When the “Tennis Fan” singer initially received word about South by Southwest, Martha Betty Glenn Brown wanted to travel to Texas and perform in spite of the cancellation. But as global fears about the coronavirus pandemic heightened, the traveling musician, who goes by the pseudonym Banoffee, made the difficult choice to return to Australia.
Banoffee spoke with The Daily Texan the day she was scheduled to perform at SXSW and the day before she boarded an airplane home.
The Daily Texan: Do you think it was the right decision to cancel the festival?
Banoffee: I think (it was) definitely the right choice. When you look around the world and see how many people are sick everywhere, we’re just putting each other at risk. It doesn't matter if someone's not presenting with symptoms, they can still end up passing it to someone who might have an immune issue. Although it's so sad for musicians everywhere to be without work and without the thing that makes us happy, it’s more important to stop within a track so we can get back to that as soon as possible.
DT: Now that your SXSW performance has been canceled, what could audiences have expected from your performance and what can they expect to see at future shows?
B: The main thing that I wanted to do was to be able to play my album from front to back and share that experience with people. It’s my first record, and I wanted to be able to celebrate it and launch it as many times as I could. I have a lot of fun at my shows. There’s a lot of running around and dancing and getting people out and communicating and connecting with the audience. I really wanted to do that in America because I haven’t really had a chance since touring. If I ever come back, I will be sharing my entire album, talking about what it means to me.
DT: At this time, do you have plans to come back to the States or is everything up in the air right now?
B: I decided for my own safety — because I’m not a citizen, I’m not really protected here — I am going back to Australia. But as soon as I’m able to travel here safely, I’ll be back and touring straight away. This is my life, this is what I want to do and I’m really excited to get back on it.
DT: How have the travel bans affected you personally, and what has been your reaction to the global messaging about coronavirus?
B: It’s pretty scary. I think that everyone is affected by this in their own way. It’s scary because every news report is confirming that we don’t have work, we don’t have income. Touring is my life. It’s what makes me happy, but it’s also what keeps me afloat and keeps me paying my rent. The travel ban going back to Australia is that I have to be in isolation for 14 days, and now there’s a $20,000 fine for anyone that doesn’t obey those rules. I think there’s a really big chance I’m going to get the virus on the plane. That alone is very anxiety-provoking. It’s a scary time to be a noncitizen and a touring musician in a country that I’m not protected in.
DT: Do you or any of the musicians you know plan on making new music during this time of isolation and quarantine?
B: I know all of us have been planning to make a quarantine album. I think at the moment for me and a lot of the artists I’m speaking to, the stress is making it hard to concentrate or feel inspired. But I do think that will pass. This might be six months, and if it is we’re going to get over that initial stress and we’re going to be able to buckle down, and that’s what I hope to do. I worked for so long on this record, so maybe it’s time to make a new one and just keep making music and doing what I love, and hopefully, that way my mental health will survive until I'm able to tour again.