Catching up with Passing Strange’s Kate Mirabella

If new music is one of the silver linings of 2020, Passing Strange’s record The Water and the Woods is pure sterling – saturated with lush, keyboard-and-percussion soundscapes and stories that had me listening long into the summer. 

We recently connected with Kate Mirabella, lyricist, singer and keyboard for the Connecticut alt-rock duo (with Anthony Paolucci) to talk about what’s next.

Kate Mirabella

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound?

Kate Mirabella: The best way to describe my sound is an emo Fiona Apple. One track on an album can be dulcet and melodic and the next one is an angry jazzy revenge song. It’s definitely moody and lyric-focused. 

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months? 

After losing family members to Covid, losing my job, and not being able to play shows, I was feeling pretty low and stuck. I usually write and play every day, but it was hard to be creative this year. One thing that got me through it was the phenomenal music that came out this year. Phoebe Bridger’s “Punisher” and the two Taylor Swift albums got me super inspired and writing again.

Not being able to practice as a band was difficult, but it also gave me some time to reflect on my sound. I actually wrote a few songs in quarantine that will be on the new album. The tone and lyrics have a heaviness and darkness to them, which I think shows where my head was at this year. 

[SEE RELATED: Passing Strange Share Their Journey to ‘The Water and the Woods’ and What They Want Most in the Post-Pandemic World]

Rockmommy:  What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Kate Mirabella: The news of vaccines has been so wonderful to see. I feel there will be a huge creative renaissance coming up in response to the pandemic. I can’t wait to go out to museums, shows and be with friends again. It feels like we can plan on it looking like the roaring 20’s after the Spanish Flu. 

Kate Mirabella of Passing Strange (Photo Credit: DeFilippo Foto)

Rockmommy: Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Passing Strange’s third studio album will be in the works this year! Some of these songs are a few years old, while others were written in quarantine. I can’t wait to get these songs out there and play them live. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor of Rockmommy.

Joy Rose, on Mamapalooza, Motherhood and Turning up the Volume

By Rew Starr

JOY ROSE is one of a kind. I knew I had a unique connection with her before we even met because my middle name is “Joy” and my Grandmother’s name was Rose!

After meeting at a MaMaPaLooZa gig on the waterfront on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I knew I was hooked. It was my first time joining this festival, I felt so honored to be counted as a mom that rocked! I found my new religion with Joy at the helm… she has continued to inspire, celebrate and give Moms all the glitter, respect and pizazz they deserve. 

I recently caught up with this mom of four — where Zena (26), Brody (31) and Blaze (29), are gathering in Florida to support their brother, Ali Marpet (27), Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive lineman, who is heading to the Super Bowl. 

Joy Rose and daughter Zena, 2003 (Joy is also mother to Ali, Brody, and Blaze)

Rockmommy: What have you been doing these days?

Joy Rose: I am greatly looking forward to a better and brighter 2021! I spent the summer farming a remote plot of land during the summer season, and then trying to survive the ‘vid’ as I circled back to New York, all while mentoring interns at the Museum of Motherhood, and cultivating personal creativity whenever possible.

Rockmommy: Meeting you for me was love at first sight with MAMAPALOOZA. How did you come up with this concept?

Joy Rose: The feeling is mutual. The concept for Mamapalooza was born out of multiple brainstorming sessions with friends about how to address the absent voices of women in the arts at the time. I write about this in my chapter in Motherhood and Music for Demeter Press (2018). One of the things that made Mamapalooza so amazing for me was that I was (and remain) an authentic fan of each of the women I promoted. 

Their courage, fortitude, creativity, and ability wowed me again and again. We all came together at a very special time in the world when our generation of women, born and raised out of the feminist movement of the 1970s, emerged into motherhood in the 80s and 90s believing Helen Reddy’s anthem “we are women, hear us roar.” 

We were all hungry to connect, poised to make noise, and ready for the challenges that came from both the personal and professional world. 

Joy Rose and Zena, 2019

Rockmommy: You have been a pioneer for moms in my eyes for Museum of Motherhood, can you elaborate on this endeavor?

