by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
If kindie rock musicians were planets, Jessa Campbell would be Mother Earth. The Portland, Ore.-based singer loves hiking through the tranquil forest, pondering life, and basking in the warmth of a summer day. In fact, her latest single with band The Saplings, “How I Love You Sun,” which debuts this month on Rockmommy, is all about her hot friend.
But these days there’s another kind of sunshine that’s capturing her heart: Her real-life, three-year-old son.
Here, Campbell talks about carving out the“me time” she needed to make her latest album, the Pacific Northwest music scene, and finding work-life balance. [Watch the video here, and download the single on Spotify]
Rockmommy: Your voice is amazing! When did you start singing?
Jessa Campbell: Music was a part of my life right from the start. My father loved bluegrass and would often play his guitar and sing around the home. My younger sisters and I could often be found harmonizing from our respective rooms! The first time I remember actually learning a song and singing it for my family was in 1st grade. Mrs. Williams introduced Raffi’s song, “Evergreen Everblue” to the class. That song instilled in me a desire to protect the planet, while also showing my parents that I could carry a tune! I remember singing it for them at a little family picnic we had in our backyard and seeing the surprised looks on their faces.
Rockmommy: Can you tell us how your music has changed since you became a mom (or has it?)
Jessa Campbell: Oh yeah, it’s changed quite a bit! Long gone are the glorious days of hiking through the tranquil forest, pausing now and then to ponder the journey through life! Let’s just say that I wrote a lot of music before having my son. But now, I think I write better music. As you know, moms have very little “me” time. I have to fiercely protect the limited time I’ve carved out for myself. It’s within those incredibly small spaces that the plug is pulled and the songs burst through. With going sometimes weeks or months without having that space, there is a lot of pent-up creativity! The space slowly refines the songs within. Once a moment arises for them to emerge, they can’t get out quickly enough! And there’s no time for crap ideas at that point. I know when a song just isn’t right. In the old days, I would give it space and coax it into being. Now, there’s another song right behind her!
Rockmommy: What inspired your new song and video?
Jessa Campbell: I was thinking about some of my friends in Indonesia! It was actually quite early in the morning, like, 4 a.m. early. I had been woken up, by my 3-year-old of course, and was unable to fall back asleep due to the laundry list of things that needed to be accomplished the next day. I starting thinking of friends who were already well into their day. I used to sing on a cruise ship and have a lot of Indonesian friends from that experience. The melody was originally written for a song I was crafting called “Indonesian Sun”. I started thinking about how incredible this jewel in the sky was and began researching facts about the sun! The song practically wrote itself!
Rockmommy: What inspires you about the Pacific Northwest’s music scene?
Jessa Campbell: I appreciate the collaborations and support I’ve received through the community. It’s the kind of place where artists really are there for one another. My bandmates both with the Saplings and in other projects I play with have been my support system! Folks of LDW, the Talking Heads Tribute Project I’m in, were cool with me bringing my toddler to rehearsals. He’d rock out with his little headphones on while mama sang. One incredible organization that I first received some help from and now have the pleasure to work with is Local Roots Music. Local Roots Music NW was founded in 2013 by local musician and entrepreneur Robert Richter. What began as a weekly Sunday night radio program showcasing NW Music on KMUZ-FM in Salem now includes a number of programs promoting local music with most events held in the Portland area.
Rockmommy: When you see little ones respond to your music, how do you feel?
Jessa Campbell: It’s the best feeling in the world! From the wide-eyed wobblers to the “twirl-around- the-room-like-a-fairy” 8-year-olds, I cannot get enough of it. Each show is so different, and I play to the ages and energies in the room. There was a recent show with a little boy who was quite shy, hiding under the table. I decided to turn that into a game and play our song about the moles in the ground, pointing out that he must have known what song was next! He lit right up once he realized he was doing something pretty awesome!
Rockmommy: What are some of the challenges of being a musician and a mom?
Jessa Campbell: Carrying gear and a kiddo. I have to make multiple trips back and forth of course. Oh, and then there are the moments when your kid is coming up on the stage to tug on your costume while you try to keep singing and also try to communicate that he needs to stop. Fun times. Thankfully Grandma and Grandpa are here now!
Rockmommy: What advice do you have for rockmommies?
Jessa Campbell: Keep doing it. I thought that as a single mama, my music days were over. Nah. You just have to be creative, super resourceful, and carry extra snacks in the diaper bag for the band members at rehearsal!
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor of Rockmommy.