01 Mar Monique DeBose, on Creating New, Purposeful Art on the Heels of 2020’s Urgent ‘Rally Call’
By Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Monique DeBose’s song ‘Rally Call’ was one of the most impactful pieces of art to emerge from the most tumultuous year in recent history — but creating the song, and other music in 2020, was a process wrought with challenges.
With two young sons at home all the time amid the pandemic and the broader fight against racial injustice, finding the quiet moments for art sometimes felt impossible, according to the musician mama.
“Raising children through all the turmoil and racial reckoning required surgeon-like skills with how I shared information and life lessons with my 9-year-old and 7-year-old,” Monique tells Rockmommy. “I had a hard time carving out space for me to restore, meditate, be with my Self.”
But with spring right around the corner, there is a renewed sense of hope in the air. We recently connected with Monique to talk about the re-release of her 2018 project (The Sovereign One), a new podcast (coming this spring!) and how she’s meeting the challenges of motherhood during the ongoing pandemic.
Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound?
Monique DeBose: Some would call my music jazzy pop infused with soul. I call it medicine. I create it to speak truth to power, to fear, to doubt. Everything I do is about owning all the parts of yourself. I believe that until we own all the parts of ourselves, only then can we truly be free. I am about creating more space in our nervous systems to be more loving to the things we’ve been ashamed of, embarrassed by and outright hated about ourselves. I do that through music, the written word and performance.
Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months?
Monique DeBose: The biggest challenge has been confronting the fact that many of my fellow Americans choose (consciously or unconsciously) to turn away from the injustices that are our country. It’s such a mindf*ck to know that everything we’ve built our lives on is so much more complex than the narrative that America was founded by the underdogs who worked hard and found prosperity. Having to accept that this bitter pill has colored every aspect of my life — raising my mixed/remixed boys, how I create art and what themes my works have, being married to a white, English, Jewish man, how I stand and support people who look like me- everything.
That being said, raising children through all the turmoil and racial reckoning required surgeon-like skills with how I shared information and life lessons with my 9-year-old and 7-year-old.
I had to face things with them that I didn’t think was fair to have to share with such young souls. Some people have the ‘privilege’ of not having to share the facts of life (as we presently know to be true) and I choose not to use that privilege. Using it only keeps the world in the state of denial that has brought all of what the summer of racial reckoning brought.
Having kids at home 24/7 because of the global pandemic has also been ridiculous. There is no space to have the quiet moments I need as an artist. There is a constant piece of my consciousness with them — if they need homework help, emotional support, food — I begrudgingly made the choice to support them instead of keeping boundaries to be in my art/work. Each person who is blessed to be a parent must face this choice, pandemic or not- it’s a tough one.
Also, regarding mental health, I had a hard time carving out space for me to restore, meditate, be with my Self.
Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?
Monique DeBose: I’m most hopeful that people will continue down the path of taking an honest look at our lives — looking at the limiting beliefs we are letting run us at the detriment of our fellow community members. I am most hopeful that our nervous systems will keep expanding to be able to hold seemingly diametrically opposed beliefs so that we can be more loving with each other. That’s the 30,000 foot hope. Here on the ground, in my own life, I am hopeful that my voice will reach thousands upon thousands of people who feel fed by the medicine I’m sharing through song, the written and spoken word- through all my creative projects.
Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share?
Monique DeBose: I am working on the re-release of my 2018 project, the Sovereign One. It was such a beautiful accomplishment to put this project out. The collection of songs are all about integrating all the parts of ourselves that we often compartmentalize for survival’s sake. It debuted at #2 on the iTunes charts. I cried ugly tears as I watched that happen! I’ve teamed back up with my songwriting partners, Isaac and Thorald Koren of the Kin fame, and we’re adding to the story. After all that transpired this past summer and the need for us to come together — to integrate all of our history — there is more of this story to tell. That will be released later this summer 2021.
I’m also in the midst of recording a podcast called ‘More with Monique.’ After the success of my song ‘More,’ which was released in October 2020, we saw there was a global movement where women were inspired to choose more for themselves. Women around the world participated by declaring what they wanted to choose more of in their lives and held up signs letting their community know to hold them accountable. We’ve got the first season mapped out with some extraordinary and extra ordinary women sharing stories of when they chose more for themselves. We will release the project late spring 2021.
Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?
Monique DeBose: There is no balance in my life if I’m honest. I find I put my attention on one thing and the other may suffer. It’s just part of the game. What I do attempt to do is accept that this is part of life, do my best to be gentle with myself, and remember, that there is something much bigger at play here. Whether I’m being the best, or the ‘crap’ parent, it is my job to remember that these precious souls that AGREED to come in and be parented by me, are resilient. They have their own entelechy, their own internal intelligence that will unfold, independent of me putting them to bed seven nights a week or four.
Please remember that we are all divine beings having a human experience and at this particular time, there is so much we are processing and integrating. And … we were built for this time — all of us, including our little ones.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.