’t pay the bills and unfortunately it doesn’t matter as much as it used to. Record companies hire artists with millions of followers and don’t base their support on the quality of music. They also don’t invest in developing an artist anymore, so unless you have your own budget, it’s difficult. Producing music, creating music videos to promote, putting on a live show, etc, etc all costs money and without an investor, label, brand and/or team it is almost impossible to continue.
It’s fun and challenging to always find a way to go on, but it’s also tiring and it seems like the world wants artists to give up in particular. I repeat women after a certain age. And, that’s why I stay in the music business, because I make a point of being an artist at my age and continuing with my music. The fact that I’m a woman and an independent artist surviving in the music business is a revolution in itself.