On March 8th, 2020, I was still clinging to a nervous sort of optimism. News of the virus had started to spread, and there were a number of grave warnings that had phrases like “not a matter of if but when” and “it will get worse before it gets better,” but I was still trying to convince myself that it wouldn’t be as bad as it seemed. I told myself that we had been through panics like the swine flu before, that America had stricter sanitation laws than China, that it would eventually go away as the weather got warmer. I had no faith in our president at the time, of course, but perhaps things would find a way to work out.
Then began the descent. My dad’s birthday dinner at a steakhouse turned into an impromptu KFC meal at home. A job interview suddenly shifted into a phone call, where I was told I would work remotely if I was hired (I wasn’t, which is just as well.) On Friday the 13th (how typical,) my mom suggested that my sister and I go out for lunch together, “just in case things shut down for a while.” The following week, there were no reassurances: this was the worst case scenario, and there was no end in sight.
I did not feel optimism then. In fact, it would be many months before I approached even cautious optimism. But Katie Haverly felt optimism, which she expressed through a song she wrote called “Get Ready.” It’s only been released today, but it’s a fascinating time capsule of one person’s mindset as our worldwide nightmare started to set in. It’s a song of hope and comfort, Haverly’s warm, scratchy alto reminding us to “get ready:” to hunker down and buckle up, yes, but to get ready for when it’s all over and we can all heal.
It could come off as blind positivity in the wrong hands, a well-intentioned but clumsy there-there along the lines of Gal Gadot covering “Imagine.” But the song’s rich, uneasy chord sequence, as well as the sudden shifts in tempo, shows us that Haverly understands the gravity of the situation. Things aren’t OK–not now, and not when she wrote it almost a year ago. But now that a vaccine is here and we’re in more competent hands, things will be OK sooner than we expect.
“Get Ready” was written at the very start of the pandemic. What was going through your mind at that time, and what inspired you to put it to music?
I think that what felt natural in that moment was for a wave of fear to enter the body due to the processing and holding of the unknown – and at that time it wasn’t just the burgeoning pandemic, it was the building stress and tension around the election as well as the momentum building in the racial justice movement. In that moment, I remember trying to sit and be quiet and envision how could the current events lead us to a healthier, more hopeful and peaceful world. How possibly could that be achieved? I have always felt that most of the world’s issues boil down to the ratio of two things: love and fear. And that the dark parts of our species and societies fan the flames of fear in order to gain access and power. It is a revolutionary act to be hopeful and joyful, and this song is a call to action that we all need to work harder to carry those positively vibrating emotions and thoughts in our bodies to move us all forward. I wanted to highlight the importance of needing to “believe it to see it”.
While the song is optimistic, it avoids blind positivity and platitudes. How did you manage to strike that balance?
I think whenever there is a breakdown that leads to a rebuild – it is always painful – the destruction that leads to the rebirth is always hard. But, that the breakdown is even occurring so that there can be a time for reflection, thoughtfulness and consideration before a system restarts, is a significant blessing, and I see this time in quarantine as that. Pushing pause, despite the pain it is causing so many, is providing all of us an opportunity to reconsider what we value moving forward. The song is not blindly positive because it alludes to the hard work that needs to be done. “Out of the way” is what I want to echo out to all of those not on board with a vision of hope, healing, community, respect and evolution, because their time is up. The tides have turned, the switch has flipped and their reign is over. It is time now to take care of one another and to say goodbye to those dark and shallow ideals that for some truly just stem from our innate human longing to belong and have a purpose. We can belong and have a purpose without it needing to be enmeshed with hatred, anger and victimization. There is another way, and our new administration is already taking good steps forward for us all.
Would you say you’re more or less optimistic than you were a year ago?
I think optimism is a muscle that you build strength with through exercising it over and over – choosing the optimistic thought and/or outlook when and where possible. In any moment we can choose what to focus our energy and attention on, and if we work hard to honor and acknowledge all of the good, beauty, generosity, evolution and incredible work that so many are doing to make this world a better place for all, instead of just marinating in the fearful rhetoric of so many of our news and media outlets, that is what I think is revolutionary. There is not an imbalance of hope and fear, good and evil, we are just exposed and inundated much more with messages and images of fear. So, I think I am more optimistic than I was a year ago because this is a muscle I continue to work on strengthening and honing. Choosing my thoughts to align with the world I want to see. And in that choosing, seeking the action steps that I can take to help make that vision a reality.
How have you kept busy over the past year?
I work full time as the Research and Innovation Manager at a public health evaluation firm here in Tucson. My work has greatly increased since the pandemic and I have been working on a number of important projects related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, studies for the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind, and studies related to the value and importance of home visitation programs for families to help prevent child abuse and neglect. I believe I am greatly privileged to witness and understand how many nonprofits, foundations and government programs are working hard to help those populations and communities that need advocacy, support, resources and justice. As a songwriter, it affords me a much less insular worldview then perhaps I would have as a full time musician. With my down time, I have been spending most of it writing quite a lot as well as renovating my detached garage to create a fully functional beautiful music studio to work in. The songs I have been writing have been helpful in processing all of the havoc and change our country and world have been experiencing since March of last year. Also, spending so much quiet time away from the chaos and cacophony of my previously much more complex life – has led to me facing and addressing issues and complicated emotions that have been waiting for their time in the sun to be processed. The songs that have come out of this writing are my new record that I will begin recording this spring – with “Get Ready” being the first of that collection.
What are your plans for when things open back up?
I am dying to perform! I can’t wait until I will be able to play with my band again and share with everyone all of the new music I have written. My last full length album, Matter, was set to be released last April and due to the pandemic, was unable to be released in the way I was hoping. I love that record and am very proud of it for a number of reasons. Regardless, I am going to begin recording my new album this spring because I want to keep moving forward. When things open up I can’t wait to hug a lot, and hug some more and play music and watch music and again feel connected to my amazing Tucson community which I am grateful to call home.