About rockmommyct

I am a mother, writer, rock and roll musician, and guitar teacher.

New Zealand Rocker Mum Claudia Robin Gunn on Embracing Change and Finding Your Inner ‘Wild Child’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When singer-songwriter Claudia Robin Gunn became a mom — or “mum” as they say in New Zealand — she had 20 years of pop-rock chops under her belt, including multiple musical projects and nightclub gigs. Yet transitioning to a more folksy pop style came naturally. Of course, it helped that the songs she wrote could double as lullabies. 

“My songs definitely helped them sleep, and I think perhaps it helped me to relax and just slow down to their pace too,” says Gunn. 

Her latest album, a collection of pretty, vocally textured, nature-inspired tunes, is no less dreamy.

We recently caught up with Claudia to talk her latest record, released in late 2020, motherhood, crafting songs, playing music, and more. 

Rockmommy: Can you tell us about the inspiration for your record that came out recently, ‘Sing Through The Year – A Little Wild Childhood?’

Claudia Gunn: All these songs started off in life, and then my imagination took over.

When you’re a kid, I think it’s hard to judge the passing of time — isn’t that awesome how timeless it feels? — and I think it’s interesting how the changing weather day to day, and the natural signs of the different seasons progressing through the year is a tangible way for children to grasp the idea of time, and how the months and years turn.

My kids have always calmed down and become these magical, adventurous non-quarrelsome beings when they are in a garden, or out in the woods making branch forts. 

As a parent, time slows down and speeds up in weird ways as we go through the seasons of parenthood and our children grow, sometimes it’s so slow and sometimes a blink of an eye and they’ve changed before our eyes. So capturing some of the bright moments along the way is something that I love to try and do with songs.

Process wise, I have a lot of songbooks, some of them are digital, some are actual notebooks, or paper scraps, or cardboard from cereal packets, and basically as the years have gone by since [my children] Ella and Dylan were born, the songs kept on stacking up, like a diary of our adventures through the years. 

Last year during the Covid lockdowns there was suddenly a whole lot of time not rushing around the world, and I ended up performing loads of unpublished songs inside the kids treehouse (that they’d now grown out of) for a series of lockdown livestreams. I got the chance to press play on recording a stack of them and making the songbook thanks to a grant from our arts funding agency Creative New Zealand.

Rockmommy: How have you evolved, or changed as a musician, over time, from pre-parenthood to now? 

Claudia Gunn: I’d say I’m determined — I’ll never give up on a song, though I’ll give it space to breathe and some songs need time to mature or change before they are ready to meet the world! That said, I’ve been writing for nearly 30 years — showing my age — and some songs have had LONG arcs to find their time in the sun.

When I started playing in bands, I was always dedicated to a project as long as it lasted, to the point I wouldn’t take a job in another town or even take an O.E. since I was always sure we were about to break through (an O.E is what we kiwis call our overseas experience — a rite of passage most of my friends did in their early twenties, travelling and working for a few years overseas after finishing university).

My electronic band Substax has lasted the longest time, albeit with pretty much a 15 year break in between shows, as we all had kids and went into sort of hibernation with the project.

Now the kids are bigger, we are now at the point we have a bank of songs, have just re-released the original album on streaming for the first time, and have new songs lined up to release. I also just got Substax to remix one of my kindie tracks, and a couple years back I got the band together to play with me on a bunch of kids tunes for the Auckland Kiddie Limits festival, so it’s kind of fun getting my musical worlds to mesh sometimes! 

Rockmommy: How long have you been playing banjo and guitar?

Claudia Gunn: I play the banjolele, ukulele and the guitar — I’m self taught, starting to pick up my mum’s instruments at about 18. She wrote down 3 chords for me on a piece of paper, and then told me to go for it! 

Rockmommy: What, or who, are your musical inspirations? 

Claudia Gunn: I’m a 70’s baby, 80’s kid, 90’s teenager. My formative musical heroes were really all the female artists from my parent’s record collection, along with my mum herself, who sung in bands, often playing shows  3 or 4 nights a week when I was small. I grew up knowing songs by heart from artists like Tracy Chapman, Annie Lennox, Neneh Cherry, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Joan Armatrading, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Dolly Parton, Texas and Phoebe Snow. 

