Why Rockin’ Mama — and Team Christina protégée — Alisan Porter Should Win The Voice

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I got hooked on “The Voice” in Season 2, many years back, and will never forget the anger I felt when rocker Juliet Simms was denied victory. She should have won — critics knew it, her coach CeeLo knew it — but somehow Team Blake’s Jermaine Paul snagged the big prize (of course, Jermaine is a talented singer in his own right, but many of us expected Juliet to win!).

Since then, I’ve gotten excited over a handful of candidates — the standouts in my head are Matt McAndrew (Season 7, Team Adam), Cassadee Pope (Season 3, Team Blake), Michelle Chamuel (Season 4, Team Usher), and, of course, Jordan Smith (Season 9, Team Adam). All were the kind of candidates you just knew, at first listen, would make it to the finals (and they all did!).

I wasn’t planning on watching “The Voice” past the blind auditions this year, but something — rather, someone — captivated me in a way that few other “Voice” contestants have since Juliet Simms. I’m talking about Alisan Porter. Her rich, passionate, vocals are breathtakingly piercing — and utterly inspiring.

As many music and entertainment writers have noted, Alisan’s jaw-dropping vocals on her audition cover of Linda Ronstandt’s “Blue Bayou” — as well as Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” and Aerosmith’s “Cryin’”– made her a true standout. A one in a million girl — and certainly someone who deserves the title of “The Voice” for the show’s 10th Season.

But while her voice is compelling, so is her personal story.

Alisan Porter’s entertainment career began in 1991, when the now 34-year-old mom of two scored a starring role in the movie Curly Sue. But instead of seeing her acting career take off, years later, Alisan found herself in the midst of alcohol addiction. And while she’s been sober for eight years, most of her energy up to this point has been focused on motherhood and marriage.

Should Alisan nab the victory on Tuesday night, it’ll represent a true comeback for someone who seems to truly deserve a comeback.

Another reason you should vote for Alisan Porter — either by downloading her song on iTunes, or voting for her on The Voice’s home page/app before Tuesday 10 a.m. ET — is that no one else like her has won the show. Finalist Hannah Huston (Team Pharrell) is the 20-something gal who can sing anything (kind of like Cassadee Pope … and dozens of other contestants); and country singer Adam Wakefield, while talented, is  really just another version of Team Blake Season 7 winner Craig Wayne Boyd.

My second choice for winner, Iraqi-American bluesman Laith Al-Saadi, is also a true original — with his bellowing, big voice and out-of-this-world guitar soloing ability. But the show is called “The Voice” for a reason (no offense to guitarists!). A winner should bring something unique to the collective pop-rock vocal soundscape as well as a powerful contribution to the world of popular music.

Finally, it would be nice to see a female coach actually win this thing for once — especially someone as talented and nurturing as Christina Aguilera. The female coaches have the odds stacked against them on this show, since every season has only allowed for one female spot (and, as it looks, one minority spot), while bro-mancers Adam Levine and Blake Shelton remain the big mainstays. As a side note, wild gal Miley Cyrus and R&B piano mama Alicia Keys are sliding into the new judge slots for Season 11, replacing Pharrell and Christina Aguilera, so that should shake things up a bit!

Those of you who don’t follow the show should take a few minutes to listen to Alisan Porter for yourself (just do it before Tuesday!). I’d be shocked if any person, rockmommy or not, isn’t moved by her vocals and her presence.

The Voice Season 10 Final airs Monday, May 23, 2016, at 8 p.m. on NBC. For more on how to vote and download the official app of “The Voice,” check out the show’s home page.

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

I’m Not a Beyonce Fan, but Lemonade is Epic

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t a huge Beyonce fan back in the pre-2014 days, when the pop diva’s biggest hit was the cheesy bachelorette-party anthem “Single Ladies.” I like my music with a lot of edge, lyrically, musically, and vocally, and while Beyonce’s got the pipes, tracks like “Irreplaceable” didn’t deliver an earth-shattering sonic experience.

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Beyonce’s “Lemonade” is one of the best records by a rockmommy — or anyone, really! 

My feelings about Bey started to shift when, in 2013, I watched her rock the stage at the Super Bowl Halftime Show: Here was this powerful mama, flanked by an all-girl rock band, doing her thing with those curves and that voice. Months later, I downloaded “Drunk in Love,” her salacious duet with hubby Jay Z. It’s still one of my favorites.

Fast forward to 2016, when I’m hitting my midlife stride in the thick of marriage and young children — an experience that Beyonce, wife of Jay Z and mama of Blue Ivy, totally gets. As such, “Lemonade,” Beyonce’s 12-track album and one-hour video experience, is as profound and transformative as reviewers like Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield have promised.

