NYC Kindie Rocker Mom Esther Crow on ‘Being Green’ and Making Music ‘All Together Now’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Singer-songwriter Esther Crow had a solid legacy as the front woman of The Electric Mess — a fun, punk-rock-ish band — before becoming a mom, and playing on the NYC kindie rock circuit. 

Today, she still rocks hard — but with lyrics and themes that fans of all ages can appreciate. Her latest album, “All Together Now,” celebrates a variety of sounds and subjects, with environmentalism and social issues taking center stage. Her puppets, created by Jeff Lewoncyzk, also play a prominent role on the album, and weave comedy, and kindness, into some more serious topics.

Esther Crow (photo by Dan Crow)

We recently caught up with Esther to talk about making music, city life with mandolin-playing son Vincent, and more.

Rockmommy: Hey Esther! Musically, “It’s so easy being green” has a kinda acoustic Iggy Pop vibe, but the lyrics are catchy and easy to understand. How did that song come about?

Esther Crow: Wow, I don’t think I’ve gotten Iggy Pop [comparisons] for any of my kids material — only The Electric Mess (my “adult band”). So thanks! You know, I can’t really recall even writing the song, but I think it started with the title because it’s sort of a play on Kermit’s famous song (“It’s Not Easy Being Green”), but I reversed it. I knew I wanted to do a song about being more environmentally conscious, and a song that would be easy for the very young to digest with easy, everyday activities they could take part in.

I had already written a few songs about animals, but wanted to start writing songs with a focus on the climate crisis, and this was the first of that batch.

 

Rockmommy: There are so many great musicians in the NYC area, and the indie-music scene — and they all seem to know Lucy Kalantari or my friend REW! What do you love most about NYC family life? 

Esther Crow: Truthfully, 2020 really bonded a lot of us, even though it was mostly virtual bonding. I feel that I got to know so many kindie musicians across the globe via social media, and some Zoom meetings. A few weeks ago I went to a Juneteenth event in Harlem and got to meet a few in person for the first time. In terms of NYC musicians, it’s a wonderfully diverse mix of people and genres. 

I recently met Fyütch, a fantastic hip hop artist from Nashville who lives in the Bronx, Flor Bromley, a wonderful Peruvian-American performer who lives just outside the city, further North. And I finally met Joanie Leeds, who lives just across Central Park from me on the Upper East Side, at her great Brooklyn Botanic show in May.

I met Lucy Kalantari a while back at her wonderful Symphony Space show, which she did the winter before Covid struck. I took my son, Vincent, and we loved it. Falu Shah is another favorite. Could not love her music more, and love that she (and Lucy) include family in their live shows. I think it’s impactful for kids to see other kids performing.

Esther Crow (photo by Dan Crow)

[SEE RELATED: Fyütch’s Earth Day Rap Song ‘Pick it Up’ Celebrates Recycling, Reusing and ‘Zero-Waste’ Goals]

Rockmommy: For your latest record, did you consciously decide to write about nature and the environment, or did you write a few songs and notice you were on a roll?

Esther Crow: To be honest, I had written a few songs about animals a few years back, and then it finally dawned on me that I should write a few more and record an album. BUT… I wanted the next few songs to be more socially [and] environmentally conscious. So the first, as I mentioned, was “It’s so Easy Being Green.” And then I started doing research on animals that were environmental helpers/heroes, and it turns out that in addition to bees, which most people know are important helpers, bats and beavers were also crucial. That’s how “Bees, Beavers and Bats” came about.

I don’t think I consciously set out to write a jazz song, but it happened! I think it’s the one and only jazz song I’ve ever written — and certainly the most lyrically-packed song on the album. Which means it kind of needed a skat-type delivery. Well, I immediately thought of Lucy of course! And she could not have been more gracious or easy to work with. And that voice…THAT VOICE!! I feel very lucky. Next up: a Schoolhouse-Rock type video — with animation by Elena Fox — is comin’ down the pike!  

Rockmommy: How’s everything else going? Have you been playing out in the “new normal” music scene? 

Esther Crow: I played the Make Music New York Day — as you did — which was fun! We lucked out with a show 4 blocks from us. Vincent, my son, accompanied me on mandolin. It was great. 

He’ll also be playing with me — as will my husband, on bass — at our Pier 1 gig on Thursday, July 15th at 10 a.m. in Riverside Park at 70th Street. Excited for that one! 

Other than that: I’ve been playing a lot of virtual shows — mainly via the Brooklyn Public Library — and have a few more of those coming up.

Rockmommy: What’s your advice for balancing parenthood with everything else — including creative life?

Esther Crow: I think the best advice I have is to be honest with yourself and know when you need to turn down opportunities. I’m trying not to book anything in August, for example, as we’re taking a week in Maine (aaahhhh, vacation!). Parenting needs to come first — or close to first — whenever possible. It’s a hard juggle but I’m also grateful my son gets to perform with me, so we’re lucky we can spend time together, creatively. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

The POSSM’s Earl Henrichon on Parenthood, Music, and Riding the Next Wave of Creativity

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

It blows my mind that some musicians can just pick up an instrument in their late 20s or early 30s, and within a few years play close to the level of Jack Johnson. But that’s just one thing that makes singer-songwriter and guitarist Earl Henrichon so cool. The rockdad, who fronts Hartford, Conn.-based band The POSSM, picked up his signature instrument far past his adolescent years, but strums and sings like he was born to do just that.

And he’s not only a proficient guitarist but a damn good vocalist. Just listen to his gravelly tones on covers like The Pixies’ ‘Where is My Mind’ and originals like “Her” and you’ll agree.

