Rockmommy Renee Stahl Shares How She Balanced a Baby AND a Music Career (and How You Can Too)

By Renee Stahl

One question many women ask themselves is, “How can I have a career and a baby?” That was something going through my head almost 13 years ago.

I didn’t think I would be able to balance the two. I didn’t think it was possible. I was clearly wrong.Renee Stahl

I had just finished making an album entitled hopeful.romantic that was picked up by Barnes & Noble, and was asked to go on tour playing all over the country in their stores. My solo career was going well; the thought of interrupting that didn’t feel good to me.

As soon as I decided that it might be OK, and with a little help from my level-headed husband that I could indeed have both . . . POOF, I was pregnant.

My career opened up in a way I never imagined.

Before I became a mother, a friend had suggested that my voice would be a nice fit for singing lullabies, so I reached out to friends who had written a few originals. Jeremy Toback was one of them. He came over and played “Welcome to This World,” a love song he had written for his oldest son. I told him there was no way I could sing that as it was perfect the way it was.

Renee and Amelia

Renee Stahl with daughter Amelia

We decided to work on some songs, most of which ended up being written while I was on unexpected bedrest at 35 weeks with my daughter, Amelia.  When I was free to move around, we recorded them in her nursery two weeks before she was born. That was the album It’s a Big World, a collection of unconditional love songs to our children.

I know that sometimes as mothers, we feel guilty and selfish when we take time out for ourselves. Making my music and self-care are musts for me. I have to do both in order to come back and parent more fully, more present, and fulfilled.I hope to be an inspiration to my daughters, not only with the music, but also in how I approach it and my life. It’s not as easy for me to parent if my creative cup isn’t full. Like they say on a plane, “Make sure your oxygen mask is on first.”

As I was working on Kindred, my latest album for my Renee and Friends project, I pulled out some songs I had written a long time ago that I was considering“Superfragile World” was one of them. Amelia heard me singing this and began to sing along with me. It occurred to me that it would be better for her to sing this as a solo; the song started to take on a different meaning coming from the voice of her generation. Her voice and phrasing really amaze me on this song.

Along with this, she sings a duet with her sister, Isadora. They cover a song from our Renee and Jeremy album C’mon, called “Rely” with strings, and it’s one of the sweetest  things I have ever heard.

I am beyond excited to share their voices and talent along with other special guests we are featuring on the album. Kindred will be released in early 2019.

Renee Stahl’s next album, Kindred, will be released in early 2019. The record features guest artists Lisa Loeb, Elizabeth Mitchell, Chris Stills, and Ziggy Marley.

Kids Imagine Nation Gives High-Energy Vibes to ‘Christmas Time’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’m a HUGE friend of Christmas music, and have heard probably every popular Christmas song ever made, from the likes of Bing Crosby and Brenda Lee to Mariah Carey and — of course — Alvin and the Chipmunks. I love hearing all of the cool versions of the classics; every song takes me back to when I was little and my dad used his analog cassette recorder and handheld mini microphone to make annual carol recordings.

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Kids Imagine Nation’s ‘Christmas Time is Here’ 

And so it was with a caroling lover’s ear that I listened to kindie rock trio Kids Imagine Nation‘s new collection of seasonal ditties. And I was definitely not disappointed! ‘Christmas Time is Here,’ available for download on iTunes since Saturday, is filled with high-energy songs inspired by the trio’s high-energy live shows, plus a dose of holiday mirth.

[RELATED: The Most Danceable Kiddie Record for Ska- and Punk-loving Parents is Coming in September] 

The much-anticipated follow-up to Kids Imagine Nation 2 is infused with the ska-meets-surf-pop spins on classics like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Deck the Halls” that you’d expect from Aaron, Rachel and Beatz (incidentally, Rachel sounds a lot like Brenda Lee). I thought I was revving up for a Mighty Mighty Bosstones tune during the opening riffs of “Up on a Housetop;” I thought I was hearing Ziggy Marley’s opener while listening to “Gift of Giving,” a song about kindness tucked within a cool ska guitar rhythm. 

Download it now for the road trip to Grandma’s (or the mall) with the family. Or jam out solo with your bad self.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

Rockmommy’s 2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Rock n’ Roll Kids

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Our annual Rockmommy gift guide is full of instruments, toys, and other cool stuff. Enjoy!

