Shawn Colvin Talks Motherhood, Touring, and New Lullaby Album ‘The Starlighter’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

I came of age in the Lilith Fair era, in the late 1990s when guitar-wielding goddesses like Sarah Mclaughlin, Liz Phair and Shawn Colvin ruled alternative radio. I remember the summer when the latter, Colvin, got her big break with the popularity of “Sunny Came Home,” a twangy, folksy tune uplifted by pretty vocal inflections. The hit single, from the 1996 album A Few Small Repairs, put Colvin on the map as a powerful singer and storyteller — and earned her a couple of Grammy awards (for “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year”).

Shawn Colvin 492 by Joseph Llanes

Shawn Colvin

Fast forward 20 years, the etherial-voiced songstress’ musical catalogue and fan base has expanded, even as radio trends like emo or millennial pop have wavered and waned. In the years since “Sunny,” Colvin’s creative musings have also expanded. In 2013, she exposed her grit through her audio biography “Diamond in the Rough: A Memoir,” and an unexpectedly brilliant, moody folk collaboration with songwriting legend Steve Earle around the same time. In early 2000’s, she gifted the world with her first children’s record, Holiday Songs and Lullabies, shortly after becoming a mom (to daughter Caledonia). 

A sense of maternal creativity seems to be inspiring Colvin again. Her latest album The Starlighter — available exclusively through Amazon Music — features songs adapted from the children’s music book “Lullabies and Night Songs.” The record is jazzy and hypnotic, Colvin’s voice equal parts smoky and sweet as the listener is gently eased into a dreamlike state. I’m particularly fond of “Raisins and Almonds,” a delightful, slowed-down carnival song. 

The album features some pretty neat technology perks, too —  lyrics stream as the song plays from a device (great for mamas and papas who like to sing along), and there’s a visual video companion (members of Amazon Prime or Amazon Music can stream the video here), which babies are sure to love. 

We recently caught up Colvin in the midst of her March 2018 tour with crooner Lyle Lovett, to chat about her new record, motherhood and life in general. 

The Starlighter cover artRockmommy: How’s the tour with Lyle Lovett going? Do you find it any tougher to go out on tour now than it used to be?

Shawn Colvin: Performing with Lyle has been delightful. I’m such a fan of his and thoroughly enjoy playing and singing with him. Touring for me is as much or more fun than ever. Every day I am grateful for my work.

Rockmommy: Let’s talk about your new lullaby album The Starlighter — you said it’s a companion record to a children’s record you made 19 years ago! Now that you’ve been a mom for just as long, how do you think your perspective or inspiration has shifted?

Shawn Colvin: It hasn’t changed a lot — I’m just very connected to the music book of lullabies these songs are taken from. It’s called Lullabies and Night Songs. It was a gift to me when I was 8 years old. I love the arrangements by Alec Wilder. I just hope folks of all ages will enjoy them as much as I have.

Rockmommy: Being a mom is all about balance — but balance is kind of an elusive concept to many of us. When your daughter was younger how did you unwind when your work/tour schedule was packed, you had a million career things to do/home things to do, and your child needed you? And is it any easier now that your daughter is an adult?

Shawn Colvin: When she was younger and I wasn’t traveling I just threw myself into her routine — taking her to school, packing lunches, spending a lot of time with her. Now that she’s older we still spend lots of time together — going out for dinner, hanging out. I go to her apartment a lot to visit and to see her awesome cat!

Rockmommy: Did you ever feel like you were missing out as you tried to make a living as a musician while being a mom?

Shawn Colvin: Yes, I did. It was painful at times. But my job involves travel and we both accepted that and adjusted to it. She traveled with me until she started school and when I was gone she spent time with her dad and other family members.

Rockmommy: Have you ever made music with your daughter? Or is she into other things?

Shawn Colvin: Yes! She asks me to learn songs she wants to sing and I do. So I play guitar or piano and she sings. She’s great! It’s a lovely thing to do together.

