When the coronavirus pandemic shut down live music for more than a year, musicians had to put their careers on hold -- which is especially hard if you're a rising star on the verge of a breakout.
Consider the case of Willa Amai, who was poised to release her first album, "I Can Go to Bed Whenever," just as the lockdown began.
It's hard to believe it's been a couple of years since we first met Willa Amai at a New York City studio. She was 15 at the time and living her dream of expressing herself through the songs she writes, performs and records.
Since then, she has shared the stage with Brandi Carlisle, finished that first album, and released videos to promote the record.
All of this is even more impressive when you consider the personal challenges she faced making this music.
Amai was never going to let a global pandemic silence her, and she kept making music -- although she did have to wait months and months to release what's been ready to go for more than a year.
"It was hard for me to kind of sit on the album, to delay the release of something that was so important to me," she said. "But at the same time, so many wonderful things have happened."
The album took shape in her home, where she wrote three to five songs every month while sheltering in place with her family
"Just because the piano was there, the guitar was there, the ukulele was there," she said. "It was at my fingertips all the time, and that just breathed creativity. So I loved it in that sense."
Amai first learned to play the piano when she was just 4 years old and began writing songs in the fifth grade, around the time she was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
"Most of my life has been spent learning how to cope with it," she said.
Even during the pandemic, she has learned how to turn what could have been a hindrance into a help.
"I'm thankful for the ways I am uncomfortable in my daily life," she said. "Because it pushes me to do something creative."
The title of her new album uses some of the same words of reassurance her mother used to say when Willa was younger, and it's appropriate for a record that tells the story of how the then-17-year-old found relief and solace from her anxiety.
"The music is both how I express myself and, a lot of the time, how I understand myself," she said.
Her anxiety fuels her creativity, which in turn, makes her feel more content.
"It's the anxiety that pushes me to write the song," she said. "Because it's the music that can alleviate that nervousness."
She realizes not everyone can find relief through music, and she herself has found exercise and journaling help her remain in control.
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