Until I heard “Lemonade,” I had no plans to ever download anything by Beyonce, ever. But so many of my friends and musician peers rhapsodized about its profound artistry, seething-wife lyrics, and creative collaborations that I couldn’t help myself.

Kicking off with the etherial, captivating Pray You Catch Me,” “Lemonade” takes the listener on a journey through anger and redemption (albeit, one that occasionally reminds me of lesser-known artist Imani Coppola). It’s hard to pick the best track, but I’m particularly drawn to “Hold Up,” with its hypnotic tempo and catchy pre-chorus (“Hold up, they don’t love you like I love you … slow down, they don’t love you like I love you…”). My other favorite, so far, is the rock-guitar-heavy Jack White collaboration Don’t Hurt Yourself, where she sings (presumably to Jay Z), Who the fuck do you think I am? You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy.”

Beyonce delivers the unexpected with these, as well as the country ditty “Daddy Lessons” and the eerie, trip-hoppy tune “6 Inches,” which features one of my favorite new artists The Weeknd.

While much of “Lemonade” flows with sultry vengeance and feminist undertones, Beyonce makes a powerful nod to racial inequality in “Formation” and the experience of African American women in “Freedom.” beyonce-lemonade-3

And still, the more I listen, the more I discover. I’ve only owned this record for a few days, and I’ve already listened to it something like six times, each time unearthing some new gem or insight. That’s the mark of great art — you always take away something fresh from every encounter.

So seriously, download “Lemonade” now. You’ll be rockin’ out and hailing this pop-turned-rock-but-still-pop mother for weeks to come.

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

3 Blogs I’m Digging Right Now: May 2016

I’ve been a “blogger” for more than a decade, and launched my first blog in 1999 — years before everyone had a blog. While a lot has changed since then (for one, my blog is a lot more “mature” and filled with less personal blabbering), I still love to write. Even more, I love to read.

Here are three blogs I’m digging this month:

#1: The Penny Hoarder: I stumbled upon this awesome personal-finance blog focused on saving money and never turned back (my first feature goes live this month, stay tuned!). Coupon-loving entrepreneur moms will love it the most. P.S.: If you’re a rock mommy like me, check out this totally comprehensive guide to teaching guitar lessons for spare cash.

#2: The Juggle: The struggle for work-life balance is real (and talked about a lot). This Wall Street Journal blog features some awesome pieces, like one on how being chronically late impacts marriage.

#3: Jen Singer’s Momma Said: I came across this gem of a blog while surfing for good mom blogs. While it isn’t updated too regularly, dude mama Jen Singer’s blog dispatches some good articles like this one about the teenage brain.

Like what you see? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to post more. Have a great weekend!

Lawyer Mom by Day, Rockstar By Night: New Day Dawn’s Frontwoman Makes it All Work

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Faith. It’s something all moms have to have, regardless of their spiritual orientation. And it’s something that rockmommy Dawn Botti, singer-guitarist of New Day Dawn, had to have a lot of when she went against her practical inner voice and said “yes” to a last-minute gig in Oklahoma in 2013 with just three weeks to figure out how she would take time off from her legal career, care for her son, and finesse her musical chops so she would be in prime form to hang with A-List metal acts.

Needless to say, she pulled it off.

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New Day Dawn’s Dawn Botti

Botti’s talent is undeniable to anyone who listens to her sensual, powerhouse vocals on tracks like “Runaway” and “Life Impossible.” But it’s her dedication to pursuing what she loves (music, and yes — her day job too!) while putting her son and family first that is most admirable.

Today, Botti and the rest of her New Jersey based rock n’ roll band are better than ever, and prepping for some great shows this summer — including an opening spot for metal mama Lita Ford this August.

Here, in her own words, Botti tells us the tricks she uses to balance it all (hint: it has a lot to do with putting self-love before perfectionism):

Rockmommy: New Day Dawn has been around for some time — how did you learn to balance music with a career in law, too? 

Dawn Botti: New Day Dawn grew out of a former project that my drummer husband and I were in from 1999 to 2003 (before parenthood) called Slushpuppy. The breakup of Slushpuppy was very emotional for me… almost like a divorce. So after that, I was looking to reclaim what I had lost and move it in a more positive direction, hence the name New Day Dawn. A few months into the new band I discovered that my husband and I were pregnant. I was worried the other members of the band wouldn’t want to continue working with me, but they were super supportive!

