Jesse and Lynda
Hi Eyebright newsletter reader. My name is Lynda Baig. I’m no-one, but for one week I was someone. Musician, Jesse Will created me and shared a motel room with me for a week.
Jesse worked out that to remain emotionally balanced while in quarantine, his days would need structure and discipline, so one of the first things he did was write out a routine to be repeated each day: Specifically: Rising at 4:30am for one and a half hours of work on a lyric writing course, half an hour of YouTube cardio work-out. He also allocated time to Jazz piano practice (he had a small keyboard), composing and of course breakfast, lunch and dinner.
His first week had novelty value, but by the mid-way point, newness had been replaced by a stupefying sameness and yearning for human contact. With one more week to go, he decided to create me. Along with some groceries he ordered duct tape, balloons, and a vivid marker. They came in a paper bag which was to be my head. Jesse dressed my body made of balloons in his Watermelon sweatshirt and Dr Suess pyjama pants.
I got to know Jesse really well:
He’s singer/songwriter who got a great start at Auckland’s, Sacred Heart College (SCH), a centre of excellence for all things musical. (Both Neil Finn and Dave Dobbyn are SHC old boys).
After college, he stepped into a void. That is, he took a job that led nowhere. After a year he started a contemporary music course at the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand. He did some serious composing, and at the end of the year-long course was voted Song Writer of the Year. His prize was a three-day recording session. It was then that Jesse made his first EP (What’s an EP? See below.)
Seeking fame and fortune, he set off for London, and ended up working-in and sleeping-above a pub. He has nothing to show for this time, except character development and stamps in his passport for Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia, where he travelled alone for two months.
After the pub he moved into a small room in a warehouse. Half a dozen other small rooms were peopled by all manner of performers and artists. A spacious shared space was furnished with circus acrobatic paraphernalia. Jesse was likely to open his door in the morning as a trapeze artist swished past.
During his warehouse period he made a second EP, and this led to a visit by Lady Luck. One of the songs on the EP was his version of Taylor Swift’s song ‘Shake it Off’. Swift is a megastar. Her team spotted Jesse’s video and reposted it on her social media: turbo charging Jesse’s career.
He was at the families bach in New Zealand when this happened. When he and his parents pulled up at their Auckland home, news vans were parked outside. The ensuing publicity was better than money could buy. His following doubled, and Starbucks bought rights to a couple of his songs for playing in their café’s throughout America.
When Covid hit, Jesse was back in the UK, sharing a house with two others. The UK lockdown restrictions were very similar to our own. Jesse filled in time recording a concert with performances in each room of the house. The most memorable being a session with Jesse sudzed up in the bath.
Just before the UKs second wave, Jesse made a break for home. He was thwarted twice by cancelled flights, but the third time he was lucky.
Auckland Airport was all cordons and uniforms. Any thoughts that New Zealand might take a casual approach were immediately displaced. Everyone was considerate but firm. Three rules applied: ‘Don’t Leave’. ‘Keep your Distance’. ‘Wear a Face Mask’.
He and his fellow travellers were ushered to Hamilton bound buses.
In the lobby of the Hamilton motel/MIQ (Managed Isolation and Quarantine) facility, there was a platter of fruit and snacks with the instructions: ‘If you touch it, you must take it’.
After a briefing, everyone was escorted to their rooms.
Covid tests were conducted on day three and twelve of quarantine. Coming up to the second test, Jesse was anxious. Should he test positive, he would be shifted to another facility and his isolation extended. Would he take me with him?
If he tested negative (which was most likely), then the he would be a free man two days later and what would become of me? Would he make a long-term commitment to me? The alternative, I could hardly bare to think of. I just had to wait patiently, and keep smiling.
Jesse tested negative in his second test.
He gave no indication of whether I was part of his future plans. He gave me a running commentary as he completed projects he had started. He organised this flight to Nelson where his parents now lived, but there was no mention of my being a passenger. I reasoned that he might pack me up in his suitcase, so he could recreate me at a new location.
I continued waiting and smiling. The final day came. Jesse shaved, showered and dressed nicer than he had at any time during our week together. He looked so handsome. He folded up his keyboard, packed away some notebooks, and then came over to face me.
Though frozen with dread, I kept smiling. He was about to say something when there was a knock on the door. It was someone telling him that a bus to the shuttle bus to the airport would arrive in half an hour.
I could see Jesse’s suitcase lying open. I thought that there may be a chance that I was to be folded and packed in it. I would love to go to Nelson and meet Jesse’s family.
Jesse’s phone rang. It was his mother checking what time his flight would arrive in Nelson.
He approached me once again, then changed direction and went over to unplug his cell phone charger. “Whew!” He said “Almost forgot you”. He popped the charger in his, still open, suitcase.
Then he approached again, stood in front of me and said “Lynda you have been a great companion. Not only have you been smiling the whole time I’ve known you, but you have never argued, or complained. I’m so glad I created you.”
I held my smile and watched him, willing him to do the right thing.
He reached forward. I felt his hand on head.
And then I felt nothing more, and never have since.
These have been the strangest of times. Nothing before has ever demonstrated to us how we are all part of one global humanity, all with the same vulnerabilities.
Go well Jesse Will.
You can find Jesse on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @jessewillmusic
His music is available on Spotify, Apple Music and all major platforms.
EP stands for "extended play record" or simply "extended play." An EP is a compilation of songs often created for promotional use and covers the middle ground between a single and a full-length album. EPs are usually four to six songs in length and are generally made using original tracks that the artist hasn't released.