Joy Rose: Women have a sad history of being “disappeared”. We make advances, get written out of the books, and the patriarchy goes marching on. MOM is committed to putting Motherhood on the map by elucidating the art, science, and history of m/others. We’ve done a LOT to champion the art and the scholarship of motherhood in the last 20 years. By curating these knowledge(s), I aim to keep these advances and reflections available to those interested in the subject. It’s important for me to also state that I am as invested in championing the subject as I am in deconstructing persistent and damaging stereotypes. There is no one perfect mother. There is no perfect family. We are all on a journey of discovery.

[SEE RELATED: Celebrating Women Around The Globe]

Rockmommy: Are you making any new music?

Joy Rose: I’m writing songs for my new grandbaby, but that’s about it. I am still very interested in hearing other people’s music though, so send it to me!

Rockmommy: What about playing out? Do you see ever in the future?

Joy Rose: I am currently gestating on an art/music/performance project. It needs to be something visible and international and I’m starting to mentally gather people. However, let me also be honest that it is very difficult to do everything and the museum keeps me extremely busy.

Rockmommy: Tell us something we don’t know about you?

Joy Rose: I’m very shy. It takes everything in my soul to step out into the public arena as I am extremely insecure. I also went back to graduate school in 2014 earning my Master’s in Mother Studies from the Women and Gender Studies Dept. at CUNY The Graduate Center in NY (2015). 

Joy Rose: Making noise. Raising your voice and speaking your truth is the most important thing! It’s the equivalent of shining your soul light. Don’t die with the music still inside you. I dragged myself onto the stage, trembling, doubting, and ultimately victorious by standing with my two feet on the ground and lifting my throat to the stars and then sharing those victories with others.

Rockmommy: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?

Rew Starr is an actor and musician in who lives in New York.  

The Bright Siders’ Dr. Kari Groff Emerges from a Dark Year with Upbeat, Purposeful New Tunes

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When the coronavirus hit New York City back in March, Brooklynite Dr. Kari Groff, a psychiatrist, mom and musician, faced the same fear and uncertainty as her neighbors. But instead of shuttering inside with he stringed instrument, she opened the door – channeling energy into playing for her neighbors, right on the stoop of her Park Slope home. 

The Bright Siders (photo credit: Jefry Andres Wright)

Picking up the fiddle earned Groff little fame (see the New York Daily News writeup here) and gave her a much-needed energy boost. 

“As a musician, to not perform and play together was also giant loss that has needed to be accepted and processed,” says Groff, who spent much of the last year nurturing a new-ish musical project — The Bright Siders, her duo with songwriter Kristin Andreassen. Their album A Mind of Your Own (Smithsonian Folkways) is out today. 

We recently caught up with Groff to learn more about the new record, pandemic parenting, and how she hopes to help others.   

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound? 

Dr. Kari Groff: Because The Bright Siders collaborated with so many different musicians from so many diverse backgrounds, I would say that our album A Mind of Your Own has infusions of pop, jazz, rock, folk, Latin, and even one punk rock piece called “Bully This!”

I definitely would describe the sound as “fun and upbeat” but purposeful and thoughtful.

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months? If you’re a parent, please speak to those challenges too!

As a person, it was difficult to be separated from so many of my friends and family.  As a parent, it was difficult to see my child go from being an active and independent elementary school student to an isolated, online learner. 

As a musician, to not perform and play together was also giant loss that has needed to be accepted and processed.  Professionally, I had to develop new skills as a physician to address a large-scale trauma that was happening to many people because of Covid-19.  Everyone has been affected but in very individual ways. 

But if I had to point to the greatest challenge of all, it was that we were not able to gather together in a time of great sadness and to not be able to lean on the things that bring me joy (parties, live music, making music together, etc).

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process? 

Dr. Kari Groff: As the mother of a biracial child (Haitian and European background), the Black Lives Matter movement made me think even deeper than ever before about it meant to be a White mother to a Black child and what the Black American experience is. My daughter (age 10) wrote some amazing new songs at home and we were able to collaborate on this.  Being with her so much at home inspired me as a songwriter.  She is extremely creative and has a natural sense for what makes a good pop song.  She pushed me to elevate my skills and to expand my creative process. She would question my lyrical and musical choices thoughtfully. 