Rockmommy: I love that you wrote children’s music to put your babies to sleep. Did they go to sleep? How old are they now (and do they play music with you)?  

Claudia Gunn: Yes it definitely helped them sleep, and I think perhaps it helped me to relax and just slow down to their pace too. When they got older, the lullabies were more just to help them calm down. Even now I’ll get asked for a song occasionally. One of the songs called “Goodnight Moon” on Little Wild Lullabies was composed for Dylan when we would go say goodnight to the moon by either walking the block in his pram in summer or driving the block in the car in winter (desperate times). 

My kids are now 11 and 14, and the youngest Ella learns guitar and singing, and she wrote a few songs with me when she was 8 or 9, we put them on a Christmas EP in 2019. Dylan learns the drums and plays the tenor drum in a pipe band — he was always more about rhythm, from kitchen pots and pans when very small to bashing sticks on trees (sorry trees!) to make music on bush walks.

Rockmommy: Any advice on balancing motherhood and musician life? 

Claudia Gunn: I’ve had times when I just put music kind of on the shelf for a bit as there was so much going on to try and get used to being a mum, and then other times when I had a clear goal and just stayed up really, really late to steal time to make it happen. For years I’d keep on writing songs, because you can do that in your head when you’re feeding babies, doing laundry, buying groceries, commuting to work, making dinner (I write lots of songs in the kitchen), but not getting them recorded or performing live because either I didn’t have physical space to have gear set up, or mental headspace to plan and book shows.

Finding other musician mums is key I think, as you can share coping strategies, experiences, ways of doing things to keep your musical life happening alongside your mum life.

And also being persistent, using downtime to listen to podcasts or blogs so you can upskill when you’re on the side lines of a soccer game for example. Being a mum has made me more fearless too, and decisive with songwriting and production, as my time is limited so I just get to work, and don’t let myself sit on the fence indecisively like I probably used to do when I was younger, and had all the time in the world!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Rissi Palmer’s Revival: Motherhood, ‘Color Me Country’ and Raising Girls

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Rissi Palmer’s song “Seeds” — the first track off her album “Revival” — grips the listener in the first 20 seconds, coming on with whisper of a plea, “don’t believe what you’ve been sold,” over muted acoustic guitar riffs as her voice builds toward momentous, soaring chorus.  

The song on its own is nothing short of profound. But in the context of its music video, produced by Emil Gallardo and Ed Massey, experiencing “Seeds” is life changing. 

As Rissi sings, “they can bury your body, but never touch your soul,” the young, Black man walking causally down a dusty road is stopped and threatened by a policeman pointing a shotgun at his face, before the footage cuts to Rissi, strumming her guitar in a more traditional front-porch country montage.

Because I watched this video in early 2021, on the heels of 2020’s racial reckoning in the United States, and the global, and pivotal, push for social justice, I assumed the song was new. It captured this moment in history, through music, in such a compelling, and urgent way. It made me want to take the streets (again) and protest for change.

Rissi Palmer — Seeds

Yet the sad irony is that the song wasn’t new.

“Seeds” was actually penned nearly six years before the murder of George Floyd, on the heels of another eerily similar tragedy in Ferguson, Mo., the Aug. 9, 2014, shooting and killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. 

And as I pushed “play” again, letting the lyrics, music, and visuals soak in, I knew I needed to hear more from the artist who has spent the better part of 20 years navigating the ups and downs of an industry traditionally associated with white men in pickup trucks. Whether it’s her cheeky (but serious) breakout hit “Country Girl” or the intimate, string-heavy “Soul Message,” Rissi Palmer’s music tugs at the heart and inspires change. 

We recently sat down with the mom (of two young daughters) to talk about her second full-length record, “Revival,” and her new radio show Color Me Country Radio with Rissi Palmer, which debuted on Apple Music in August 2020. 

Rockmommy: Hi Rissi! For those who are not familiar, can you tell us a little bit about your music career?