Earl Henrichon and his family

Not that he has a lot of time to sing and play. In 2020, Earl, who’s also a high school PE teacher and surfer, wrote one of our favorite essays on balancing work, music, and life with his wife Jane and now 8-year-old daughter. 

We recently caught up with Earl to talk about his return to the stage, the upcoming HartBeat Music Festival on September 18, and parenting an 8-year-old in 2021. 

Rockmommy: Hey Earl! How’s it going in 2021? 

Earl Henrichon: It is going ok! I think our ‘new normal is going to be fewer shows than we were playing before the pandemic, and at the moment, only outdoors. We are all vaccinated and feel totally safe, but just decided to stick with the outdoor shows since those are so fun anyway. We are going to save more time for family, practicing and recording new songs, and try and appreciate each show and look forward to it, rather than pack the schedule and feel overwhelmed. We just started practicing in the last month or so, and are enjoying getting back together and hanging out and making music together again.

Rockmommy: Did you write a lot of new music between March 2020 and April 2021? How did the band stay connected?

Earl Henrichon: We actually didn’t write all that much original music during that time. Pretty much every member of the band contributes original music, and I think each member may have been creative during that time but not a lot of it was material for the band. I actually think that is pretty healthy, the band is its own thing, but having other outlets for creative energy I think lessens the opportunity for burnout. That isn’t to say we don’t have new material, because we do, and a lot of it we are really psyched about, but it isn’t the amount of material you would have assumed would come from that amount of time. But there was a Pandemic, so there was that…

Rockmommy: You and the lead guitarist are dads! What’s it like sharing your music with your respective daughters?

Earl Henrichon: Hell yeah we are, it is fricking awesome! Having another dad makes the vibe of it for me really great, a couple of old men like us care about things like getting the kids together to play (and it is awesome for them as well), and I think it is healthy for the younger guys in the band to hang out with the kids and get a family vibe. Our band is very much about community and family anyway, so this just makes it obvious about the things that are important to us. 

This summer our kids will be at any show that isn’t at night, and that will be awesome. We are playing Hike to the Mic on my daughter’s birthday, so it will be a party for the kids. Stuff like that makes playing music even more fun for me. [Lead guitarist] Craig and I can complain about bedtime stalling antics while the other guys have to pretend that even for one second that this is something they find interesting.

Earl Henrichon with his Hartford, Conn., band The POSSM

Rockmommy: What are you doing to stay balanced, between being a teacher, musician and co-founder of the HartBeat Festival?

Earl Henrichon: Well, to be clear I am not the lone founder of the HartBeat festival, our former bass player Tony Koos was integral about approaching Riverfront about working together on something and this is what was born from that. And working with Riverfront Recapture is amazing, they get behind most of our ideas about the community vibe of the festival. But balance and happiness is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. I teach health so it is on my mind quite a bit about how to best maximize my time so I can have energy and also get relaxing time in. 

I could talk about this topic a lot, since it is a passion of mine, but the short story is that I am at once a physical person who loves to be active and at times an introvert who needs to recharge my batteries with lots of time with my family and at home. So since I know that about myself, there are just things I don’t spend a lot of time doing, like going out and having drinks with friends on a regular basis. I prioritize things I love to do that make me feel good such as surfing, playing ultimate frisbee, disc golf, music etc… and will try to work in time with friends doing that stuff and then spend the rest of my time with my family so that I get that recharge time and feel that family connection that is important to me. 

I am also not a late-night guy. I want to be curled up on the couch with my wife watching Netflix and going to bed at a decent hour so I can feel good.

Rockmommy: What advice do you have to rockin’ dads out there who want to find the right balance between work, play, and family time?

Earl Henrichon: It is one of the large questions in many of our lives, and for musicians who have late-night schedules it can be even harder. My advice is not to play too many really late-night gigs. It is hard to say no to things, but the alternative is burnout and exhaustion. I think the idea of that sort of thing is sort of old school, I have found many people feel just like I do, and I try adjust many of our shows to be at reasonable hours, and I think that is part of why we were able to get people to come hang out with us, because we could get them in bed by 10:30 and they could still have a fun night.

I find exercise to be very therapeutic and stress relieving, but the days of hitting the weight room hard are sort of over for me, so finding other avenues to play and actually get out and run around are meaningful to my physical and mental health. I’ve gotten into chasing down frisbees with a group of people in Hartford at lunch time when I am on break, and it gives me an opportunity to get out and run at full speed, which doesn’t exist that much in adult life the way it does for kids. It makes me feel alive to get to compete a bit, break a sweat and get some sun. 

Earl Henrichon and his daughter, taken when she was younger.

I am not someone who will just go for a run, so finding times to actually play and get exercise at the same time are huge for me. I do Wim Hoff breathing in the morning before my shower and use the waking up app (meditation) when I am feeling stressed. I also have become a fan of mastering mobility stretches on YouTube so when I have a free 20 minutes, I can get my old man body some much needed stretching in.

I also try to use social media sparingly, I keep all notifications off on my phone so I can try to use it when I want as opposed to when my phone tells me to get my eyeballs on screen so someone can make advertising money. That is easier now for me, since the brand of our band is built a bit, I needed to spend more time when we were starting, so that is a balance as well.

I also try to give other bands and musicians love when I am online, and that tends to get returned when others feel like you are looking out for them. We maybe don’t have the following we could potentially have online as a result, but in the end is that really the most important thing? I try to stop and think a lot about what makes me happy, and then I just try to make sure that that thing is happening in my life enough to meet my needs. And if it isn’t, I think about how to adjust my schedule to make it happen. I know that sounds simplistic, but many of the best moments in my life are pretty simple and I want to make sure I get as many of them as I can. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and cofounder of Rockmommy