My daughter also has younger twin sisters with her dad and his wife. I have her twin sisters over to our home frequently to play and make music. All three are so musically talented, and I absolutely delight in their song creations and amazing voices and energy. My experiences with them really made me think about how The Bright Siders could do even more to be more inclusive and representative. I could see them carrying the torch of this project forward with me, along with Kristin and Smithsonian Folkways, because of their amazing energy, musical skill, and unique experiences and voices as Black Americans.  

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Dr. Kari Groff: I am grateful that there is a vaccine that is being delivered. I’m excited for a new and diverse political administration, especially our first woman VP!!!  I am excited to travel and perform again! I am hopeful that the pandemic will make us think about how we can live more compassionately towards each other and with greater environmental awareness.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share?  

Dr. Kari Groff: The Bright Siders is releasing our debut album A Mind of Your Own today (Smithsonian Folkways). The album is an incredible collection of songs and skits, in spirit of Free to Be, You and Me. It’s all about emotions and growing up. The music is very family friendly, educational, and uplifting. We are also releasing a video-book called “Victor and the Great Pause”- a thoughtful and deeply compassionate story about a dog that experiences NYC during the early days of the pandemic. 

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?  

Dr. Kari Groff: My best advice is to get up early before your kids. My own creative, music-teacher mom taught me this. Make time for your creative process. For me, it is the early hours of the morning when it is quiet and before I have started to tackle my physician work for the day. My mind is clear, and I can write lyrics and melodies with greater fluidity and less sort of background noise (literally and figuratively!). I also recommend taking a couple days off here and there just for your own creative process if possible. My co-creator on The Bright Siders project, Kristin Andreassen, hosts an amazing songwriting camp called Miles of Music. This would be the perfect opportunity to have a creative experience in a beautiful setting!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Bronx family musician Fyütch’s New Song ‘Black Women in History’ Celebrates Dozens of Unsung Heroes

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Before he became a dad, musician or social artist, Fyütch was just a schoolboy with an open, impressionable mind. But while he learned plenty about the accomplishments of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, few other historical black women received more than a single, passing mention.

With his new song, ‘Black Women in History,’ Fyütch hopes to change that by educating a whole new generation of young learners about the accomplishments of everyone from Mississippi civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer to Shirley Chisholm. The song also features black female artists/singers Rissi Palmer and Snooknuk, and it’s clever as heck, dropping unexpected, fresh rhymes about dozens of inspiring ladies.

In fact, Fyütch and his co-artists drop so much history in ‘Black Women’ that anyone who listens to the song or engages with the video is bound to learn something.

See it for yourself on #MLKDay2021 — or better, share it with your family, as you honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

[SEE RELATED: Fyütch celebrates Earth Day with a new rap song, ‘Pick It Up’]

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Genevieve Goings’ 2020 Indoor Time — with Son Kamari and Family — Inspires Upbeat Record in Early 2021

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

This month, Rockmommy talks to artists about their plans or the coming year. Up next: Genevieve Goings, whose upbeat engaging, soulful pop is the perfect energizer for a cold winter’s day. Here, she talks about getting creative, and balancing life as a working mom of a toddler. 

Genevieve Goings and son Kamari

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound? 

Genevieve Goings: I describe myself as making ‘kids music with soul!’ My career began in Hip-hop & R&B in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is an urban influence in my sound, paired with soulful vocals. I truly sing to kids as people, not ‘kids’ – I make music that the whole family will love, with a pop and polished sound. 

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months? 

Genevieve Goings: My son Kamari was born in December of 2019. I learned to navigate having a baby, being a working mom, and coronavirus all in the same year! We are a social family and in my mind I always imagined having the baby out at various places, events, and having some help from our “village” to help care for Kamari. Having to remain inside while working on producing music, editing, detailed things like that with a small infant was challenging to say the least! My husband and I (who also had detailed editing work to do) learned to section out our days and make sure to plan our calendars strategically. Some things though, only mommy can do.

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process? 

Genevieve Goings: I grew so much as a producer and engineer in 2020, because I had to take on a lot of work myself. I usually would outsource my mixing and a lot of my production on a music project, and this lockdown really made me dig down deep and learn more about the process of mixing sound. This year I wrote and produced 14 songs for the Disney Junior “Ready for Preschool” short-form music show, and I mixed most of the album as well as playing the instruments, and singing the songs. 