Rissi Palmer: I came up in the 80s and 90s, so I listened to artists like Trish Yearwood and Faith Hill. I loved Dolly Parton. We listened to a lot of country, a lot of R&B and a lot of pop growing up so my influences are pretty diverse. And I love stories. I was a big storyteller when I was a kid, and I used to tell these long crazy stories that would make my friends laugh. What I love about country music is the songs, the storytelling.

Rissi Palmer (Photo Credit: Chris Charles)

Rockmommy: Which musical storytellers are you drawn to?

Rissi Palmer: Wynonna Judd is one of my favorites. I loved her song choices — she didn’t always write all of her songs but I loved her song choices — and I loved her strong, strong voice. Especially what she did with The Judds, with her mom. Also, she’s a vocal beast … she can pretty much sing anything and it would sound amazing. 

Rockmommy: Fast forward to the early 2000s… pre-2007. What was it like getting into the country music industry? 

Rissi Palmer: Here’s how the story went. I grew up in St Louis, and I went to college in Chicago and while I was in Chicago I started working on my demo. Midway through my freshman year of college, my managers were like, ‘we want to shop you for record deals but we need you to be available for meetings.’ So that means you’re going to have to leave school. So I sat down my parents and said, ‘if you let me do this now, when I’m young, if it doesn’t work out in two years, I’ll go back to school.’ And their philosophy was, ‘you’re only 18 once.’ They knew this is what I always wanted to do.

Rockmommy: So what happened next? 

Rissi Palmer: Then when I turned 19 I got my first publishing deal in Nashville, so I started spending way more time there, although I didn’t move officially to Nashville until I was 26, seven years later. My publishers would treat me awesome. I would stay with them, and I would stay for, like, a couple weeks at a time.

I’ll say this: Those that were in the trenches with me … my publishers and the other writers, they were wonderful. But because I was the only person of color — I didn’t know of any other people of color doing country music — I felt this self-imposed need to fit in. I didn’t want to stick out for any reason, I didn’t want my songs to stick out. 

Then, when I started taking meetings, I realized, it wasn’t going to be, ‘oh you’re Black, you’re cool.’ One of the meetings I took before I had a publishing deal… the producer played my demo, while I’m in the hallway, listening to their reaction. They’re like, ‘OK, nice … what’s the catch?’ So then I walked in, it was like, ‘oh my God, oh my God.’ And then it turned into, ‘well, we have to find songs for Black girls, for someone like you.

Rockmommy: I can’t believe they would say that! 

Rissi Palmer: They would get stuck on ‘how do we make her relatable?’ and ‘how do we present her to our listeners in a way that’s palatable to them?’ I learned early on there obviously must be an issue. It was hard not to take it personal. And for a long time I did. It felt like it was me, like I was the problem. It’s taxing on you mentally on ways you don’t really think about.

Once I was signed, we started doing the radio tour and that sort thing. Radio tour is not fun. It can be at times, but for the most part it’s not. You’re sitting in this room and the radio people are judging you and deciding whether they want to play you, and sometimes it has nothing to do with the song, but how they feel about you personally. I had some great people in radio but then I had some horrible people, people who said to my radio promoter, ‘don’t even bother bringing her in because we’re never going to play her.’ It was a lot.

Rissi Palmer (Photo: Chris Charles)

Rockmommy: Just wow. Are there still assumptions about what country music fans want among record producers today? 

Rissi Palmer: In the industry at large, I still think it’s a pretty pervasive thought. I think there are innovative people and people that want to try to do different things as evidenced by the fact that Darius Rucker has a career … one of each of those people signed to a major label for every 15 blonde girls or 20 guys in baseball caps. You can’t have 20 Mickey Guytons.

Rockmommy: Because of this dynamic, are Black, indigenous, and/or Latinx artists afraid to try to make it in country? 

Rissi Palmer: There are tons of artists of color, and the moment I started the show (Color me Country), my inbox flooded. In the very beginning, artists of color are the same as white artists. When they decide to go into a career in music, they do it because they love it. They’re not thinking about the odds against them.

Then once you get in, you see the hurdles behind the scenes. A lot people think that racism is a white hood and torches and a cross, that things are blatant. When you don’t see it blatantly, you think everything’s fine. It’s only when you add up little things, the little micro-aggressions, the little oblivious things people do, it starts to weigh on you. I think that after trying to climb the mountain for so long, and seeing no return on investment, that’s when you see people quitting, and changing their trajectory.

