Musicians across the world whose livelihood depends on the touring industry are reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In the case of genre-blending British artist Yungblud, known for known for the Halsey and Travis Barker collaboration “11 Minutes” along with contributions to the soundtracks for 13 Reasons Why and Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, the postponement of his tour dates sparked an opportunity to try something different: a concert livestream without an audience. Similar to metalcore outfit Code Orange’s livestreamed record-release show Saturday night on Twitch, Monday morning starting 10 a.m. ET, Yungblud is putting on his own digital concert, Shit’s Weird Keep Calm and Carry On, featuring appearance from Machine Gun Kelly, Bella Thorne, and Oliver Tree, live from the studio at The Beehive in California. In between songs, he’ll take questions from fans, specifically in countries where his shows were canceled, like South Korea, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.
Over the weekend, the 22-year-old took a second from prepping to talk about the decision to move his show online and why artists are going to have to get creative, now more than ever, in lieu of touring.
I feel so odd. My favorite part of my job and my life is touring. It’s genuinely why I do it — not even the show, just meeting everyone afterwards gets me going. I love connecting with people. Finding that fan base, it sounds cliché as fuck, but it did genuinely save my life. People say that social media can be draining to your mental health, but it’s literally the beginning, middle, and end of the story that I can speak to my fans. Having the opportunity to connect with them taken away from me wasn’t gonna be an option. So I was like, “Let’s livestream a gig online.” I want to get interactive as fuck, I wanna see what everyone’s wearing, I wanna post it online and give people who are literally stuck in their houses a bit of positivity and help just make ’em smile a little bit.
When my shows were canceled, I was gutted. To have that taken away from them, as well as me, was gutting; I was upset, I couldn’t fathom it. But when something upsets me, I always go, “How the fuck can we fix it?”
I woke up one morning after my shows were canceled and was like, “You know what? Fuck this.” I need to feel that connection and noise, that energy. There’s gonna be no literal noise from the audience, but there’s gonna be noise online. You’ll be able to comment on the livestream. I’m gonna be playing songs, gonna bring some of my friends out, do some skits, and do a late-night show — like a rock and roll version of fuckin’ Jimmy Kimmel. Try to give people a bit of positivity, laughter, and emotion.
My team hasn’t slept because everything’s going crazy. When I had the idea for the livestream, they pulled it together so incredibly quick. There’s been rehearsals, a lighting rig, a full band, a camera crew, and audio. In a world that’s going wrong right now, we feel like we’re doing some good. It’s really inspiring everyone to work hard and tirelessly. At first I was gonna be like, “Fuck it, I’m gonna stick some cameras up and do a rock and roll show.” But then my friends all started calling because they wanted to be involved. People in entertainment just wanna fuckin’ make people happy.
At the end of the day, I know we’re doing something where we’re stepping out into the unknown, but as Yungblud, that’s what I love to do. The potential to fail is what drives me, and I think it’s reflective of our generation. People watch and understand us, and they don’t quite necessarily get us yet, but it fuels us to carry on and try our best and fuckin’ win. I don’t give a fuck about whether this sets high expectations in terms of free concerts as long as I’m playing music to my friends, who I love and love me back. All I care about is spreading fuckin’ love and unity and help.
As artists, we have to shift and adapt to what’s going on in culture. You just have to make it work. I think that’s what true artists will do. It’s a time to not give up and think out of the box — out of bad situations and despair comes incredible art, no matter what form that may be. I’m excited to see what happens. Obviously, I’m very upset, and my thoughts are with every single country across the world that’s struggling right now, every person that’s scared or frightened. The only reason I’m doing this is to give people two or three hours and then the memory of that to watch it again in their brains, of solidarity, laughter, and energy.