by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Singer-songwriter Dana Fuchs is many things.
Most visibly, she’s a powerful vocalist, famous for her gritty and raspy voice that belies her humble upbringings in the tiny, rural town of Wildwood, Florida.
She’s also tough: When Fuchs got her break playing Janis Joplin in an Off-Broadway production, Love, Janis, which ran from 2001–2003, her work ethic and stamina gave her a staying power other singers couldn’t touch. Since then, she’s experienced so much love and loss that comparisons to Joplin feel eerily familiar.
And today, a new identity has emerged for the New York City transplant: Mother.
Fuchs, who recently released Love Lives On, the seventh record since her 2003 debut, now balances music and family with a little son, whom she regularly brings on tour.
We recently sat down with Fuchs as she prepared for her 2018 international tour, which kicks off in Europe this week, to talk about how the little man in her life, toddler son Aidan, is making music and life all the more magical.
Rockmommy: For those of us who don’t know your story, could you give us the short version of your music career?
Dana Fuchs: I came up here at 19 years old, and started doing these blues clubs, and had several fits and starts. Then I was asked to play Janis Joplin in the Off-Broadway production of “Love, Janis.” The other singers were dropping like flies! But I wasn’t really interested in that, I had just gotten on this fall tour. But I did it anyway. Fast forward a few years, and by 2008, 2009, I was touring nonstop, literally I was on the road three-quarters of the year, most of it in Europe. In the interim I’ve had some personal issues … there was the loss of siblings, and I lost my mom as I found out I was pregnant. I had just found out my son was a boy four days before she died, and never got to meet him. It was a bittersweet story.
Rockmommy: How have things changed since Aidan, who is now almost 2, was born?
Dana Fuchs: The minute he was born, I was terrified. But I remember my friend giving me a book called ‘I can’t wait to meet you,’ but I was like, ‘no — stay in there as long as you want!’ But the night I met him, everything changed. And I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom somehow.’ But then my music partner who lives four blocks away in Harlem said, ‘why don’t we just do a few songs, and start a crowdfunding campaign’ for my next album. And then that turned into, ‘let’s go to Memphis and make a record,’ and I thought, ‘OK … I guess I can take the baby.’
Rockmommy: Did you pump [breastmilk] on tour?
Dana Fuchs: [laughs] Yes, I pumped a lot! I pumped around five months. I would leave to [write the album] when he was five months old, and have these writing sessions that were four or five hours a couple of times a week, and that went well! It was really easy. So when he was about 7 months, he went on tour. We had a little travel pump. And when I would play, my bass player’s daughter would watch him, it was great.
Rockmommy: Is there really a big market for American blues in Europe?
Dana Fuchs: Yeah, it’s huge! That’s really how I’ve made my living.
Rockmommy: What challenges did you have with your son on tour?
Dana Fuchs: The long drives and planes between shows used to be my time for to sit and listen to music and read and write. But now with Aidan next to me, the last year and a half, it’s different because he wants my attention! And that’s where it’s really been challenging. I don’t get a lot of that quiet downtime … and that’s so important. And I’ll sometimes be walking on the stage to do a show and he’ll be crying, ‘no mama, no!’ Another time, I had this one show in Copenhagen, and I thought, ‘oh cool — I’ll bring Aidan and my husband.’ But it was a disaster — we didn’t leave until 3 in the morning … so I said to the people around me, ‘OK guys, I don’t know how he’s going to be’ and he woke up and had a fit for hours. It was a terrible situation but we got through it.
Rockmommy: Any advice for all the rocker moms out there?
Dana Fuchs: If music is really your passion, find a way to do it. I say, ‘happy mommy happy child.’ It’s really all about keeping your core.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.