Rockmommy: Finally, what advice do you have for mothers who desperately want to balance music with motherhood — but also have a non-music career to worry about? Is there a secret to having it all, such as building in a day/time every week to be creative?

Shawn Colvin: Yes, I think having a schedule is important, a set time when you show up for writing, maybe in a specific place. It doesn’t have to be for a long time. Just something to keep you from getting rusty. I also found giving myself deadlines was helpful. Sometimes I burned CDs of works in progress and listened to them in the car. That helped me make headway with them and kept me inspired.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

A New Vocal Microphone Can Change Your Life

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’ve been a singer since I could breathe, from belting out carols to serenading friends at sleep away camp with Debbie Gibson songs (not always to their liking!). Sennheiser

But when I started playing guitar and singing, I suddenly felt self conscious about how “good” my voice was and what it should sound like — It wasn’t airy and delicate like Tonya Donnelly’s nor angelic like Dolores O’Riordan’s or ferociously powerful like Courtney Love’s. It wasn’t until I encountered the brilliant Liz Phair in 1997 that I realized that a singer could have an average, simply pretty (but unremarkable) voice and still create music that is powerful and life changing.

Today, I still feel like my songs are funny and my voice is fair, but, age aside, I’d never win The Voice or America’s Got Talent. Unless, of course, I happen to play a show at a club with an amazing sound system. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Most microphones and PAs are average, not exceptional.

But last summer, when I played a gig with local band Catalina Shortwave, something happened: Launching into my first song, “Hungry,” I sounded like a Goddess! I asked Dave, the band’s front person with a Zeus-like presence and vocals to match, what he used. He recommended several different vocal mics, and the two that stuck out were the Carvin and Sennheiser. 

I let this information sit for a month or two. Then in September, I started jamming with a woman in my town who wanted someone else to be the lead singer (a first — most girls secretly want to lead-sing). I wasn’t sure I was up for the task, but after my first two notes of Joan Jett into her Carvin, I was astounded at how amazing I sounded!

Finally, I decided that the only way to move forward was to do something I should have done a long time ago: Buy my own vocal mic. One trip to Guitar Center and about $100 later, I became the proud owner of the Sennheiser e835 Live Vocal Microphone. And boy, is she a beauty!

I can’t believe how gorgeous I sound now, as I listen to live recordings like the one in this video. So, so clear. My voice is confident, clear, gorgeous. I’ll never be Adele or even Sia, but with the right microphone I am a mother freaking SIREN!!

I can’t believe it’s taken me so damn long to get one! All these years. Now all I need to do is summon the enthusiasm (and the cash) to secure my own PA system, so I can have a consistently great singing experience regardless of what kind of system a club possesses. But I’m too busy feeling like a Goddess onstage to find the time.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

MILF & DILF: Brooklyn’s Most Charming Rock-n-Roll Duo

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

One of the greatest things about love is that it spurs creativity. Brooklynite and personal trainer Sharissa Reichert and her artist/musician hubby G.F. Newland (“Gerry”) embody the idealized vision of having a band with your lover. Shortly after falling in love five years ago, the single parents of grown sons created MILF & DILF — a cabaret-punk-style/keys-washboard duo that dispatches tons of blunt but beautiful music that is as eclectic as the New York City borough in which they dwell.

band Milf and Dilf, musicians, Morbid Anatomy museum. Gowanus Brooklyn NY

MILF & DILF

We recently caught up with Sharissa (MILF) to find out what’s next for the band. Read on and feel inspired on Valentine’s Day — or any day, really:

Rockmommy: So. MILF & DILF’s been doing this cabaret mom-and-pop/antifolk thing for a while now. How would you describe the music you make with Gerry?

Sharissa Reichert: Screw Wave or Art by Misadventure. But, deep down our music really ’60s punk, because Gerry is into ’60s music and the Beatles and I am into punk. Some people compare us to the band Suicide, but that is way too flattering, although we may be as screwed up as those guys.

