Like a lot of people stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brett Eldredge recently made an unusual Amazon purchase.
“I ordered these markers on Amazon that can write on a mirror,” he told reporters during a virtual media event recently. “So I can write on my mirror — I would ask myself an accountability thing. Like, ‘Can you play this song on guitar yet?’ And then I’ll look in the mirror and see myself, and see that.”
During a supremely unstructured time, it helps to keep a semblance of routine. “It reminds me to work on some things, as well as to just go watch movies and listen to books. I’ve taken up trying to run, and just being outside in nature if I can, to get some fresh air,” he adds.
Still, his productivity standards aren’t overly rigorous. “And this is the same for my own life, when we’re not quarantining, living in ‘normal times’ or whatever — I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself,” he counters.
“If I didn’t practice for two hours on the piano today, if I played games or whatever the whole time — [I’m not gonna] try to shame myself, or whatever,” the singer says. “We’re all in a weird time. It’s hard to stay focused on that. But I’ve found that if I get accomplished at least one thing a day, that I can go to bed and be like, ‘Okay, I did that,’ then it helps me a lot.”
By and large, Eldredge has been hunkered down alone since the quarantine took effect. “I’ve seen my parents from a distance. And my brother and sister-in-law, because I know their exact quarantine spot. So that’s the only people I’ve seen. Really, I’ve been mostly on my own,” he relates.
But the singer also has a unique perspective on life in quarantine, because in some ways, he’s spent much of the last year inadvertently practicing for a situation just like this one. While making his upcoming new album, Sunday Drive, the singer retreated into a self-imposed isolation, trading in his active social media presence and busy social life for a flip phone, pen and paper during a stint of weeks spent alone in a California beach cottage.
“I mean, obviously I wasn’t quarantined while I was doing all that, but I definitely spent a lot more time on my own, so there are some similarities,” Eldredge acknowledges. “You learn a lot of things — like, ‘What do I lean into? What do I use to get myself through this?’
“And a lot of times, you figure out that it’s connection,” he points out. “First, connection could be with yourself. It could be with people you haven’t picked up the phone and called for a long time, whether you can see them in person or not.”
That lesson of staying connected to his inner self and forging deep connections with the people that matter most was one that Eldredge had to re-learn, after a decade of constantly working towards career success and juggling a punishing tour schedule. He learned the hard way that even though he could maintain the facade of having his life together, eventually, he was going to run into a burnout if he kept postponing those important, deep connections.
“If you don’t take care of yourself, it’s gonna bite you. It’s gonna kick you in the ass, really. So I got that kick in the ass. I got that burnout,” he admits. “It just got to that point where I lost the magic of what I wanted. I had to take a step back. I had to be okay with feeling that, and not being out there in front of everybody for a little while.”
Nobody knows better than Eldredge that being alone with your thoughts can be uncomfortable. Still, he says, there’s a huge amount of strength to be gained from confronting those emotions, from coming face to face with the fact that you haven’t been paying yourself enough love and respect.
“In times like these, you know, I’ve found peace,” the singer reflects. “And gratitude has been huge for me…No matter where we are in our lives, there’s been a lot of amazing things that got us here.
“The uncertain situation is really hard for us…where we have a quarantine and we don’t know when we’re gonna get out of it, and there are a lot of people who are losing family members, and it’s really tough,” he goes on to say. “But you can also find connection with yourself and others, lean into the tough times and know that you’ve got a lot of great things in your life, as well.”
No one knows exactly when the pandemic will end, and looking too far into the future can call up stressful, unanswerable questions.
“I start my day meditating, sitting there with, ‘Hey, this is where I am, and I’m okay with that,’” Eldredge offers. “I’m gonna focus on that for now. We’ll get through it.”