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In the midst of fear my family found lyrics and laughter

To: Those quarantining with their family

From: Michael Ochs (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To those quarantining with their family,

Day in and day out, my brother and I stay home with our dad to avoid COVID-19. We are, of course, scared, worried and taking every precaution as we understand that if either of our parents (one undergoing chemotherapy, the other on immunosuppressive drugs for stem cell transplant) gets this bug, it means serious trouble. However, we are not taking this time for granted, as we are reminded that life is so unpredictable.

Rewind.

Michael has a successful career as a songwriter.

As a kid, I developed a love for music. Dad was a brilliant pianist and my mom constantly and lovingly schlepped me to all my music lessons. When I was in high school, my dad got me my first job in music at a recording studio. He didn’t realize that it was one of the top 10 recording studios in the world. On my first day at the studio, I bumped into James Taylor, literally.

Both of my parents encouraged me to pursue my passion. And so I did.

Nearly 20 years ago, I moved to Nashville and for the last 12 years, it’s been a whirlwind between Nashville, Oslo, the Middle East and Berlin. I am a songwriter and I found some of my musical soulmates in Europe and the Middle East.  Throughout my career, I have written songs for international artists, including Josh Groban and Cece Winans, and had numerous songs attached to films and TV shows like The Simpsons, Matt Damon’s movie, Downsizing, and True Blood. It’s been nonstop work and travel for years, hardly being in one spot for more than eight weeks at a time.

Recently, I started asking myself how I could find some balance between working and traveling and spending time with my parents in the northeast.

Then, I started hearing about the coronavirus in China.  I was planning to go back to Europe in late March, but by early to mid-March, it became apparent that the world had a real problem.

My dad already beat Leukemia, but in May of 2018, he suffered a stroke. And my mom is currently fighting lymphoma. With two parents with compromised immune systems, I knew if I decided to travel, I wouldn’t be able to be around them for some time. So, I decided not to go.

From a business standpoint, it can be frustrating. My live events were all canceled and I have no idea when venues will open again. And a lot of the magic of songwriting happens with the chemistry in a room between co-writers, artists and producers.

Michael says that his family has been laughing more than ever.

I feel so far away from it all right now. But that’s OK.

The career opportunities I have lost have become the gift of time I have gained with my dad.

Since my mother is going through chemo right now, she decided to stay in the apartment in New York City, where she can sleep and relax on her schedule and stay as isolated as possible. My dad, my brother and I are staying in a house in Massachusetts.

As a family, we are making sure to laugh more than we ever have laughed in our lives.

And to be present and patient for and with one another.

We wrote a song called Sweet Corona that the three Ochs boys sing together. The lyrics crack us up as the song goes, “Sweet, sweet corona leave us the f**k alon-a. Sweet, sweet corona. You made me a germophob-a.

Another song we are working on together goes, “I’m tired of watching Netflix and Amazon Prime. If I don’t go somewhere, I’m going to lose my f**king mind.”

Dad loves putting the f-bomb in these songs! He finds it so funny. The laughter relieves some of the stress of the pandemic and helps his health because it releases endorphins.

Besides writing and playing music, we got to celebrate as we threw a little watch party for NBC’s Songland, which aired one of my songs this week.

Also, my dad loves seeing himself in video clips. So, I started to film and document our days in quarantine. We even made YouTube channel called the Marvin Ochs Fan Club. Always traveling and working, I haven’t spent this much time with my dad since I lived home when I was a teenager.

Back then, I never expected my mom to get lymphoma or for my dad to have a stroke. As a Jewish kid from New York, I never thought I would be working in Berlin and the Middle East. And I most certainly did not foresee a global pandemic.

As my brother, my dad and I lift ourselves with music and nonstop laughter, I have learned that even when you have to endure circumstances you never saw coming, you can still find beautiful blessings. You just have to take a breath, slow down, and be grateful.

Michael Ochs
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