Rockmommy: Could you tell us about the songwriting process?

Sharissa Reichert: DILF is a brilliant songwriter. It is almost annoying that he writes a song about EVERYTHING. When we are at home I say to DILF (Gerry)  ‘Gee, honey I am glad you liked the dinner I made or the sex we just had — you wrote a song about it!” There are also many songs written about my butt. We both write the lyrics and come up with the song ideas, and I write a little bit of the music. “Rendalsham Forest,” our classic UFO hit, was created when I was just goofing off, banging on the washboard, and imitating Siouxie and singing about a famous UFO case. The rest of the song fell into place. “Charmless” was written when Gf and I had a big fight about an ex-boyfriend of mine being in town. We were so mad at each other in the Studio and wrote “Charmless” on the spot in 10 minutes. It was one of the Golden Moments in ROCK. The video of that songwriting moment is on our Facebook page. I wrote the song “VD” about Gf asking me to be in an exclusive relationship.

Rockmommy: What’s it like balancing a band with your partner, parenting your son and step son, and working as a personal trainer? What advice do you have? 

Sharissa Reichert: Only a sick mind would attempt such a feat LOL. I love my job — I am probably at the top of my field as a personal trainer for with a focus on seniors and special needs clients and recently expanded into selling exercises equipment online through a website called Plazah.

I have an online essential oils store though Young Living, and am sending out other trainers to clients and training an assistant.

Our Adult offspring live next door to us, they are roommates. Our kids and my son’s girlfriend are over all of the time. We have these big family dinners together where my son and I cook. It is very fun and cool to have the youngsters around.

Being a couple and in the band is fine, we each have a role. I do all of the promotion and booking and DILF does most of the songwriting and our fliers. Our very intense chemistry shows through on stage I think.

How do I get through this all? I am into Buddhist meditation with the SGI USA group. I got the advice from a Buddhist perspective to bring as much humanity as I can into everything I do. People ask how do I do it all, the answer is by Chanting and Buddhist meditation. You also need to take the time to refresh, take an occasional nap, get enough sleep, eat properly. I also have a wonderful Massage Therapist Lindai to help me with the physical stress of work. Being in good shape helps too. DILF is also my running partner. It’s kind of embarrassing though, because I am a professional exercise instructor but he kicks my ass at running!

Rockmommy: You and DILF married in October. Has anything changed, musically, as a result of going to the next level of commitment?

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Washboard player and singer Sharissa Reichert of MILF & DILF

Sharissa Reichert: There is really no difference now that we are married and the commitment and the officialness of us. We are getting older, I mean how many more people do you need to date at a certain point, I mean really? We have been together five years and we are such a good match.

Rockmommy: What are your plans for 2018? 

Sharissa Reichert: We are recording our first album “Live from the MILF-ferd Plaza” this year. I am hoping Dean Ripsler, who used to be in Karen Black and the Dictators, will produce us.

We are gigging at Arlene’s Grocery with wonderful YOU, ROCKMOMMY, on Sunday, May 6, 2018. Even Twice is also on the bill for that night. We want to expand to out of town gigs too.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Pink’s Super Bowl Performance Solidifies her Badass-ness

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Even before the Super Bowl this past Sunday, I’ve always been in awe of Pink. She’s not only one of the most engaging, cool singers, but an imperfect mom with an insane work and fitness ethic. Who can forget those showstopping acrobatics at the AMAs/Grammies/zillions of other shows.

Just like us, Pink gets sick sometimes (she’s a mom of two young children, for Pete’s sake!) But instead of bowing out of her commitment to sing the Star Spangled Banner, she stuck it out, sucked on some kind of cough drop, and belted it out. In front of millions of people. No offense to Justin Timberlake or the Big Game, but that was the highlight of my night. Yet still, haters are gonna hate (fortunately, she’s great on the fly with responses, as this piece in Elite Daily points out).

