Rockdaddy Johnny Clay of Ants Ants Ants Discusses Making Music and ‘Soaking it All In’

Each month, Rockmommy talks to parents who make music about life, work, play time and more. Today, we chat with rockdaddy Johnny Clay of Ants Ants Ants, a fun (and family friendly) musical project. Scroll down to check out their new music video for “Pinwheel” Ants Ants Ants

Rockmommy: When you think about fatherhood, what do you love best about being a dad?

Johnny Clay I love seeing them experience things – it definitely takes you back to being a kid and remembering what it was like. Hearing their perspective on things too. I’m lucky in that I get to walk my daughter to school every morning, and our walks are filled with her questions and observations about the world around her. I hope she never stops wondering about the world and asking questions.

Rockmommy: Tell me about your latest musical project — how did it come about?

Johnny Clay: It’s been a long time in the making. Friends have been encouraging me to write a kids’ record since our almost 8-year-old was born. But it wasn’t until we starting seeing clips of classic Sesame Street songs and School House Rock songs that I really got inspired to do it. Such wonderful music. And when I saw “The Point” by Harry Nilsson again, that put it over the top.

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Rockmommy: Has your music changed since you became a dad? If yes, how so?

Johnny Clay: Well, I certainly wouldn’t have gone down this path as a songwriter had it not been for the kids – both our soon to be 8 year old and our 5 year old daughters are constantly inspiring new song ideas. The way kids think about things and notice things is just so amazing.  Whether it’s pointing out the “helicopter leaves” falling on the way to school, or asking what the biggest animal in the world is (and not believing how big a blue whale really is), their curiosity about the world around them is just so cool.

Rockmommy: What’s it like trying to balance music with parenthood? Are there other factors in the mix — e.g., time with a spouse or partner, a day job to pay the bills, etc.? Is your partner involved in the music project?

Johnny Clay: It’s definitely an adventure. I’m very, very fortunate in that music is my full-time job, so the kids are growing up with music constantly in their lives. They both feel comfortable hanging out in the studio with me and they see how songs get put together. I love seeing them sit down at the piano or the drums or whatever and play the instruments, see what they sound like. It’s not all on a computer. My wife Christi is a musician as well and so music is definitely a constant in our lives.

Rockmommy: What’s your advice to other rockin’ dads?

Johnny Clay: Probably the same advice I was given years ago: just to try and soak up this time with the kids, because it really does go by so fast. And of course keep rockin’!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Finding Time to Practice in the Midst of a Busy Life

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Most days, I wake up way too early, work out, rush to get my kids off to school/camp, and before I have three minutes to meditate, have to rush off again to do something again (like dishes, writing or some other paid freelance assignment). I’m super lucky, being able to make money as a creative person, while balancing motherhood and wifedom.

But until recently, I started losing track of my real #lifegoals — to play guitar like a goddess, play shows at clubs and write original music (I also want to write and publish my science fiction novel in progress, but that’s a different blog for a different day!).

Needless to say, it’s easy to get too busy one day and neglect your art, and before you know it, the days add up. I’m super close to saying f*ck it — why bother trying to make a rock video (a big life goal), play a show with a full band (like the one I left behind in NYC), or record an album? I’m too busy mothering/working/playing covers with the only female musician I know who lives two blocks from my house.

[RELATED: Me Time = Learning the Guitar Riffs for a Western Classic]

But about a month ago, I started feeling that spark again. I don’t know how, or why, but it hit me: I live to play music, and to create.

So I’ve decided to try something new: Three or four times a week, I have been spending 40 minutes to one hour in the morning working on music. And I’ve clocked in two hours a week working on this blog and my novel. Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated, which is why I’m doing most of my creative stuff in the mornings (unlike lots of sexy rockstar artists, I’m a morning person, not a night owl like rockmommy  Jennifer Deale of Camp Crush). And I must say, while I feel like a dork for doing creative stuff at the crack of dawn when most of the good rockstars are sleeping, it feels phenomenal and fulfilling to create again.

[RELATED: 5 Great Signature Guitars Designed for — and Inspired by — Female Rock Guitarists]

I’d love to hear from you gals (and guys) out there. How do you carve out time to be creative? Are you a night owl, or do you force yourself to wake up early/skip other stuff like cleaning to make it happen?

