Singer Megan Wren On the Many Lessons of 2020

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2020 was a tough year for everyone.

However, for some, such as the formerly Athens based singer-songwriter Megan Wren, a forward looking mentality combined with a bit of soul-searching rendered 2020 to be at least as transformative as it was difficult.

“So, I was living in Athens when the pandemic started. I had been working for the Ohio University School of Music, doing audio for them, and I also had just started working at Donkey Coffee as their booking manager. I loved both of those jobs so much. I’m sad that I only really got a taste for the Donkey Coffee gig,” said Wren, who was left totally jobless as the pandemic began to erupt.

Wren has been playing live music as a means of supporting herself since she was a teenager. When COVID-19 reared its head in March 2020, it interrupted what is typically Wren’s booking period for her busy summer season of gigs.

Megan Wren
Megan Wren (Image courtesy of the artist)

“And then all of a sudden we had to cancel every show. So that meant very sudden unemployment, which was scary. It was just such a big adjustment to have to make and to figure out what I was going to do,” said Wren.

Confronted with the discombobulating circumstances, Wren moved back home and started working as a social media marketing manager.

“Doing social media marketing taught me a lot about connecting virtually, which I think was the theme of last year. We couldn’t be around people so much, and the challenge was trying to figure out how to use social media as a tool to connect online — and to truly, emotionally connect with people in an authentic way since I was missing that from playing live music,” said Wren. “The position I was working involved trying to get customers for this brand I was working for and feel seen — to figure out what their problems were and see how the brand could connect with them better. So, I just started turning that into the way I approached my music career online.”

Wren started doing monthly livestream performances consisting of covers solicited by her fans: “It would be like playing Fallout Boy and Dolly Parton in the same show, that kind of thing!”

The livestreams became so popular Wren had to start capping the number of songs people could request for her to learn for the livestreams because there simply wasn’t enough time in between performances to learn all of the songs people were requesting. Realizing the potential of the livestreams, Wren started using them to raise money for those in need, such as those devastated by the February 2021 North American winter storm that plunged Texas into darkness for two weeks and three days and the Southwest Ohio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“I found that even though everyone was having a tough year, there was still so much support for giving, which I think is a really cool theme that came out of this last year. Even those who were not able to financially give, they would still tune into the stream and share it, and that still was making a really big impact,” said Wren. “The charity streams really allowed me to lean a bit more into what I believe the role of a musician is: giving back to the community.”

Listen to more of WOUB Culture’s conversation with Wren, in the feature embedded above. Wren, now based in Cincinnati, has a number of shows coming up in and around Athens: Friday, October 8 at 6 p.m. at the Eclipse Company Store in the Plains (11309 Jackson Dr.) with Dallas Craft opening; Saturday, October 9 at The Spot on Main in Jackson (289 Main St.) from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; and Sunday, October 10 at Kindred Market in Athens (284 East State St.) 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.