Here she is, in her moment of glory:

 

pink-spits-out-lozenge

 

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor in chief of Rockmommy.

Solo Aspirations, 2018 (Part 1)

In 2017, I had a blast playing solo shows, duet shows, and even one full-band show (with Grandma’s Mini, in Washington, D.C.). I played in Stamford, Redding, and Bridgeport, CT; Brooklyn, N.Y., and the aforementioned D.C. While it would be amazing to play a monthly gig, it’s not realistic right now — but playing five gigs in a year is more than I’ve played in quite a long time.

So I don’t have anything in the books just yet — hoping for Acoustic Cafe (a grunge covers set with one of my favorite guitar lady friends) in February and Manhattan in March or April. Here’s to staying motivated to practice, regardless.

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Playing solo at Branded Saloon, one of my favorite little Brooklyn hipster dives

My Teenage Nostalgia: Singing Along to Dolores O’Riordan in the Car

The mid- to late 1990s shaped my musical tastes. I transitioned from loving George Michael and Debbie Gibson to developing a craving for a genre known as “alternative” rock, that leaned heavily in the direction of Seattle. Yet I also craved the sweeter sounds of that epic time period, and spent many hours listening to Belly, Bjork, Lush and, of course, The Cranberries.

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Dolores O’Riordan, in her prime

I think it was my first boyfriend, Pat, who introduced me to The Cranberries, whose beautiful debut Everybody Else is Doing it, So Why Can’t We? The album because a constant companion on trips between my parents’ home in Silver Spring to Pat’s home near College Park. The 22-minute drive provided the perfect time allotment to practice my vocals, as I’d sing along to every track, from “I still do” to the hypnotic “Dreams.”

As my musical tastes expanded, The Cranberries took a backseat to Hole, PJ Harvey, and angrier and more overtly sexualized chick rock in college. Eventually, Liz Phair would become my favorite. But not before I saw The Cranberries play at a D.C.-area stadium in 1995. That’s my last memory of the band’s significance in my life. But while my fandom faded, I still enjoyed much of the band’s sophomore efforts, notably the raging “Zombie” because it matched my angsty attitude.

Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I’d hear updates about Dolores from time to time, such as when she got married and gave birth to her first child.

When I heard she died, all of my personal ’90s nostalgia came back. I recalled the feel of the cassette tape in my hand as I popped it into the car stereo, en route to Pat’s place, and recalled that it was one of the last cassette tapes I ever purchased before I switched to CDs.

It’s so sad when someone dies suddenly, but I mostly grieve for her children. She left behind a 12-year-old, a teen, and a 20-year-old child.

I’m so grateful for music and motherhood today.

Me Time = Learning the Guitar Riffs for a Western Classic

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When I was little — well, like 11 or 12 — my dad Don Torrieri got me to watch “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”  for the first time. I kind of knew what it was about (I mean, the title says it all), but I didn’t quite get the plot’s nuances (or Tuco’s relationship with Blondie, played by then-hunky, poncho-clad Clint Eastwood). But what stuck with me most wasn’t the scene of Tuco running through the graveyard (my dad liked to say this was me, in Italy, searching a cemetery for the grave of my great-great grandfather Pietro Torrieri I).

It was the soundtrack. Still one of the sexiest Western themes on the planet, Ennio Morricone‘s title track. Take a listen, and a look, and experience the awesomeness.

So today, I had a little free time. Hubby took the kids to my inlaws’ house to watch a football game. I broke my Gibson SG out of its hard case, and got to work, setting a goal to learn this riff. Perhaps so I can play it at an upcoming show.

The good news is that it wasn’t too hard to learn. However, the frets on my Gibson SG are still too far apart for me to stretch my hands in a five-fret span comfortably and pull off something sonically delightful. So I switched to the Fender Strat, and had no troubles. It sounds lovely and is super-fun to play. Learn it here, in this video.

My next goal: To set up my looper pedal so I can strum chords underneath this cool riff and sound like a badass next time I play out.

 

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.