Rockmommy: How did you decide to start your show, Color me Country

Rissi Palmer: I started doing interviews with artists in [Spring 2020], when quarantine started, with plans to start a podcast. I wanted to talk about my experience in country music… and talk to others about their experiences in being ‘the other’ — a [forum] where people could tell me things they might not necessarily tell a journalist because they know that I’ve been there.

I didn’t know George Floyd was gonna happen, that we were going to go through this reckoning. Suddenly this little thing I had planned to start, this podcast, was included in The New York Times. Then another friend of mine introduced me to Apple Music, literally the week before I was supposed to launch the podcast on my own. They offered me a deal to do a radio show, which meant I would be able to include full songs. 

Still, mission is exactly the same, to make stories public to raise awareness. I hear people discovering the show, saying, ’I didn’t know Black people sang country music!’ I’m trying to normalize this, because we’ve been a part of this since the beginning. This whole story that country music is white man’s music is patently false.

Rockmommy: Can you tell me about the song ‘Seeds’ came about? 

Rissi Palmer: ‘Seeds’ was actually written in 2014: I grew up in St. Louis, watching how everything unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri, after the murder of Michael Brown. I felt powerless, because I wasn’t there. I was in North Carolina. But I saw this quote, ‘they try to cut us down, but they don’t know that we were seeds.” So I thought, ‘OK, this is the great place to start for the song.’ 

Rockmommy: Can we talk about ‘Revival?’ Is that a revival … of you?

Rissi Palmer: Yeah! This is a revival of me. I did a project in 2014, of back porch sessions, and this is the first full-length album I’ve done since my debut. I’m older … I was the same age my mom was when she died, right when the template [for being a mom] was about to become obsolete. When we started recording the album, I was pregnant with Nova. Every song of that album is a snapshot of my marriage, where I was as a mother, where I was as a Black woman.

Rockmommy: How has being a mom influenced your work, or challenged it?

Rissi Palmer: It’s really funny to approach this now, and see just how my perspective is different. When I started out, everything was very focused on me. Everything is very ‘me, me, me’ when you’re an artist. You’re very much into your look your sound. Now that I have the girls, I have to prioritize, of course, [their needs]. I approach motherhood a lot different then some people do because I lost my mother when I was very young. My mom passed away when I was 7. She was sick for the last two years of her life, in a hospital in another state. So I knew that if I ever had children, they would be my first priority, and make sure that whatever I did would revolve around them, rather than them revolving around me. 

I’ve tried to find ways that my music and my art can be something that we can all do together, that they can do with me. That’s why I did a children’s album in 2013, because I wanted to do something to commemorate my daughter’s birth and do something we could enjoy together. All my music I do with, in my mind, ‘my girls are going to hear this.’ It doesn’t necessarily stop me from saying things, but it means I am very truthful.

They’ve made me, in turn, become a more intentional artist, and make smarter decisions, in regards to my time and what I can do and what I can’t do. They make me mindful. I suddenly went from being this very self-focused artist to thinking, ’how can I change this corner of the world that we’re all in together?’

In every way they make me better. It’s hard. It’s hard to juggle and I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of time that I used to devote to my art.’ My time is very valuable. I can’t be all over the place that I used to be. I’ve had to become really resourceful with my time.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

 

Kicking Off Spring ’21 with Lots of Outdoor Gigs — and Hope for Indoor Ones, Too

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Every April, as greenery unfolds into cherry blossoms and daffodils burst from the cool ground, I start to get excited for summer. The weather will warm, and I’ll shed my 8,000 layers of fleece, ready for rock and roll gigging season to kick into high gear. Sadly, last spring’s excitement was tempered by COVID, while this year’s is tempered with a bit of cautious optimism. 

Is it right, to make like a Dionysian maenad, frolicking at a Beltaine-inspired musical gathering? Or do I have to pare back my dancing, even though I’m vaccinated? 

These questions rotated in my mind on April 24, when I ventured 20 miles north from my home with my friend Steph, and headed toward Woodbridge, Conn., a town just off the Merritt Parkway not far from New Haven. My destination: a space called 10Selden, where the outside concrete blacktop had been transformed into a socially distanced, DIY music enclave.