As women, often we have an ‘imposter syndrome’ complex, and I was guilty of this. I would say things like, ‘I produce a little bit,’ or ‘I can produce, with help.’ The truth of the matter is, I AM a producer. There, I said it!  

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Genevieve Goings: I hope that We as a nation can come together and forgive each other, have compassion, and can really get creative on how to navigate our new normal. We are amazing, and driven, and we can do it! We have learned so much about our flaws as a society, and I hope that we can move forward with a fresh look at the world and ourselves.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share? 

Genevieve Goings: YES!!! I recently released a single called “Grateful” off my upcoming EP Great Indoors. This is a collection of songs to be enjoyed while we shelter in place. “Shadow Puppets,” my next single, out January 15, is really fun and imaginative song about the endless possibilities of shadow puppetry. I also have a really fun video to accompany that. The full project will be released February 5 on the new label 8 Pound Gorilla Records, and you can pre-order now on iTunes! Disney will also be releasing Vol. 5 of “Ready for Preschool” in January and you can hear my newest work that was produced entirely from my home studio! 

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life? 

Genevieve Goings: I am still learning this, but I am finding that really putting the electronics down at a certain time is pretty much a MUST for a balanced life. Just because technology allows us to be reached at any given moment, that doesn’t mean we have to be.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Getting Candid with Mark Erelli: From ‘Blindsided’ in 2020 to New Music in 2021

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

For many musicians, the loss of performance opportunities in the pandemic has been unbearable – professionally and emotionally. Mark Erelli is one of them.

His twelfth record, Blindsided, came out just a few weeks after everything shut down. Tours were rescheduled, then rescheduled again, then canceled. Shows with a full band turned into solo live streams from his basement. This week, we catch up with the Massachusetts singer-songwriter and dad of two to discuss the challenges of creating music in 2020 and staying positive for the new year.  

Mark Erelli (Photo: Joe Navas)

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months?

Mark Erelli: I am a parent of two boys, 10 and 13, so there have been many educational, logistical, and emotional challenges of guiding them through this year. But challenges of that nature always exist, though I’m not usually around so consistently to help address them because of my work. So the parenting has been tough but, in a way, it’s been a bit easier because I’m here for my kids and to support my wife. 

The biggest challenge was the impact of the pandemic on the release of my twelfth record, Blindsided, which came out just a few weeks after everything shut down. Tours would be rescheduled, then rescheduled again, then canceled.

Shows I was really looking forward to playing with a full band turned into solo live streams in my basement. For once in my career, the groundswell of publicity and my musical profile were kind of synced up and it was all teed up to be a big, career-defining year for me. Of course it wasn’t, or at least not in the way I’d hoped for. And it’s not really something you can recreate, the moment passes and then it’s gone. So I’ve just had to try and wrap my head and heart around that, something I’m still trying to do.

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process? 

Mark Erelli: For a while, I wasn’t really feeling like picking up a guitar and singing or writing. When a new song finally came to me here and there, I found I was far less critical in the early stages of the process. I didn’t worry about if it was good or deep or how it dovetailed with anything else I’d done, I just wrote it and took it as far as I could, then if I liked it I would go back and be a little more ruthless as far as editing and honing the finished work. 

I also used alternative media, like video making and animation, to help develop musical projects in a way that I’d never quite done before. At a time when it felt difficult to write songs, figuring out how to make an animated video allowed me to stay creative, but not be burdened by any of the expectations my normal musical approach might have.

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Mark Erelli: Honestly, I just want to begin the process of moving back toward a life in music. I’ve been working however I could this year, but it’s nothing like it used to be. Live performance  — my own gigs and working as a sideman for others — is a big part of what I do, and I’d like for that to be a big part of my life again on the other side of this. But there’s no “going back” to how it used to be. It needs to be safe for myself and my audience, and we’re going to have to evolve some new work/life balance strategies for both me and my family, and those take time. I can envision some stuff happening outside in spring/summer, and maybe even some proper shows toward the end of 2021, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to recreate the musical life I want until 2022.

