Of all your jobs and hobbies, which do you miss the most?
That’s a great question — I don’t know. What I’m finding lately is that it’s less that I’m missing specific job-related tasks and more that I’m just missing the people. On the rare occasion that there’s a Zoom call, it’s just great to see people’s faces.
Did missing all that human interaction compel you to start the livestream?
I had been seeing footage in Italy where people were playing instruments on the roof, and then everyone in the neighborhood was playing along and it just seemed so beautiful. I was mulling that, maybe on the day that would be the home opener — which was a week after Major League Baseball’s opening day — that maybe I’d just set up my portable keyboard outside and play for my neighbors on the block and it would be a social-distance block party, where we’d all stay six feet from each other. But then on opening day, my old friend Jason, whom I’ve known for 30 years, texted me and said I should do a livestream. I said, “I don’t know how to do a livestream.” He’s like, “Just Google it.”
Did you ever anticipate it would blossom like it has?
The first day we did it, we thought it would be a one-day thing. We figured it would be 10 minutes, two people would show up and somebody would make a request, and it would be like, OK, that was our little catharsis to get over the fact that we missed opening day. And a ton of people showed up and put in requests. Mary and I felt really recharged after doing it, so we said, let’s keep doing it, let’s figure out a way that we can schedule a time every day when we’re both here and we can do this.
What kind of requests do you enjoy receiving?
I enjoy them all because there’s always a challenge. Even if it’s a song I don’t particularly like, it’s sort of this challenge of, can I still learn how to play it? Can I make it sound as good as I possibly can so the person who wants to hear it will enjoy it? Sometimes, and you can tell, I get really excited over a particular twist or turn in a song, the way a harmony moves, and I’ll stop playing and try to give an exciting 30-second lecture of why that’s cool.
What’s your routine leading up to 3 p.m.?
Usually at 2:55, I put on a shirt and turn on the organ and dial in whatever sound settings I want to use. I jot down a couple of quick notes I want to remember to say like, who’s got a birthday — a lot of people have been messaging me to say my birthday is on such-and-such a day, can you give me a shout? — or what’s the baseball card of the day? I recently found all my old cards in the basement, so I pick a different one and share a story or a memory of the player. We’ve been very deliberate with that — and with our record album of the day that’s on display — of having African-American representation. Maybe there’s a story I think I want to share. I might jot a note about that.
Do the same people tend to listen every day?
It’s turned into sort of a familiar feel. Everybody’s really nice, everybody’s really generous, which I feel lucky about because the default for comment threads is not kindness and generosity. Maybe having Mary there keeps people in line, or she just attracts nice people. In some ways, that makes it so I’m not as much the spotlight, because when they’re chatting, they’re not chatting with me. I’m the guy at the party in the corner playing the cocktail music, and so I feel kind of comfortable thinking of it in that sense instead of feeling like it’s all eyes on me and I’m under a spotlight all the time.
It seems like it’s been therapeutic for you, as well.
That’s the main reason I do it. It strengthens me and refortifies me every day to feel better equipped and stronger to face all the different challenges personally and societally that I want to be facing. For us, it’s our group therapy. We know we’re going to spend time together, we’re going to make something fun, and we’re going to interact with people and give and receive some good vibes.