Mic Check: Brandon Bush staying creative, collaborating during coronavirus time

Brandon Bush, brother of Sugarland's Kristian, poses for a portrait inside his Decatur studio he shares with his brother.  Brandon is a hugely talented and prolific musician and producer in his own right, who has played with Train, Sugarland, Little Big Town and John Mayer, composed works for Turner Classic Movies, films TV and gaming. Ryon Horne/RHORNE@AJC.COM

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Brandon Bush, brother of Sugarland's Kristian, poses for a portrait inside his Decatur studio he shares with his brother. Brandon is a hugely talented and prolific musician and producer in his own right, who has played with Train, Sugarland, Little Big Town and John Mayer, composed works for Turner Classic Movies, films TV and gaming. Ryon Horne/RHORNE@AJC.COM

Editor's note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our new feature, Mic Check.

Brandon Bush spent two weeks in early March in a 14-day quarantine because he had been exposed to the coronavirus — via Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.

The Atlanta musician had traveled to Australia to play keyboards for Wilson when she performed a few shows in the country (husband Hanks was there to film a movie), and prior to the last gig at the Sydney Opera House, Bush found himself hanging out in the green room with the genial actor.

“I had just had this great night chatting it up with Tom Hanks and telling Elvis stories, and I got back from there March 8, and a few days later, Tom and Rita disclosed they had been diagnosed,” Bush said.

He was able to get tested, and the negative result offered a sigh of relief. But Bush, his wife Angie and teenage stepson, Gibson, took every precaution and remained holed up in their Sandy Springs home for a couple of weeks.

He also closed the Decatur studio he runs with brother Kristian, of Sugarland, to any public recordings and has been spending most of his downtime creating – via technology — with Kristian and guitarist friend Benji Shanks, on their Dark Water project.

Here is what Brandon Bush had to say about life during self-quarantine times.

What have you been up to since hanging inside?

We’ve moved into virtual creating. Dark Water has been about collaborative writing, and we’ve explored the technology of how to be creative together, which is different than how to record a track together. It’s painstakingly slow. It’s using technology where I’ll work on a session at home and put it online, and then Benji downloads it, plays on it and puts it online. And then Kristian downloads it and plays on it. It’s weird because you don’t have your companions there to guide you. It’s a little more of a back and forth.

Have you been listening to anything in particular?

The shift from going to the studio to working from home and having my wife and teenage son also working from home means it's a little bit of a different focus. I have a stereo system that goes through our house, so I'm getting to dictate the soundtrack to my helpless family! I've restarted "The Long Drive Home" (Bush's former radio show on AM1690) as a Spotify playlist. There's a lot of nostalgia and looking for comfort in my music selections. I'm listening to Bill Withers, and I gave a good listen to (Miles Davis') "Bitches Brew" the other night.

Any advice about how to spend your time?

To me, the schedule has been key. There’s a lot of pressure right now to create, like, “All you creatives, go make your masterpiece right now!” My creative engine is very much connected to my psychological condition. Until I can feel hope, it’s really hard to sit down and make things. And I’ve been giving myself forgiveness for that. I have a schedule, and if I can’t create, I don’t beat myself up about that. I did get very organized with projects I want to get to someday, like I’m attempting to transcribe Beethoven’s (“Symphony No. 1”) into my computer. I try to take 30 minutes each day to focus on something. Just come up with something you weren’t doing before for half an hour each day.

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