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Dawn Botti in mama mode

I was able to continue to work on new music with the band while I was pregnant, and we took those nine or so months to write and start recording our first album. After my son Walker was born, we continued the recording  (most of it was done right in my home so it was very convenient and I could be near the baby at all times). I was also working on getting my pre-baby body back and going through lots of emotional transitions. In these early years I struggled with the guilt anytime we had to leave our son with a babysitter to go play a local gig, or leave for a few days to play somewhere farther away. But ultimately when your child sees that you are following your passion and doing something you LOVE to do, then they WANT you to do it.

Rockmommy: The music industry is really competitive. How did you guys establish yourself in the New Jersey/New York music scene?

DB: There are no short cuts. We have made our fans literally one show at a time and then add social media to that and it’s one “like” at a time, one Twitter follower at a time. Fans expect a lot more interaction out of artists today. They want to feel like they know the artist as a friend, and in fact many of our fans have become dear friends over time. It’s also so important to support the other bands in the local scene. To get out and support other shows even when you are not playing. This is probably the toughest thing for me and I wish I could get out more — but there are only so many days in a week, and after you take away the nights spent on family and school affairs, band rehearsal, business dinners, and so on, there are very few nights left to just stay home and recharge or work out, let alone go out to see other bands.

Rockmommy: Has being a mom influenced your sound/music?   

DB: My son, Walker, is now 11. Of course he has influenced my music — I don’t see how becoming a parent couldn’t influence any artist.  It changes the very fiber of your being, your very core: You are just a different person and therefore think differently, feel differently, and see the world differently — and of course that comes out in your writing. One thing that is very important to me is that my child can always be proud of my music and could sing the lyrics out in public, or to his classmates. I was never an artist who used shock or overly sexual words or dress to get my point across anyway. But now I do put everything I do through a filter of “could I show my son that?” I guess that’s not very “rock and roll” of me — but I figure an artist needs to first be authentic before anything else.

Rockmommy: What are some of the challenges to balancing everything? 

DB: The greatest challenges are lack of time and lack of energy. You can’t go 24/7 and yet you have enough to do to fill up 24/7 and more! You need to be kind to yourself, forgive yourself and know that you won’t ever cross off everything on your “to do” list. You have to forgive yourself that not every task will be accomplished at an A+ level. And most importantly, you need to embrace opportunities and just say “yes” even if you have NO IDEA how you are going to fit that thing into your schedule. For example, in 2013 we got a call three weeks before the date, and were asked if we wanted to be part of the lineup for ROCKLAHOMA out in Pryor, Oklahoma. The three-day lineup that year featured Guns n Roses, Alice in Chains, Cheap Trick, Dokken, Halestorm, and many other amazing bands. My practical brain was saying, “how the heck do we get the band out to Oklahoma from NJ in three weeks, what do I do with my son, how much is this gonna cost?” But out of my mouth came “Of course!” I still have no idea how we pulled it off, but I booked a short tour from New Jersey to Oklahoma and back again. We made the entire round trip in five days, and took my son with us. He was the best road warrior out of everybody!  At the big festival I introduced Walker on stage (he was around 8 years old at this time), and after our set there was a huge line at our merch booth and many wanted him to sign the CD along with the band, and wanted to take photos with him. It was a great family memory and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that would have never happened if I listened to my practical — and often overwhelmed — mommy brain.

5. What advice do you have to other moms who don’t have the luxury of just playing music as their “job” (when they aren’t being parents)? To what extent can you have it all — a good relationship with your kids, a band, and a career?

Again, I think it’s all about maintaining balance and maintaining a good perspective. Don’t judge yourself against the other younger/non-parent bands — heck you can’t even judge yourself against the bands compromised of all men who may have kids, but have a wife or girlfriend home taking care of those kids while they are on the road… it’s just different for a mother.  For a long time I tried to compartmentalize my life — I didn’t want people at work to know I played in a rock band for fear that I would lose credibility and respect, and I didn’t want fans and those in the music business to know that I was also a lawyer and a mom for fear that I would lose credibility and respect. But now I’m over all that. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. My career as an entertainment executive/lawyer speaks for itself, and so does my music. My advice is don’t let ANYONE tell you what you can and can’t do. Remember you are running a marathon, not a sprint.   Your goal is not to be “perfect” at everything… your goal should be about the experiences. If you focus on the experiences rather than grabbing the “prize” you will feel much more fulfilled and be better equipped to understand what to take on and what not to take on.