Rockmommy: If you could plan the perfect summer for 2021, what would that look like? 

Mark Erelli: Summer of 2020 I did a few outdoor shows, but they were all very reactive to changing restrictions and guidelines. I would like to see conditions be a bit more stable and for promoters be very proactive in providing safe performance opportunities for artists and audiences to come together. We know better how to work under these constraints and so I’d like to take advantage of what we’ve learned and use it to provide more chances for community around music.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share? 

Mark Erelli: I released a Christmas song, written on Thanksgiving 2020, that came out over the holiday. It’s called “Not Quite Christmas.” And come Valentine’s Day, I’ll have another 3-song EP coming out, with each song exploring a different take on love.

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?

Mark Erelli: It’s not a one-strategy-fits-all sort of thing, every artist and every family is different. What works for me is saying no a lot. My family needs a lot right now, and they are the most important thing to me. So that means I say no to a lot of music opportunities and say yes to the ones that are especially meaningful. I try to choose music opportunities that aren’t too disruptive with us all cooped up in one house and have sometimes been able to livestream from locations outside of the home safely, so I’m not keeping everyone quiet while I work. I want my kids to know that I love my job and making music very, very much. But I also want them to see me balance it with being there for them, physically and emotionally. In my book, if I were to have an amazing musical career that came at the expense of my marriage or family, it wouldn’t even be worth it.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Six Rock Memoirs I Can’t Wait to Read This Winter

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

We don’t know what the future holds, but one thing’s clear: We’re not leaving the house much this winter.  

Personally, I’ll be digging into a lot of books. And it just so happens there are some killer rock n’ roll memoirs out there — like, hundreds of them. I don’t have time to read all of them, but are six highly rated, salacious ones I’m hoping to tackle this winter. 

Just a few of the rock n’ roll ladies I plan to read about in 2021. Lisa Robinson’s ‘Nobody Ever Asked Me About The Girls’ isn’t a memoir, but it is full of some great cultural insights and anecdotes by a highly renowned journalist.

Debbie Harry: ‘Face It’ (2019): I’ve never met Debbie Harry, but I feel like we’re cosmically connected, and not just because we’re blondes in bands drawn to New York’s East Village art-punk music scene. Nevertheless, I have a confession: After attending her book talk at NYC’s Town Hall in September 2019, I got super busy with life, and didn’t get to crack it open. This winter, I can’t wait to read some of the salacious tales of Debbie’s adventures with bandmate and bestie Chris Stein and others. 

Patti Smith: Just Kids (2020): Patti Smith inspired so many of my favorite artists, like Shirley Manson of Garbage. But only recently did I stream her 1975 debut album Horses for the first time. And girl, have I been missing out! This memoir, based on Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, is as real as it gets (fun fact: Mapplethorpe created the androgynous image of her in white shirt, black pants and black jacket for the Horses album cover).

Lenny Kravitz: Let Love Rule (2020): Lenny Kravitz was one coolest, most talented and eclectic musicians of the late 1990s and early 2000s — and in this memoir, he dives deep, taking the reader on his journey through the industry, marriage and fatherhood, and more.

Tegan and Sara: ‘High School’ (2019): I’m super excited to read this book about musician twins Tegan and Sara Quin because we’re about the same age, and it’s loaded with ’90s grunge references. Rolling Stone published an excerpt when the book was released — and it takes me right back to my teen angst years, and the moment I first discovered the guitar.  

Patty Schmel: Hits So Hard (2017): Everyone who knows me knows that Hole is my favorite band, and has been since 1994, when the band released ‘Live Through This.’ Hole’s incredibly talented drummer Patty Schmel has been through hell and back, like many in the heroin-infused ’90s Seattle grunge scene. Today she’s a wife and #rockmommy so when I got this book as a present from a writer friend, I knew it was meant for my nightstand.

Bobbie Brown: Dirty Rocker Boys (2013): She’s Warrant’s cherry pie, a sexy video muse that put the pop-metal band on the map. In this memoir, widow of Jani Layne (and the baby mama of his daughter Taylar), spills the secrets of being a rockstar wife. I’ve wanted to read this one for ages!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.