Of course, masks and social distancing were in order, as expected. But it was 100 percent worth it. As much as I love Facebook Live-streaming, nothing beats the real deal — pure rock n’ roll in the flesh. 

Shame Penguin kicked off the evening with an hour-long set of indie-punk/bluesy jams, saturated with atmospheric, delay-pedal guitar riffs, catchy bass lines, and poetic, powerful vocals which, at times, took me back to the late ’90s. As the daylight faded into sunset, Shame Penguin played its new single “Pretzel Time,” an ode to “the songbird,” as singer Dustin Sclafani (aka “EZ Bluez”) shared with me later on. If you haven’t streamed this track on Spotify, do it now

Shame Penguin rocks 10Selden (Photo credit: DeFilippo Foto)

[SEE RELATED: Shame Penguin’s ‘Fall of the Mountain King’ Mixes Catchy Riffs with Complex Daddy Issues]

Local band Fiction’s set kept the energy high with a sound I initially described as “a cross between Blink 182 and Blues Traveler” to my friends — fun and powerful. Fiction’s cover of Sublime’s “Garden Grove” was possibly the best one I’ve heard. For a full review of the show, check out AMP’s myampmusic.co) writeup here. 

Fiction rocks 10Selden (Photo: DeFilippo Foto)

My favorite takeaway from the night was the sense of community, the spirit of gratitude and happiness that radiated from every song — which is why I’ m so excited 10Selden’s series is extending into summer. 

My band Trashing Violet will be playing there on May 22nd with the local punk-pop trio Zombii.

It’s been forever since my band played together for people other than our spouses, kids, or close friends. Most of my solo shows were broadcast from my living room in ’20 — or, once, from our drummer Nick’s driveway — via Facebook Live. The upcoming show will be the first time my punk-pop/grunge band has gigged IRL since last February, before the carefree music-mom life I knew skidded to a halt.

Trashing Violet
Trashing Violet (2020)

This summer, we have gigs scheduled for 6/21 (for Make Music New York, in NYC’s Tomkins Square Park); 8/21, and 9/3 (so far). We’re also hoping to plan a safe, indoor live music show at a venue in our state. Admittedly, there are a lot of unknowns, such as how many music fans will get vaccinated, whether clubs in Connecticut will make like New York City with some version of the Excelsior pass, and how strong the new COVID variants are in triggering “breakthrough” cases. 

But while everyone will have to adjust to a “new normal” in live music this summer, the privilege of playing live music is no longer one I take for granted.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

What a Rockmommy wants for Mother’s Day: 2021 Edition

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and we love flowers and pretty things. But we of the rockmommy collective also love to rock. Here, a few of the coolest musical, creative and sustainable gift ideas for us. 

This unique journal helps musicians keep their lyrics and melody notes in one place. There’s also room to define the “feel” and tempo of your latest tune.

Songwriter’s Journal (Photo: Uncommon Goods)
Ibanez Nita Strauss JIVAJR Signature Electric Guitar

A sequel to Nita Strauss’ Ibanez signature guitar, this stunning deep sea blue guitar is striking and affordable. 

[Related: 8 Perfect Mother’s Day Ideas for Rocker Moms]

What better way to inspire the drummer woman in your life than with a set of these beautiful, wood-burned drum sticks?

Whether Mom is in the studio or home, she can experience rich warm sound and incredible automatic noise cancelling, all from these ultimate Bluetooth® headphones with connected app. 

This satin white, limited-run beauty is made of durable, sustainable woods, which lend themselves toward beautiful tones and inspired songwriting.

Real-time virtual guitar lessons; Starting at $20:

Engage the Zoom-ready mama with real-time, virtual guitar lessons that connect her with awesome teachers and other rockstar parents. NYC Guitar School’s online lessons are the gift that keeps on giving: Choose from a variety of options (a monthly membership to dozens of drop-in classes on songwriting, guitar technique and more), private lessons, or weekly group classes (*use code new21 to get started for just $20). 

Aduro AquaSound WSP20 Shower Speaker, