Our annual Rockmommy gift guide is for the mom who sees strumming the guitar as “self care” or wants to channel her inner Janis in 2021 — or at least through an emotionally turbulent winter. Here’s our list of top picks on Black Friday.
Ibanez Nita Strauss JIVAJR Signature Electric Guitar, $799: Alice Cooper’s leading guitar lady’s new JIVA is blonde and blue, and perfect for players who like a lightweight instrument to wield onstage. The JIVAJR has many of the appointments of the original JIVA10, including the Ibanez S body shape, H-S-H pickup configuration, double-locking Edge Zero-II tremolo, and of course, the ‘Beaten Path’ fretboard inlay.
Music playing cards; $10:For a fun game of solitaire or spoons, this one-of-a-kind card deck, available through Uncommon Goods, is sure to delight the pop/rock/country/blues lover in your life.
Oasis Soul Scent Marley Treat Box; $62: We love Oasis Soul’s coconut-soy wax candles, which are inspired by mama Lola Pyne’s love of music. Bring a little sunshine into a dreary winter with her Marley collection — full of goodies infused with a warm earthy blend of Caribbean teakwood and clove. For Black Friday, everything is 20% off, so snatch yours quickly.
Nobody Ever Asked Me about the Girls: Women, Music and Fame; $24.14: Book by acclaimed journalist Lisa Robinson dives into the obstacles and triumphs of women in the music industry. As one reviewer puts it, “This book doesn’t simply rehash old interviews, it explores and comments on the distinct obstacles and issues women in the industry faced in addition to the ones both men and women had to overcome.”
Strung guitar string bracelet; $25 and up: Moms who loved charm bracelets as kids will adore these charmed bangles. Each one is inspired by a song (like “Hurts So Good,” “Yesterday,” “Paradise City”) and they look great together. Rockmommy readers: Use code DUSTIN20 at checkout for 20% off.
Ridged Glass Guitar Picks; $20: Inspired by the beauty of molten lava, these handmade guitar — which are highly rated — picks fuse glasswork and music.
Spiritual Gangster Rip Amor Crop Top; $88. Our favorite yoga brand’s Grateful Dead x Spiritual Gangster collaboration is loaded with ‘60s vibes and perfect for indoor winter workouts. And unlike mom’s first rock band T-shirt, this fun tie-dye tank top is flattering — not super loose and boxy.
Lucy Kalantari — a smoky-voiced New York singer who writes adorable, jazzy cabaret tunes for kids and grown-ups — has been busy cooking up new music. The #rockmommy of musical son Darius, 7, is also the subject of this month’s interview with our correspondent Rew Starr.
See what she’s been up to, and take a minute to check out her musical videos, one of which features her little man on cello.
Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?
Lucy Kalantari: Hi ReW! I’ve been alright, all things considered – hanging in and cherishing all the good and beautiful things. Besides helping my son with remote learning, wiping groceries down (I still do that!), I’ve been teaching, mentoring and writing.
Rew Starr: So when did you know your amazing son was a musical protégé?
Lucy Kalantari: HAHA I try to avoid the “p” word. 😉 He’s been so very musical since he was in my belly. The first time I felt him move was during a live show in NYC. It was the most beautiful flutter I had ever felt! As a baby he’d hum and sing, musicking his way through his days. When he chose the cello as his instrument at 2.5 years old was when I realized how immensely connected he is to music, and I also realized how much trouble I was in!
Rew Starr: What was it like GOING TO THE GRAMMYS???
Lucy Kalantari: I woke up and did yoga that morning before the makeup and hair artist came to prim me up. I loved watching my husband and son getting ready too. Walking the red carpet and doing interviews was really sweet to do with my son. One of my favorite parts was running into Linda Perry on the elevator!!!!
Rew Starr: What was it like WINNING????
Lucy Kalantari: UNREAL! It’s still hard to believe, even when I look at the statuette! I gave a good heartfelt scream when the presenter, my good friend Kalani Pe’a, announced my band. Then my focus was making sure I said the things I wanted to say in my speech, and the rest … is a total blur.
Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?
Lucy Kalantari: Yes! In early October, I released a song for the Halloween season, called “Haunting Days of Halloween”. It was so much fun to do! It really fed my Halloween spirit during these strange times. I wrote and arranged the song, recorded my parts in my home studio, then my musicians recorded their parts remotely and sent them to me. I edited everything together and my mixing engineer did her stuff. I’m super happy with how it came out!
Rew Starr: What about playing out? Have there been opportunities?
Lucy Kalantari: I’ve been performing live-stream shows from home here and there. It’s been really great to stay connected this way. The most exciting show was for Kennedy Center!! THE Kennedy Center! We had been scheduled to do a live show in person, and due to COVID-19, everything was canceled. Until they contacted me again at the beginning of the fall saying it’s back on––as a pre-recorded remote show! I really wanted to bring the same performance to viewers that we would’ve brought in person. I had a set designer create the stage, my jazz cats in costume, as well as a string section with my son and a 17-year-old exceptional violinist, and we recorded a fun, socially distant, backyard Halloween concert!
Rew Starr: Are there any other projects you’d like to share?
Lucy Kalantari: Just before the pandemic hit in the US, I had finished producing an album for artist Joanie Leeds. It’s her 9th children’s album and the first time I produced someone else! It’s been a gift that keeps giving, even during these times. Joanie is a great songwriter, and she wanted to create an album that empowers young girls and ladies, singing about breaking glass ceilings and about gender equality. I arranged, engineered and played a few things on it. The whole project is performed by and (mostly) made by women, and has been getting really wonderful attention in all the best ways.
Rew Starr: What’s something we don’t know about you?
Lucy Kalantari: Random, I learned how to swim as an adult! Before I became pregnant with my son, I was determined to learn to swim and joined a gym. I’d spend time watching close-up videos of Michael Phelps to see his breast stroke technique. My husband says I’m a “slow-motion Michael Phelps.” I still need to master treading water though…
Rew Starr: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?
Lucy Kalantari: Thank you Rew! I love being a mom and I love music – I absolutely adore that I get to make music with my son.
Rew Starr is a musician, actor and mom who lives in New York City.
November is all about gratitude, with Thanksgiving, and #WorldKindnessDay and all of the other little days in between. It’s also the birth month of some of my favorite Scorpios, like my childhood bestie Karina, my Dad, my niece Luciana, my mother in law Lynne, and my dear friends Emily, Steph and Linda.
But this year I’m feeling especially grateful, not just for my health and my children’s health, and for medical doctors and the recent election. I’m also grateful that my parent band — in spite of all of the parenting/life/moving/health/family struggles, and the loss of our beloved rehearsal space — has stuck together.
Not just stuck together, but managed to home-record our first single (“Eggs”), learn a new cover (Concrete Blonde, “The Vampire Song”), and play an awesome, intimate show in my drummer’s cul-de-sac during the Halloween season. We’re also practicing EVERY WEEK in his bucolic backyard, underneath a canopy of trees and stars, fog or no fog. It’s so inspiring to look up into the sky and feel like I’m being held by the universe.
Yes, it’s getting colder. I don’t know how much longer we can continue to play music outdoors, in the dark, especially when it gets super chilly. With the coronavirus spreading faster than it’s ever spread, we may soon have to shutter indoors again, in a depressing flashback to the days of March and quarantine.
The fact that it’s holiday season makes this potential reality pretty sad (I get teary just thinking about staying home in December, because I have spent every Christmas since my birth in Maryland, my home state).
So it’s essential to take a moment, today, to say THANK YOU to my higher power for the ability to practice and play, sing and strum, even in the world’s darkest hours.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.
It’s been quite a week, to say the least. I’m in desperate need of sleep, like many of my friends who have been anxiously awaiting the results of the 2020 elections in a year that’s already reaching new levels in universal anxiety.
So, let’s pause for a moment, and take a deep breath.
Heck, let’s dance!
The video for New Wave duo Camp Crush — real-life Portland, Ore., #rockmommy Jennifer Deale & her hubby Chris Spicer — is here, in perfect timing. And it’s so much fun!
Of course, to be fair to CC, there’s more to this song than meets the eye: Read American Songwriter’s review for more context.
Nevertheless, the infectious beat is all I want to hear.
If you feel like celebrating, this is the absolute best DIY video you’ll see all day. And by the way, how appropriate is the band name Camp Crush right now? I’m feeling like me and my brothers and sisters of the Blue Wave are crushing it, right this moment.
It’s a struggle to think of a single word that captures the essence of Washington, D.C.-based musician and activist Erin Frisby.
She’s brave, and refuses to let her life be defined by heteronormative standards. She’s passionate, as evidenced by her round-the-clock efforts in promoting equal opportunities for female musicians through her grassroots non-profit This Could Go Boom! (TCGB!). And she’s curious. Every new guitar pedal is an opportunity for exploration, a path to a new riff.
Yet while it is seemingly impossible for me to think of the perfect word to describe a musician I’ve known half my life, Erin already has one.
The term, which rolls beautifully off the tongue, refers to the process of shedding old skin, like a reptile. It’s also, metaphorically speaking, the most fitting description of Erin’s current state of existence.
To that end, it is the most fitting title for her debut full-length solo record —an intimate collection of eight songs, which highlight the artist’s poignant songwriting, storytelling, and stunning, sunny vocals.
“With ecdysis, you’re retaining your shape, but at some point the space you’re living in has become cramped and unrecognizable,” says Erin, recalling the moment she discovered the term. “Over the course of creating this album over the last couple of years, I discovered that I was gay. But I was married to a man.”
Striking a Chord
The first time I met Erin Frisby, many moons ago at a party in College Park, Maryland, I was told I’d dig her. “She’s a singer, and she’s into punk and stuff,” my friend Greg told me beforehand.
Of course, he was right. The moment I met Erin I dug her, though admittedly I was a little intimidated by her angelic beauty and perky demeanor. We chatted like two old pals for at least an hour, beers in hand, as songs from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication record played in the background.
We ended up becoming roommates for a brief snap of time in a punk-rock group house at the tail end of our University of Maryland days. The house was a messy haven of artists and musicians nestled in the heart of Hyattsville, Maryland. But it was also a little clique-ish. I wasn’t turned away from the thriving vegan-tattooed-hardcore-hipster scene that bubbled up in our basement for house shows. But I wasn’t welcomed into it, either.
The silver lining of that brief experience was my growing friendship with Erin. She was the only one of my four roommates who took the time to get to know me, and ask me questions about my family and musical experiences. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t tattooed, or that I hadn’t heard of so-and-so’s band from Philly. I didn’t need to be part of some underground scene to impress her. Instead, we spent hours jamming — singing and playing guitar — when I wasn’t busy with my other bands.
Of course, it was a huge treat to have her sing harmonies with me on anything.
To this day, the only time I’ve ever won any kind of musical competition was at the Sunday open mic night in Adam’s Morgan (at Madam’s Organ), when Erin joined me onstage to belt out backing vocals for my song “I Left my Heart in New Orleans.”
After a standing ovation, the $50 bar tab prize was ours. We drank it in about 20 minutes.
Musical Road Trip
Born in Arkansas, and but mostly raised on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Erin Frisby is a gypsy among artists, a journey woman whose music ebbs and flows as freely as her travels, from folksy to aggressive, East to West and back again. She’s as influenced by opera and classic Appalachian hymns as she is by hard rock n’ roll.
I’ve always known this about Erin, yet I could never have predicted the profound metamorphosis that would transpire not too long after the last time we played together, almost four years ago to this day.
In early November, 2016, I invited Erin to travel to Connecticut, and perform a paid gig with me at the now-defunct Georgetown Saloon, just outside of Redding. She brought her four-piece, garage-rock band Fuzzqueen, which she’d formed with her former spouse, after the two of them relocated to D.C. Before that, they’d spent nearly a decade in California, frequently hitting the road, and racking up hundreds of gigs under the musical moniker Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray.
“My former partner and I had been touring together and writing together for many, many years … and we actually kind of ended up moving back to D.C. because of that project,” she recalls. “We loved the music scene there and, with what was going on politically, wanted to have an impact.”
Fuzzqueen’s eclectic brand of folksy indie-rock was filled with trippy, melodic riffs and searing guitar solos, and an enticing balance of masculine and feminine energies.
After the show, I fell out of touch with Erin for a while, and was surprised when I learned, sometime in 2018, that Fuzzqueen had fizzled out.
Yet the painful and cathartic process of letting go of that project was essential for Erin make space for her new one: her “all-womxn” band The OSYX.
Shortly after the “election” of the 45th president of the United States, Erin was craving something new — a new musical endeavor, and a community that would elevate women and under-represented artists. During an anti-inauguration gathering in January 2017, Erin felt inspired as she watched the Baltimore hard-core feminist punk band War On Women play an acoustic set. At some point she struck up a conversation with a couple of musicians she’d kind of knew, who also played guitar: Ara Casey and Selena Benally. They decided to get together to jam.
“Sometimes you meet people, and you play with them but nothing more than that comes of it… but every once in a while it just clicks and it falls into place,” Erin recalls. “We ended up getting a bass player (Maya Renfro) and a drummer (Robzie Trulove) … and we started playing a lot and from there it grew into a sisterhood.”
The OSYX have been described as “raucous … with melodic tensions and chemistries,” which is fitting in more ways than one: Erin shares lead vocals with Ara and Selena, who is now her girlfriend. All three women play guitar, and Erin also plays keys, organ and other instruments. While each member’s sonic stylings are as distinct as their pedal preferences, the fusion of sound culminates in a high-energy, rock n’ roll experience.
Songs like the buoyant “Dog Fight,” make me want to jump and dance, while the darker, harder tunes like “Carry it With Me” make me want to crank of the volume and drown myself in the heavy intensity.
Forming The OSYX dovetailed nicely into Erin’s other endeavor: the creation of This Could Go Boom!, a nonprofit organization focused on helping women/womxn artists thrive in the competitive indie music scene, which — even in D.C. — is heavily male-dominated.
But while the two years pre-COVID were a time of joyful self-discovery and collaboration, what the promo photos don’t show is the pain Erin endured as she let go of the marriage that was no longer working.
“Creating this project helped me to navigate that and discover who I am,” says Erin. “I had to confront a lot of internal biases inside myself. All my life, when I’ve heard of people who had committed relationships and came out [as gay], I wasn’t particularly sympathetic to that. I had some resistance to that narrative. But as the truth unfolded and became clear to me, I realized I had choices to make.”
Since putting band life on hold, Erin’s channeled her creative energy into recording and mastering Ecdysis with help from a generous grant from the Prince George’s County Arts and Humanities Council (PGCAHC).
The result is a sonic slideshow of Erin’s life — an eight-track record that seems to leverage instrumentation — keys, guitars, bass, drums, and dulcimer — gently, so not to overpower the outpouring of confessional lyrics and coloratura-soprano vocals.
Ecdysis offers a glimpse into Erin’s earliest musical memories (“You are my Sunshine”), experiences in longing (“Waiting for my Love to Wake”) and the process of self-actualization (“Theia and Gaia”). As an added bonus, Erin simultaneously released a sister album, Second Skin, featuring covers of Ecdysis tracks performed by friends, as well as originals inspired the record (like Selena Benally’s “Punk-dysis”).
“Selena is a shredder,” says Erin of jamming with her girlfriend. “I’ve been learning a lot from her during quarantine as far as guitar technique. She’s pretty amazing — and she’s invested in a lot of different styles beyond rock like flat picking and blues. Selena also programmed the drums and played the bass on Ecdysis.”
For Selena Benally, the admiration is mutual.
“Erin’s performances and songwriting are heartfelt and genuine — sacred not saccharine,” Selena tells Rockmommy. “She employs a lifetime of dedication and hard work to her craft as she explores the seemingly boundless depths of who she is and it shows in every song and live set.”
As fall continues, Erin’s trying to play out play out whenever she can, albeit in limited and modified capacity due to safety concerns. So far, she’s played one drive-in performance and a few outdoor music jams. When she’s not doing that, she’s busy teaching virtual piano, guitar and vocal lessons, and planning other ways to help her community.
“I’ve been reflecting a lot on the power of art in the way that exposure to different views and immersion in different disciplines and voices really helps people to explore their own voice as well as empathy,” says Erin tells me over email, when I ask her what’s next for 2021. “Learning to think through what someone else’s vision was and think about their approach to creatively addressing a problem leads to a flexible and curious and intelligent approach to the world in general. With that in mind, I’m thinking more and more about how important it is that representation in the arts is diverse.
“It’s important for people to see themselves or hear themselves in a piece and it’s important for them to see or hear what it’s like to be a real human with deep emotions and beliefs who is different from them,” she continues. “That’s brought me back to the mission of This Could Go Boom!, which is that lesser heard narratives and underrepresented voices are potent. We are going to be putting out new music by the end of the year and I couldn’t be more excited!”
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
Like music, fragrance is intrinsically linked to mood and memory. And for Washington, D.C., area mom Lola Pyne, founder of Oasis Soul Scent Co., fragrance is intrinsically linked to music.
In fact, it’s sound, as much as scent, that inspires Oasis Soul’s line of song-inspired candles and body products, which capture the moods of the tunes they’re named for: “LOVE SONG” (vanilla and rose), “CARIBBEAN QUEEN” (mango & papaya), and “CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’” (blood orange).
Photo Credit: Isis Nishae
“The same way you create a vibe with music, you can do that with scent,” Lola tells Rockmommy. “I absolutely LOVE music so that crossover of inspiration is easy for me. Sometimes I start with a name that is a nod to a song or lyric and look for fragrances to match that mood, sometimes it’s the other way around.”
We recently caught up with Lola to talk about her new venture, motherhood in 2020, and why escaping into a delicious scent can change your emotional latitude during tough times. Read our interview and visit Oasis Soul Scent now through November 30, for a 10% discount on all purchases.
Rockmommy: Hi Lola! For our readers who don’t know much about Oasis Soul, can you give us a little backstory? How did you get started?
Lola Pyne: Sure! I actually just celebrated the two-year anniversary of Oasis Soul Scent Co. at the end of September. I got the idea to start making candles after attending a work function at an event space that smelled simply amazing. I had the distinct feeling of being transported out of the busy city and into another place altogether immediately upon entering the building and encountering this lit candle. The lightbulb moment for me was that we should always have this feeling when we enter our homes, the feeling of stepping out of the world and into our own sanctuaries that we deliberately cultivate. And, that sensory experience of smell is one easy way to make a home an oasis.
That was the catalyst for me to learn candle making, which I picked up through numerous books and YouTube videos. The process of selecting, mixing, and testing various fragrances got me hooked! I went through more than 60 scents to select the initial seven that I launched the company with, three months after getting the idea for the business. Oasis Soul now boasts 28 scents offered in a range of handmade self-care products including shower aromatherapy steamers, fragrance sprays, body oil, and more.
Through the process of researching candles and candle making, I became aware of the harmful chemicals that many store-bought candles contain. For example, many wicks can contain lead or metal cores, and paraffin wax itself is a byproduct of petroleum and can release harmful toxins when burned. Therefore, it was paramount for me to select non-harmful materials for products I’m positioning as self-care. I make my candles with a natural coconut wax blend, lead-free cotton wicks, and phthalate-free fragrances.
Rockmommy: Can you tell us about how music inspires and influences you? Or, How does music play a role in the creative process of candle making?
Lola Pyne: The main angle for Oasis Soul Scent Co. is that I craft “scented goods inspired by soulful music.” When it initially came time to name the scents that I’d meticulously selected and mixed, I wanted to really convey the feelings that each fragrance was meant to evoke. That’s not any easy task in the complicated way that scent, emotion, and memory are so intrinsically tied. It’s the same way with music. So I opted for musically inspired scent names to say that this fragrance will make you feel the same way that a specific song, or genre, or artist makes you feel with their music.
I have a light airy blend of white tea and ginger that I named SMOOTH JAZZ. A rich, sweet, romantic blend of vanilla and rose is known as LOVE SONG. You get the picture. The same way you create a vibe with music, you can do that with scent. I absolutely LOVE music so that crossover of inspiration is easy for me. Sometimes I start with a name that is a nod to a song or lyric and look for fragrances to match that mood, sometimes it’s the other way around. For me it has become my art, and I love the process and products, and especially the way that the concept really resonates with my customers. The reviews let me know that they experience my products in a meaningful way that engages their senses.
Rockmommy: You have a young son. Does he participate in the family business?
Lola Pyne: Absolutely! So my son has participated in every step of the process from testing out the initial scents in my kitchen (though he’s over that part now), to attending my vending events, to now helping me carry packages to the car for our daily post office runs. As a mom, it is extremely gratifying to know that he is watching me every step of the way in building and growing a business from the ground up. I’d like to think it is an example that will stick with him of how consistent hard work pays off, and that you can really do anything you dream.
Rockmommy: This year has been incredibly difficult for everyone. How are you and your family navigating these times?
Lola Pyne: Certainly living in the midst of a global pandemic while the next chapter of the long, long struggle for freedom for African Americans is unfolding is A LOT. The emotional and spiritual toll is a heavy one, along with the added pressures of re-imaging and re-tooling schooling for our young ones in a world with COVID.
Self/soul-care is a primary tenant of Oasis Soul Scent Co. and I believe that daily rituals are integral to creating and maintaining balance. And, at a time such as this, the ability to tend to one’s soul is all the more complicated yet critical. The importance of self-care is resonating and I’ve actually experienced an increase in business as people prioritize making their spaces comfortable and calm, while they are also making conscious choices to seek out and support Black-owned businesses.
For my own wellness, I put together a prayer corner/personal altar with candles and other items to remind me to practice daily the things that sustain me. I need the reminder to work on and nourish myself for the strength and courage to mother, and to fight, and to care, and to love, and to create joy, and even to thrive. That too is a form of resistance. I created a LET IT SHINE Affirmations Candle specifically for this use which has been quite popular: 10% of the sales from this candle will go to organizations fighting for social justice.
Being able slow down, and spend more time at home with my son, who is six now, has been the blessing in all of this. Having this uninterrupted time together is something I’m sure we will always look back fondly on.
Rockmommy: What’s cooking this fall, for candles? Any new soulful scents we should know about?
Lola Pyne: This year I created my first full holiday collection with 6 candle scents that just launched this month. With so much time spent at home now, I feel that these candles with signature scents that we associate with autumn and the holiday season, will help people mark time, and celebrate as best we can, and provide the backdrop for new family memories. GROOVE (apple bourbon) is what I’m currently burning these day.
Rockmommy: What candles would you recommend for rockmommies who love the beach (like me)?
Lola Pyne: Listen, beach is one of my favorite words! I have whole collection named ESCAPE that is meant to evoke seaside/resort/bungalow vibes. (I actually love those scents in the winter when I’m trying to escape the cold in my mind.) From that collection, SUMMER BREEZE is the most popular scent. It is a lovely, beach-y blend of sea salt and jasmine that people adore in the candles as well as in the Room/Body/Linen Mist Spray. I’m telling you, spray this on your pillow at night and ocean dreams are yours. 🙂
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.
It’s not always easy to capture the imagination — or attention — of a toddler or grade-schooler in a virtual music class. My kids love their music teacher, don’t get me wrong, but they are already weary from singing “This Land is Your Land” over a Google Meets connection. It’s chaotic at best, trying to get them to focus.
Aaron B. and Rachel C. of Kids Imagine Nation, a live performance kindie rock act hailing from Orange County, get that. While virtual (aka, “distance”) learning can work academically, music class doesn’t necessarily translate well.
But their new online music program might just change that.
Like their Kids Imagine Nation live show, the Kids Imagination Kindie Music channel leads little learners through movement exercises, musical instruction, and other hands-on educational activities, which are the perfect supplement to any 2020 distance learning curriculum.
We’ve only begun to watch them, and I can attest that they’re awesome.
My kiddos and I opted to try out music class, which is live-streamed at 11 a.m. PST on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but available on demand anytime, to check it out. The one we tried — an October 10 Music Class, on demand — kicked off with a yoga-like movement sequence (Aaron growing into a big, strong tree), and featured a singalong sequence, dance time, and a music history lesson on the bass guitar (I had no idea the bass guitar was invented in 1930, did you?!).
While the music class is designed for learners ages 4 to 8, other content in the Kindie Music program, such as the weekly storytime and crafting classes, are perfect for children ages 2 to 4. All lessons move from one sequence to the next every three to five minutes, to ensure that even the most finicky preschooler can focus. As a guitar teacher, I know this is the only way to keep children coming back for more — especially over a virtual platform.
We recently caught up with Aaron over email to talk about Kindie Music program, and why it’s a fun way to enhance online learning during challenging times.
Rockmommy: Tell us about the creation of Kids Imagine Nation’s Kindie Music program. How did this come about?
Aaron B.: Rachel and I — two-thirds of Kids Imagine Nation — have always been performers and educators. While we created videos and music for kids, we have also been teaching preschool music classes at various schools in Southern California. We would also perform over 200 shows a year at schools, libraries, and The Disneyland Resort. But when Covid-19 hit, and our schools shut down and all our shows were canceled, we needed to adapt. We took our music curriculum and our love for creating videos, and began teaching online. It was a way for our schools and students to still interact with us, but it now opened up the possibility that our Kids Imagine Nation fans could participate as well. Right off the bat we offered five music classes, four story times and Friyay dance party every week.
Rockmommy: One of the biggest challenges I’ve found is keeping kids engaged in music over a virtual connection. How did you curate the content based on kids’ real-life personalities and needs for engagement?
Aaron B.: This is a great question! There are pros and cons to teaching over Zoom. Being able to see your students is a huge plus, but with that there becomes a lot of distractions, especially when everyone can see everyone else. We decided right away to present our class like a live tv show. We know, as early childhood educators, that activities need to be done no more than 5 minutes. So, every 5 minutes we are doing something different, and each section has its own video introduction. We have the ability to put items on the screen, during class, that we use for games that turns our class into “Active Screen Time.” We also provide a chat feature, where parents can participate, if they choose.
This allows us to specifically call out names during class. Another tool we use is a polling feature that the kids can use to vote for different things that Rachel or I do at the end of class. We also ask the students to draw pictures that we use during our Fairy Tale Night, where Rachel tells a story and we put the children’s artwork on the screen, live. Because of our years as performers and teachers, we know what to say, and more importantly how to say it, to keep the children engaged, and to make them feel that what they are watching is specifically for them.
Rockmommy: What do you hope to impart with the show? (e.g., life lessons, etc.)?
Aaron B.: Of course we want to show that music is fun, and encourage the love of performing it, but more importantly we want to provide a virtual place that is safe, inclusive, and empowering.
Rockmommy: How are you trying to create a sense of community during this isolating time?
Aaron B.: Because we feature videos and pictures that students submit, and we offer an “interact” section on our site where families can post and comment on other families discussions, a lot of our families now follow each other on social media sites. Although our live stream network is designed to watch what you want, when you want if you can’t watch the actual live stream, most of our families watch live, and because we talk about what students are doing (because of our chat feature) our students literally refer to the others watching as “friends”.
Rockmommy: What kind of feedback are you getting from your audience?
Aaron B.: The feedback we receive is overwhelming great. When we hear from families telling us how our program has affected their lives, it fills our hearts up because we love what we do and we are so glad that other feel the same.
Rockmommy: Any hopes of performing live again?
Aaron B.: WE LOVE PERFORMING LIVE! We know its coming, and when it does we will be out there! We are already planning a full country tour once we are allowed to!!!
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
The first few months of pandemic life and quarantine may have been the most difficult in many ways, as we grappled with the unknown.
Yet this period of uncertainty spurred creativity among musicians, who found themselves writing new material for the first time in months.
Nashville singer-songwriter Elliott Park is among them. Over the spring, Park and his three teen daughters Anna, 18, Autumn, 16, and April, 14, created an acoustic, 12-song collection — Songs With My Daughters — that is beautiful and compassionate, with the daughters’ gorgeous harmonies intertwined with jazzy pop-rock tunes, like “To the Moon and Back,” and nostalgic tributes (like “Blue Skies Over the Rainbow” — my favorite).
It’s like hearing Jack Johnson but better, because daughters make everything that much more awesome.
We caught up with Elliott in one of his rare free moments to talk about the new record, and life in this crazy new world.
Rockmommy: Talk to me about this album! When and how did the idea to do a quarantine album with your three daughters come about?
Elliott Park: Well it wasn’t really intended to be a quarantine album. I had been planning a new family album for several months but midway through recording process the pandemic hit and I started feeling like the songs I was producing didn’t quite fit the mood of the times. So I put my nose back on the grindstone and reworked it with a little different vibe. Still quirky but with a little more intimacy and organic feel.
Rockmommy: Who wrote the songs? Was there any teenage angst about lyrics (kidding, kind of) or musical direction?
Elliott Park: I wrote all the songs except one, Blue Skies Over the Rainbow… which is a mashup of two of my favorite classics; Blue Skies and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The girls and I collaborated on that one. It was a ton of fun coming up with the parts. There was not TOO much angst haha, but at times it was a little difficult to pull them away from what they were doing. I’m proud at how hard they worked.
Rockmommy: How long have you been playing music? How has that influenced your girls?
Elliott Park: I was raised in a musical family but never learned an instrument. I was always too shy to sing. But when I went to college something clicked. Almost every evening after basketball practice I would sneak over to the music department and tinker on the piano. That went on into my twenties and then I started singing and writing music at around age 30. I found I had a knack for songwriting and it sort of developed into a career. My girls have grown up with it as well. We have an old Magnivox record player we call Maggie. She’s sung us all to sleep a few thousand times and still does to this day. I’d like to think they’ve developed their musical interests from listening to all those old records. Sweet Maggie.
Rockmommy: These songs are so sweet — do your daughters and you have similar music tastes?
Elliott Park: Thanks! Well I think we have overlapping sets of musical interests. But I really dig a lot of the stuff they listen to. I think it surprised them one day when I was singing along to a Billie Eilish… It kind of crossed their wires there for a few seconds haha!. Likewise they REALLY love the old classics, and I don’t just mean rock. If you look at their personal playlists you’ll see Sinatra, Billie Holliday, The Carpenters, some Gershwin tunes… a lot of different genres. I think those overlapping interests shape this album and I love it to pieces. They can mimic the elevator voices on a Percy Faith track or knock off the Andrews sisters like nobody’s business.
Rockmommy: What was the recording process like? Did you do this DIY with a good DAW, or with an engineer?
Elliott Park: I had a lot of it remotely recorded, but it all came together in my bedroom using Logic Pro X on my old iMac. Towards the end of the project it would crash about three times an hour no lie. We did all the vocals in my bedroom. I had to yell through the walls for silence many, many, times.
Rockmommy: Obviously the pandemic sucks. But is there some level of gratitude for the time with your daughters that you had BECAUSE of the pandemic?
Elliott Par: Definitely! We made the best of it. I’m proud of us all for staying at it all the way through.
7. Are you planning a social distance concert or parking lot shows?
Not at this time. I’m not huge on performing and honestly I’ve used this pandemic as an excuse not to perform. It’s awful and I need to change that about myself. That’s some bare bones honesty right there haha.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
It’s been quite a year, and if you’re a mom, dad, or kid, you’ve likely experienced a level of family bonding you never thought possible. Frances England, mom of two teenage sons, gets it. Her latest tune, ‘Glue,’ out today is inspired by the intimacy of living in a coronavirus pod, for better and worse.
But the song is also a welcome respite from the severity of the pandemic in our everyday lives.
We recently caught up with her to talk about the new tune, the first single off her forthcoming album, ‘Honey,’ out November 16.
Rockmommy: What inspired the song, “Glue?”
Frances England: The idea for “Glue” came from the CoronaCoaster we’ve all been riding since March of this year. I was just thinking about how our worlds got so small when we were suddenly only allowed to be with a very limited group of people — our immediate families, our partners, our pets. “Glue” is a song about appreciating the people you’ve been stuck with 🙂
Rockmommy: What messages do you hope to impart in your music?
Frances England: For kids, I try and subtly weave in messages about being compassionate, empathetic, a curious observer, animal protectors, good stewards of the earth. For parents, I try to create songs that speak to how wondrous and magical the ordinary is when you have young children. My kids are older now, but I remember how stressful and exhausting it can be to parent young kids. It’s also the most special space in time and I hope my songs capture a little bit of that.
Rockmommy: What are you most looking forward to, over the next few weeks, during these crazy times?
Frances England: COVID + the California fires + our country’s political reality have made for a hyper stressful time, and to be honest, I have been feeling anxious about pretty much everything. During the next few weeks I’m hoping to balance all those externals with some quiet things that calm me down and fill me up: songwriting, family bike rides, experimenting with a new camera. I also manage a community park in my neighborhood so that keeps me busy in all sorts of interesting ways.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor in chief of Rockmommy.
Playing rock n’ roll requires a lot of stamina. So does motherhood. This month, Rockmommy correspondent Rew Starr talks to NYC rocker mom Val Kinzler — a self-described cross between “Janis Joplin & Karen O” — about life, music and finding balance in a crazy world.
Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?
Val Kinzler: I’m still adjusting to the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown. Living on the Lower East Side in NYC with my son and two pugs. I’ve been teaching music virtually — which still feels kind of strange — and hosting songwriting webinars. I work with an LBGTQ non-profit record label.
I also participated in a successful livestream fundraising effort to help save The Bitter End venue on Bleecker Street, which was produced by Room Full Of Music and Off Stage Tunes, and another livestream benefit for the NAACP via Tune Hatch.
Beyond that, I’ve been cooking, cleaning, eating, taking 8- to 10-mile walks with my son to avoid public transportation and trying to squeeze back into my skinny jeans!
RS: How is this different than pre-pandemic life?
VK: Prior to the pandemic, I co-curated a week long NYC Women Who Rock Fest in conjunction with Mike McHugh and New Century Booking that featured some awesome,
power house women artists including you! I’m amazed that we were able to complete all of the fest dates just before the lockdown!
RS: What about the kids? What does going back to school look like?
VK: Jesse is thirteen and actually did great with Google Classroom, and is still participating in online distance learning. Recently he informed me that after taking a “mental age calculation test” he is actually 27! So, I kind of feel like I have a “QuaranTEEN” and an adult child rolled into one!
RS: So tell us about your life. So how many bands have you been in? Is it more than boys you have been with or less? (laughs)
VK: This is a loaded question. I dissected and re-assembled the trajectory of my varied band experiences and realized there’s got to be a book penned by me eventually called “Road Kill!”
My earliest girl band was The Sirens, which played classic rock and Grateful Dead covers at Long Island colleges and bars, with a born-gain Christian manager who desperately wanted to “get to know us better,” and I went from there to my excuse for dropping out of college: a punk-pop all girl band called The Technical Virgins (i just received newly rendered live and studio tracks and a pending script/screen play for the “TV’s” that the singer/songwriter/bassist/flute player Susan Neuffer wrote). The TV’s played in the 1980’s at A7, with Marilyn and The Movie Stars and The Bad Brains, at Maxwells in Hoboken, CBGB’s on Valentine’s Day (we opened for the Sick F*cks) and at Queens College (on the bill with ISM) and other rock n roll joints that are long gone.
We had interest from the Go Go’s producer and I met with Sid Bernstein several times. Sid wanted to change our name. The founding TV’s said no. I still miss him, though.
After playing piano exclusively for years, I picked up the guitar because, I was moving from squat to squat on the Lower East Side, sometimes sleeping under a friend’s kitchen table.
I had to sell my piano and started writing a lot more on the guitar which proved to be a blessing because, with my limited chops, I was forced to keep my writing simple and more intuitive rather than getting sidetracked by riffing on the keys.
I joined open blues jams at places like Dan Lynch on Second Avenue between 13th and 14th Street where the Holmes Brothers, Joan Osborne, Jon Paris, Grant Green Jr., Harry Holt and others packed the joint. I also backed up some groups as a keyboard player — most notably, The Jive Five, which was really cool because, we’d play the oldies shows with Little Anthony, The Dixie Cups, Ronnie Spector and these singers and their tunes still remain timeless!