Ukulele DIY Kit

Ukulele DIY Kit (Photo Credit: Uncommon Goods)

  1. Ukulele DIY Kit, $79: Create your own piece of musical paradise with this kit from Uncommon Goods, which includes all the necessary parts. The fretboard and neck are already glued and attached, so you don’t have to worry about misaligning the neck or gluing mishaps. That’ll leave time for decorating with your own paints, markers, or stickers.
  1. Lola Rockstar Gotz Doll, $103: This doll takes center stage with her guitar and her electrifying passion for performing music. She perfects her talent by learning new chords and writing new music. It’s always been her dream to play her music on a big stage.

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    Lola Rockstar Gotz Doll (Photo Credit: Pottery Barn Kids)

  1. LOOG Guitar, $59-$89: This perfect-size guitar made for toddlers (ages 3+) and elementary schoolers feels more like a big-kid instrument than mom’s ukulele. Loog’s nylon-string axe is the ideal starter guitar, designed with a kid’s attention span and finger size in mind. Use the flashcards and Loog Guitar app to help your tiny musician learn the skills they can build on as they grow.

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    Loog Guitar (shown here in red)

  1. Laurie Berkner “Monster Boogie” book, $14.81: Make your monsters dance and sing along to the “Monster Boogie” — perhaps the coolest kids’ song ever! — with this special, illustrated book.
  1. VTech KidiJamz Studio, $39.99: This super-cool, interactive music station lets kids mix music with 20 kid-friendly songs for DJ fun. Includes 10 instrument sounds, five musical styles, and three rhythms, plus microphone and digital voice effects. 
  1. Alphabet Rockers’ Rockin’ T-Shirts, $20:  This gold Alphabet Rockers logo T-shirt will help your miniature rocker stand out at shows. Available in Toddler, Youth and Adult Sizes. Includes download of The Playground Zone (EP). 
  1. Rothy’s Cowgirl Loafers, $65: These shoes, made from recycled bottles, aren’t simply good for the Earth. They also feel good on your feet, whether you’re jumping on stage or hanging out in the audience. 
  1. VTech KidiBeats Kids Drum Set, $17.81: Your little drummer boy (or girl) will totally rock the holidays with this mini kit. 

—- Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving, We Highlight 10 Organizations That Need Your Support

by Francesca Farruggio

Thanksgiving is one of the most important days of the year to think about our blessings, and some of the best gifts we have received, like music and, of course, #Rockbabbies!

However, we must also take this time to realize that 2018 has also been filled with some hard times and downright tragedies. And so, in the spirit of today and the rest of the holiday season, Rockmommy wants to raise awareness for the individuals, families and communities who are struggling.

We’ve provided a list of ten of our favorite organizations and charities that are collecting funds to help those who need them most (because every little bit helps!).

Happy Thanksgiving!

  1. California Wildfires — Go here to donate to wildfire relief (For every $10 you donate, your impact will be multiplied by 20 to provide $200 in aid.)
  2. Partners in Health — Helping women around the world give birth safely, from Sierra Leone to Mexico and beyond. Every donation is MATCHED.
  3. My Smile Chain — Help provide a forever smile to a child living with an untreated cleft. Donate now and transform a child’s life.
  4. Save the Children — Your generous gift to Save the Children includes a subscription to their monthly eNews so you can see your donation at work.
  5. Reading is Fundamental — Your tax-deductible gift will help RIF deliver high-quality books and resources to children across the country.
  6. Education to 25 Child Labor in India — With your help, this micro-project will provide education to 25 slum children of a deprived community in Ajmer for one year.
  7. Puerto Rico and Caribbean Hurricane Relief Fund — Donate to provide relief to hurricane survivors in the form of emergency supplies like food, water, and medicine in addition to longer-term recovery assistance to help residents recover and rebuild.
  8. Winterization Aid for Afghan Displaced Communities — Your donation will help provide clothing, shoes, food items, and winterization supplies (coal or wood) & bukharies to 200 displaced Afghan families.
  9. Doctors Without Borders — Donate to help provide the resources needed in global medical humanitarian emergencies.
  10. St. Jude Children’s Hospital Research — Make a donation to fund extensive cancer research and contribute to saving children’s lives around the world.

Know of any other good places to give this season? Post in the comments below.

Francesca Farruggio is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.

Randy Kaplan and 4-Year-Old Son Record Love Song to Wife/Mommy . . . About Candy, Protein, and Crime

By Randy Kaplan

My wife and kid have been slowly but surely muscling their way into my not-JUST-for-kids music racket. And it’s been great!

