SAUGANASH — Local musician Dana Maragos recently went back to the studio to record a single that reflects on the past year through four words heard on repeat during the pandemic.
“We’re Not There Yet” became a saying among public health officials, state leaders and reporters as the world grappled with the severity of coronavirus and how long it would take to get back to normal life.
Annoyed but also amused by the phrase’s overuse, Maragos decided to turn it into a song to comment on the times, reflect on the pandemic — and to get back to performing with fellow musicians in person.
“It was snarky but also emotional,” Maragos said. “It was to get solace and [reflect on] the transition. We are not going back to where we have been but we are not there yet. It is a journey.”
The longtime musician and Sauganash resident said “We’re Not There Yet” also questions where exactly “there” is — and how perhaps it’s a place we’d rather not return to at all, given the lessons learned from the past year.
Instead, she said the song is about “finding your own there” and re-evaluating what is important in life, which the pandemic granted time to do for many people, like herself.
Maragos lost her job at a TV sports cable network, where she worked for 16 years. This painful loss inspired the song’s second verse, which hits on the unknown and uncertainty felt by many who lost work due to the pandemic.
“I quit the circus. I was a traveling act. I been toein’ the line, like an acrobat. When you are up real high, they can’t see you sweat,” Maragos sings.
Despite the heaviness of the past year, Maragos’ song also showcases the importance of being in the moment, being creative and persevering.
“It’s a hopeful song because we are all going to shine and be good on the other side of it,” she said.
Maragos recorded the song with John Abbey on bass and Brian Wilkie on guitar, who also co-produced the song. She said getting back into the studio was emotional but helpful, helping her get back into the groove of performing, especially with friends who are also vaccinated.
“I have a lot of cobwebs; I have to dust them off,” she said. “But what I wanted to do is to play that song with other people because that is the great joy of doing music.”
Last week, Maragos got another live shot at shedding those cobwebs: She performed “We’re Not There Yet” at Martyrs’ in North Center during a performance with famed local band The Hoyle Brothers, who invited her onstage for the song.
Similarly, Abbey has been getting back into steady music gigs and performing alongside people. The Albany Park musician and producer is the owner of recording studio Kingsize Sound Labs.
Abbey said performing the song in the same room — with no masks or social distancing — was a liberating feeling.
“It was fun to be back in there,” Abbey said. “I was thrilled she wanted to cut it live and not do overdubs. That’s a very immediate and intangible thing that can translate.”
Abbey said the song’s meaning can be interpreted in different ways while still being personal — which is “the beauty of a good tune.” For him, the lyrics represented the way life can still flow and change amid the stagnant feeling of a pandemic.
“It’s hard to write about something without calling it but when you call it out, then it becomes dated,” he said. “It’s nice [the song] came out of this — what everybody is coming out of now — but without being so blatant, which is always clever and kind of tricky to do.”
“We’re Not There Yet” is the second song released by Maragos during the pandemic. In mid-May, the folk singer released “Watching The Day Go By,” which she said was written during the lockdown and at a time when her energy and inspiration were low. Both songs are part of her upcoming EP, “Tastes Like Fire.”
“I sat in my backyard a lot listening to the birds, admiring a neighbor’s treehouse, and just watching the day go by. Good enough,” she wrote about the second song on her website.
Maragos said the song helped her stay grounded and present and notice the small things in life, which she will carry with her when she gets to wherever “there” is.
“Sometimes watching the day go by is all you can do, and that’s OK,” she said.
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