Valkyrie and The Vikabillys was my first all original band. But, I was still doing back-up gigs, singer-songwriter open mics and blues jams.
I played The Lone Star, Bitter End, Village Gate, Kenny’s Castaways, and after recording two projects, one with Popa Chubby (I still love those tracks!) and my debut East Third Street record produced by Genya Raven who also sang backgrounds with me.
Hilly Crystal (CBGB’s) came in to the studio to lay down the voiceover of the sanitation worker in “Alleyways Of Love,” a song I wrote about a hooker and a garbage man who fall in love when he spots her as he’s picking up the trash. That record landed me some cool gigs, I opened solo in California for Marty Balin and Chuck Negron at a show where Joe Walsh and Clapton were also booked.
After joining a heavy metal band called ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for a brief time, I then joined Blue Lagoon, a hard-hitting blues rock band, as their lead singer.
Eventually, my music evolved when I met Joe Vasta, who also became my romantic partner. Joe and I originally connected through Thommy Price, who I’d worked with in the 1990s.
My main band now is the Val Kinzler Band. David White whom I met and played with in King Bee and The Stingers, Joe Vasta, and Jon Ihle. We recorded our debut record “Nothing Sacred About Hatred” in Oklahoma for a Christian label. The label’s owner was busted for embezzlement but, we got a great record and two videos out of the deal! I refer to VKB as my grown-up band because we’ve all been there, and are done with “THAT!” I’ve also joined several other all-female groups.
RS: We met in the Dirty Mothers. You had a newborn. How were you so able to try anything even at that vulnerable state?
VK: Yes! I also remember Joey Zero years earlier when I was playing at Sun Mountain in the West Village insisting that I must meet his friend REW!
Joey booked us both at The Continental and after seeing you perform for the very first time, I totally understood why Joey wanted us to coordinate! I was totally psyched to learn that Kelly Britton and you had teamed up! Jesse was under a year old. I was not yet healed after having a cesarean section. But, it sure was a blast and I loved playing all of our original songs. We each had a slightly different style but the vibe was in sync. I had no immediate family to help me with Jesse when he was an infant. Also, took me two years to get back into shape physically because I gave birth at 46!
I used to take Jesse to rehearsals and wherever I needed to be. But, there were times when I had to pull out of gigs because I didn’t have a sitter or money to pay for child care and it became really strenuous carrying my guitar on my back and the diaper bag while having the baby harnessed to my chest using public transportation.
There were also rehearsals when Jesse was sleeping in the harness on my back and we’d turn down low to keep rehearsing. I literally couldn’t put him down at times or he’d fuss. I think he wanted to be close to the music! Luckily, certain musicians (like you and Kelly) were also parents and were cool with me having to bring my baby!
RS: I love your twist words. When did this start? Ever think of making a Val dictionary?
VK: I think my “oops” with words comes from a learning disability known as dyscalculia and perhaps a touch of dyslexia. I used to write everything backwards in elementary school out of boredom I thought but, as the years progressed, I began to reverse how I saw numerical equations and it’s become such a part of me that I simply create new words automatically.
I read signs in reverse and it can really screw me up at times if I’m not concentrating.
Like, if the teacher gave an exercise with two rows of words, and instructed me to take one word from each column to fuse together sensibly, I’d write “road rail” and incorporate it into a sentence rather than “rail road.”
Songwriting for me is challenging because it’s like inventing and solving a crossword puzzle simultaneously.
RS: Are you making any new music?
VK: My most recent single “Some Bitch” is on Spotify and desperately needs a video!
It’s a quirky tune about cyber cheating. “Some Bitch is dancing topless on your lap top, I can smell her perfume from out here… etc.” I also wrote a quartan-tune inspired song called “In the Rain” and am still catching up on half completed songs my band was working on for our forthcoming record.
RS: What about playing out? have there been opportunities?
The only live show I did recently was in Tompkins Square Park for the anniversary of the riots.
It held meaning to me due to the history of The Lower East Side, the squatters, the musicians and artists and Monika Beerle, who became my muse in “Broken Ballerina.” Also, it is so important to join other musicians and artists right now as these are uncertain times and music is the universal language of healing and inspiration!
I am scheduled to play at Porch Stomp, 2020 as part of Kat Minogue’s Stage on Governor’s Island on October 10th. Violizzy, Rigel Mary and Jesse will probably join me.
RS: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?
VK: All of my personal achievements can now be applied to reinforcing life skills in my own child and the students I teach.
To me, being a rockmommy means dissecting and recycling stressful moments creatively by incorporating my love for music! Jesse and I always turn on the radio in the morning and wind up dancing to our favorite tunes. Pain in life is inevitable, remaining stagnant is no longer an option.
I’m grateful that my son is tenacious and driven. We both use music, dance and exercise to keep a positive mental attitude. I love my close relationship with Jesse especially when we have opportunity to jam together. Taking him to rehearsals, gigs and not sheltering him from my artsy friends has lost me some people along the way. I was definitely mis-judged as being reckless at times.But, interestingly, those particular ex-friends never had children of their own.
Rock n’ Roll is all encompassing and celebrates uniqueness and survival!
I’m definitely a survivor and passionate about inspiring hope in Jesse and others.
Rew Starr is an actor, musician and rockmommy who lives in New York City.