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Musician and dad Randy Kaplan 

Julie May has an incredible voice and has been writing and performing for decades. Since we joined forces, she’s been releasing her own songs — some on my records, some on her own. She’s also contributed lyrics and music to my songs — “Burpity Burp Burp Burp” and “Every Second Counts” were her ideas.

Julie sings “Goodnight, My Someone” from The Music Man on my record Jam on Rye and “Bye Bye Baby” (the song Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell sing in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and the Pete Townsend rarity “Sleeping Dog” on Trippin’ Round the Mitten.

When our son, Ryland, was going through a stage where he didn’t want to hold Julie’s hand in public, Julie wrote and recorded a parody version of the Loretta Lynn song “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man).” She changed the song title (and lyrics) to “You’re Still Baby Enough to Hold My Hand.” Good stuff!

But the family collaboration I want to tell you about here is a song I recorded with my son when he was four years old.

Ryland walked into my study one afternoon and announced that he wanted to record a song. “Okay,” I told him. “That sounds fun.”

I went back to grading papers. He stood there staring at me.

“Turn on the thing,” he said.

“You mean you want to record a song now?” I asked.

Indeed he did.

“Uh, do you have something prepared?” I asked him as I lowered the microphone and opened GarageBand on my laptop.

“Yes! It’s called ‘Mommy Love Song.’”

Wow. He had a title and everything.

“Do you want some accompaniment?”

“If you want to.”

“Anything in particular you have in mind?”

“Just do it,” he commanded.

I finished setting up and hit record.

“Can I sing now?” Ry asked.

Since the title indicated that this was a love song about Ry’s mommy and my wife, I gently strummed a Major 7 chord.

As my son launched into his e. e. cummingsish ditty, I made sure to stay in the background. I changed chords now and then and tried to hum some harmonies.

As the song went on, I thought, “The title is a bit misleading.” There was, after all, no mention of love or Mommy. The thing seemed to be about candy, protein, and robbing banks.

When he launched into a punk rock chorus of “I, I, I, I, I, I, Ah,” I interrupted him.

“I thought this was ‘Mommy Love Song,’” I laughed.

Maybe I shouldn’t have cut him off. Who knows where the song would have gone. As it stands, it’s the one-minute-and-thirty-six-second track that ends Trippin’ Round the Mitten. You can hear it by clicking HERE. And here are Ry’s lyrics:

 “Mommy Love Song” by Ryland Kaplan

I can never be when anyone decides
The candy in the world is protein for you
When anyone today could be the nice to way
And I can never do in the middle of the way!

I can never be in the way to other beach
Oh yeah, oh yeah I can never be, today is the way
Every day is the way that no one can be
The candy in the world is protein for you

O yeah!
I can’t do anything in the middle of the night!
‘Cause bad guys be careful cause anyone decides
No one in the world does anything
Robbing a back is anyone to sing

I, I, I, I, I, I, Ah!

Randy Kaplan is a musician, storyteller, teacher, and father.

Inside the ‘Kindie Rock’ Life of Rockmommies Jennie and Sarah of The Not-Its!

by Jennie Helman & Sarah Shannon

“Just one more bedtime story, then I’ve got to get to practice.” Good night family, hello “band family.”Cover for digital

That’s what we tell our kids on the one night a week we hang out for the purpose of working on old and new tunes and connecting with one another. We represent the girl power of The Not-Its! We’re tutu-wearing, 40-something rocker moms. We play what’s known as ‘kindie rock’ — if you’re not familiar, that’s independent rock for kids and their grown-ups.

And our bond in this band is so strong; we are lucky.

We’re raising pre-teen girls (Sarah with two and Jennie with three), maintain day jobs, and have our own start-up businesses on the side – Lugabag(Jennie), a travel seat for toddlers that attaches to a rolling suitcase, and Rockaboo (Sarah), a preschool music, movement and mindfulness program.

As we juggle year-round show schedules, travel, writing songs, recording albums, practicing, The Not-Its! is what we like to call our “jobby”— somewhere between a job and a hobby. It’s a job because we work really hard. It’s a hobby because it doesn’t pay the bills, but it brings us great joy.

We get to create music with dear friends, see new places, connect with incredible kids and families, and contribute to communities in a positive, soulful way. We’re often asked how the heck we have the energy to do what we do. And the thing that makes most sense is that we believe in and do what we love, and that keeps us young at heart.