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Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Stay-at-Home Rockin’ Dad Gunnar Madsen on Parenthood & New Projects

This month, Rockmommy talks to rocker dads about music and work-life balance. Here, we chat with Gunnar Madsen about his new projects (including a new video co-created by his 15-year-old son) and parenthood. I Am Food Cover 300 Square
 

Rockmommy: What do you love best about being a dad?

Gunnar Madsen: I love working on being a better dad all the time. The idea that there is no end to parenting used to scare me – in school or in work, every project has a due date, or a production, or has a finished product. But the growth of a child is never-ending, it presents constant new challenges, things I could never have imagined. And the learning goes on and on, no due date, no completion. That’s an amazing teaching to get ahold of.

Rockmommy: Tell me about your latest musical project,  “I Am Your Food”  — how did it come about?

Gunnar Madsen: I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for all of my son’s school years (he’s 15 now). Parenting took up much of my time, but in spare moments I dreamed of my next album, and I had the idea that it could be about food (which I love). I wrote some of the songs from this album over the course of many years. It’s only in the past 2 years, as my son matured and required less of my time, that I was able to focus on bringing this album to fruition – finishing up the writing of the songs, recording them, and preparing to launch the project.

Rockmommy: Has your music changed since you became a dad? If yes, how so?

Gunnar Madsen: I think the things I’m learning from fatherhood, like patience, generosity, and a greater awareness of myself and who I am, are coming through in my creative life. I’m still writing funny, sometimes goofy, songs, but I sense a different spirit in them.

Rockmommy: What’s it like trying to balance music with parenthood? Are there other factors in the mix — e.g., time with a spouse or partner, a day job to pay the bills, etc.?   Is your partner involved in the music project?

Gunnar Madsen: The main shift in my music career came when our son was born. It was not reasonable to go on tour and leave my partner at home alone with the care of a baby. And I didn’t want to be away, — the gravitational pull of fatherhood kept me at home. I continued performing locally, but over time my desire to perform diminished. I found that I was happiest just writing music at home, and left the stage. Luckily, being a stay-at-home composer and a stay-at-home dad work pretty well together. My partner is not involved in my music – she’s has a store she runs with her mother, antiques and fine things for the home and such, which has paid the bulk of our bills over the past years. But I trust her opinions very much, and share everything I’m working on with her to see what she thinks.

Rockmommy: What’s your advice to other rockin’ dads?

Gunnar Madsen: If you’ve got to rock, you’ve got to rock. It’s not like I made a decision to become a musician. It was a calling, a fire burning inside, that wouldn’t allow me to do anything else. It has maybe saved my life, it’s a joy, and it’s also caused a heap of trouble and pain. I can imagine a whole lot of easier ways to get through life, but this is the only way I know how to do it 🙂 In the end, I’m grateful for having such a passion.

Gunnar Madsen on Fire (1)

— Marisa Torrieri is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Rockdaddy Philip Dickey Talks New Project Dragon Inn 3

This month, Rockmommy talks to rocker dads of (mostly) young children about life, music and more. Here we catch up with Philip Dickey (of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin) about fatherhood and his latest project Dragon Inn 3.

Listen to “Bad Boy” on the band’s Soundcloud Page

Rockmommy: When you think about fatherhood, what do you love best about being a dad?

MeAndDaveyPhilip Dickey: Our kid (Davey) is 3 years old and my favorite thing is just hanging out and having conversations with him. I also love showing him things for the first time. Like playing a Beatles song, going on a fair ride, or eating cotton candy for the first time. Stuff like that seems kind of magical when you’re with a 3 year old.

Rockmommy: Tell me about your latest musical project — how did it come about?

Philip Dickey: My latest project is called Dragon Inn 3. It’s a band I started with my wife (Grace) and my sister (Sharon). We started out by writing the soundtrack for a short film that was like an 80s horror movie. That was back in 2012. We kept writing and recording songs for 6 years and now we’re finally releasing our debut album on American Laundromat Records in August. I mixed most of the record when Davey was taking naps in the afternoon. My wife recorded all her vocals at night after Davey went to bed. We recorded all the breathy vocals in the living room and all the yelly vocals in the garage so we wouldn’t wake him up.

meAndDavey2Rockmommy: Has your music changed since you became a dad? If yes, how so?