Upcoming Shows: 

June 10: New Day Dawn with Eve 6; The Stanhope House, Stanhope, NJ

June 24: New Day Dawn with Among Us (Reunion Show); Mexicali Live, Teaneck. NJ

Aug 11: New Day Dawn with Lita Ford; Starland Ballroom, Sayerville, NJ

Purchases for show tickets may be made through New Day Dawn’s online store.

Follow the band on Facebook & Twitter, or check out their YouTube channel.

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

Gig Time: 5/7 in Ridgefield (and bring the kids!)

Looking for something to do this weekend? With the kids? Even if it rains? If you’re in Fairfield County, you’re in luck. Check out my friend Wendy’s write-up for tomorrow’s festivities:

Come out and meet the teachers of Bach 2 Rock Ridgefield at the Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce’s Kid’s Fest this Saturday, May 7 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Ballard Park. Address below:

Ballard Park

485 Main Street

Ridgefield, Connecticut 06877

We will have an instrument petting zoo, bubble toys and a raffle for a FREE week of our amazing summer camp!

There will be tons of vendors, face painting, Gaga ball, face painting, crafts, inflatables, archery, local business exhibitors and much more!

Some of Bach 2 Rock’s teachers will be performing from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. on the C.H.I.R.P. concert stage along with Chelsea Weir, acoustic musician.

Join us at Ballard Park this Saturday and find out what makes us THE music school for kids, teens and adults of all ages.

Host a Musical Play Date at Your Child’s Preschool in 5 Steps

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

For the past two years, I’ve hosted musical play dates for both of my toddler sons, now ages 2 and 3 and a half. It’s one of the BEST experiences I’ve ever had, and always a riot, as 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds all have their own adorable little quirks when it comes to experiencing music and participating in a musical play date.

Here’s the best part: While I am a guitar teacher, you don’t have to be a guitar teacher to host a musical play date!

All you need is to know how to play a few songs on guitar, and possess a lot of enthusiasm (and patience, but you probably already knew that!). Your preschooler will be so grateful and happy — and you will instantly become the coolest mom ever. Plus, you’ll feel good about contributing your musical talents and energies to a worthy cause.

Ready to get started? Follow these steps, and go!

Step #1: Pick Your Tunes. Whether you like Beyonce, Bach, or Black Flag, your toddler has widely different musical tastes (think “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”). Chances are your little one’s short list includes “The Hokey Pokey,” “Ba Ba Blacksheep” or “The Wheels on the Bus.” After giving it some thought, make a set list of at least five songs.

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The set list for my 4/13/16 gigs at each of my sons’ respective schools

Step #2: Download the chords and lyrics. The good news is that most nursery rhymes and kids’ songs can be played with basic chords like G, D, and C. I use the Ultimate Guitar app on my iPhone to search for guitar chords, and use the version with the highest stars. But you can also search for sites like this one.

Step #3: Buy lots of cool shaky things. The best way to engage preschoolers in music is involve them! My favorite thing to bring to school is egg shakers because they are about $1 each (and toddlers of all ages love them). Melissa & Doug’s Band-in-a-Box set also comes with lots of cool stuff for older toddlers, like cymbals and maracas. Whatever you pick, make sure you get enough percussive pieces so everyone in the class has one to play or shake.

Step #4: Set a date. I always play my gig in the middle of April during the Week of the Young Child, but most schools are open to you playing during activity time, so long as you let them know your plans and how you intend to execute said plans. Unless you want to blast AC/DC during nap time, you’ll probably get a positive response.

Step #5: Get ready to rock. As you would with any gig, practice, practice, practice! You might know “Itsy Bitsy Spider” backwards and forwards, but if you don’t practice singing and playing it at the same time, you could find it a little tricky to perform. If you feel rushed in the morning to get ready, pack your tuner, shaky things, and set list in advance. And after you arrive at your kid’s school, relax! Take a seat and pass out the egg shakers or tambourines or whatever. And remember — even if you bomb this set, they’ll still love you for playing their favorite tunes and singing along. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t laugh at a wrong lyric or off-key performance!

Bonus tip: You might want to print out the chords and lyrics to popular kids’ songs that aren’t on your set list. My first year hosting a musical play date for my son Nathan’s school, I got a request for “The Hokey Pokey.” I was caught off guard, and ended up playing the entire tune in the key of “G” (the kids loved it anyway) and altering my voice to match the key.

Then again, nothing prepared me for my most recent musical gig at Nathan’s class, where one of the 4-year-old boys insisted I play the “Paw Patrol” theme song! Even though I hear the song at least 20 times a week, I had no clue what to play. Still, because I just smiled and went with it — strumming the key of E-minor while singing the theme song — the kids applauded and laughed!

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