Our bandmates are also parents: Danny, Michael and Tom also manage day jobs along with their “jobby” with the band. Our Not-Its! kids are a lucky bunch — they always get free snacks in the green room, stage access, studio play, and cool trips (we all went to India a few years back).

But as moms we’ve struggled. There are the daily worries of being spread too thin, vacations cut short, missed soccer games, the perennial “to do” lists stacking up. We know every mom can relate. Yet over the years we’ve been able to let it go, recognizing that we only get one shot at life — we have to do what we love knowing everyone around us will benefit. Our girls see us challenged, making mistakes, determined to get it right, working hard. We know they’re watching and learning.

It’s easier now than when the girls were toddlers and it was a constant balance of parenting while playing. Either the girls were rocking out or tugging at our tutus (“Can’t ya see I’m singing here, kid?”). There are too many sweet moments to count. Sarah had a song where she’d call her oldest to the stage, pull her in her lap and sing about a story they made up together. Sometimes the kids would cry the entire show because they should have been napping, or make their way on stage for more crackers. After one show we found Jennie’s daughter literally asleep in her open bass case backstage.

And as the girls have entered middle school, being engaged looks just a bit different. Being older and more independent, they share ideas that we eagerly mine as gems for content. Now and again they slide us a new lyric, brainstorm song content, grab the mic during sound check, act silly (but cool) with their friends at a show.

Our songs have to connect with both kids and parents – no matter what age. As an example, “Curriculum Night” (off our latest album, Ready or Not), evokes that feeling of parental excitement (tinged with a bit of anxiety) in meeting your kid’s teacher. The lyric about “grown-ups squeezing into tiny chairs,” is a memory we can all relate to… every year from Kindergarten on. Kids laugh, parents get it. Item number one in our band’s manifesto (even though we don’t really have one) is to make music that we want to hear with lyrics that are not dumbed down — and our kids are a good “first test” audience.

We see a toddler boldly walk on stage as if they were a part of the band, or a family dancing together. We hear from fans that they played one of our records over and over on a road trip and it didn’t drive them crazy (or secretly share that they play our tunes even when their kids are not around). Stories like these give us a great sense of lift and gratification. Rocking out family-style at a live event or to a favorite record builds stronger connections and inspires what we do. There’s nothing better than experiencing music together, no matter whose family it is.

Our worlds are not perfect, but they sure are rewarding — and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jennie Helman (bassist) and Sarah Shannon (lead singer and former member of the Sub Pop group Velocity Girl) live and work in Seattle. The latest album by The Not-Its!, Ready Or Not,was chosen as one of the top albums of 2018 by the annual Fids & Kamily poll. Catch the latest news about The Not Its! and their upcoming concert dates at www.wearethenot-its.com and view their new video “Hide and Seek” on their video page.

Folk-Rock Mama Edie Brickell’s Big Comeback is Blissfully Nostalgic

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians in the late-late ’80s, when Casey Kaseem played a video clip of “What I Am” — highlighting the ditty as one of the week’s hot movers on the Billboard 100 chart. I was young, and loved pop music like Debbie Gibson — but also loved Guns N’ Roses — and Edie Brickell was unlike anything I’d ever heard (my parents played the Beatles, The Zombies and Elvis, but never any Jimi Hendrix, Eagles, Grateful Dead or Woodstock-worthy rock).

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Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians in Portchester, N.Y., on 11/08/18

I was instantly hooked on the dizzy, slide-guitar tune from the six-piece band that I wanted to use my allowance on the band’s debut record, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars. I’ve never looked back. The hours I spent listing to “The Wheel,” “Nothing,” “Little Miss S,” “She,” “Circle,” and — of course — “What I am” were well spent.

But I’d never seen Ms. Brickell (who some refer to as Ms. Simon, per her famous husband).

Turns out, she was busy being a mama (of three kids, no less), and dabbling in musical side projects all of these years. So when I found out her band was coming to my area, I went nuts!

Thursday night’s performance at the Capitol Theater in Portchester, N.Y., was epic. Yes, Edie’s voice has changed (the timbre is a little different), but she sounds terrific. And the New Bohemians, with their drums-percussion-keys assault, play in perfect harmony. I loved every second of it, from the classics to the new tunes off the just-released album Rocket like “Eyes in the Window.”

I’m hoping for more great shows like that in the future!

Marisa Torrieri is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.