 

Philip Dickey: I might be wrong, but I think little kids can tell when a song is good or really bad. So I think Davey can weed out my crappy songs if I play him a song idea a few times and he doesn’t request it the next day.

Rockmommy: What’s your advice to other rockin’ dads?

Philip Dickey: One thing I never considered before I can became a dad was the anxiety that comes along with having a really little baby. Especially when they get sick. Here’s an article on Deadspin that I found super helpful if you’re prone to anxiety.

Rockmommy: What’s it like trying to balance music with parenthood and other responsibilities?

Philip Dickey: I’m bad at balancing anything that involves time and money. But playing music is the easy part because there’s always a guitar or a piano around and I can play background music when Davey’s playing with trains. I hope I’m balancing it right, but I guess we’ll find out later.

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Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

NYC’s Danny Lapidus, of Hot Peas ‘n Butter, on Fatherhood and Making Music

This month, Rockmommy talks to rocker dads of (mostly) young children about life, music and more. Here we catch up with father of two Danny Lapidus, lead singer for the super-fun Brooklyn band Hot Peas ‘n Butter. Their new album  features guests artists Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes and Peter Yarrow! Catch them in Union Square Park in NYC for a free show on July 12.

Back to the Land cover web

Rockmommy: What do you love best about being a dad?

Danny Lapidus: When I stop to think about being a dad (which is not often because….I’m a dad!! who has time to think about anything?!) there are many things things that I love about it. One thing that will seem obvious to people who have kids, but may sound strange to others, is that there is actual joy in realizing you are no longer the center of the universe! It hits you like a ton of bricks! There is someone here who is more important to me than anything else and even myself!! Makes me appreciate my dad even more. Another thing that I absolutely love about being a father to young kids is that they think I’m the strongest person in the world, literally. 

 


Rockmommy: Tell me about your latest musical project — how did it come about?

Danny Lapidus: My latest musical project is a new album with my band Hot Peas ‘n Butter called Back to the LandIt started with an idea of trying to go back to musical roots. I wanted to explore everything from bluegrass to Gospel music… real Americana, because that is what I grew up on and what feels so sincere to me. I honestly thought the album would contain mostly new arrangements of traditional music, but then I started writing with my partner Steve Jabas, and we realized that that the songs all had similar themes of unity, equality, and protecting our environment. We immediately felt we had something special.

 
As a New York City studio Producer and Mixer, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing musicians and as we wrote I realized I could ask around and see who would join us on the album. I never expected to get Peter Yarrow! (Peter, Paul & Mary), Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes, a gospel choir led by Marcelle Davies-Lashley and all the other amazing musicians who helped us bring this album life. This was the most fulfilling album I’ve had the pleasure of working on so far.


Rockmommy: Has your music changed since you became a dad? If yes, how so?
 

Danny Lapidus: Maybe the music has not changed so much but the songwriting definitely has. I think the main difference now is that I feel like I always want to say something in my songs, to have a positive message, and even to take a stand on matters that mean something to me, because, I want my kids to know I stand for something.
HPnB-Full Band1-lo by Kamana Kamkwalala

Rockmommy: What’s it like trying to balance music with parenthood? And are there other factors in the mix? 

 
Danny Lapidus: Wow, now you’re asking the hard questions. YES there are many factors in the mix these days! It’s extremely hard to balance music with parenthood but I wouldn’t change a thing;)
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Cardi B Sets a New Bar for Playing a Gig While Pregnant

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

You’re a musician, and you’re expecting. Can you play a gig while pregnant? And if so, what modifications do you need to make?

These are two of the biggest questions microphone-wielding (and guitar/keys/drums-wielding) mamas to be have when they’ve got a bun in the oven. It’s also a huge reason why my article on playing a rock gig while pregnant is the second most popular Rockmommy post of all time.

And I thought I had all the answers: Hydrate, try to book non-smoking venues, etc. But then Cardi B came along, with her big baby bump, to Coachella. When I watched her Coachella performance — which included rapping, twerking, shimmying and all kinds of cardio goodness, while carrying a big second-trimester belly, I was pretty amazed. Even though I took zumba and Pure Barre classes up until my delivery, I can’t imagine working out like that, while pregnant, in front of hundreds of thousands of people. Of course, it helps that she’s a former dancer.

Check out this video — about 1:30” in, you’ll see her money moves…

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.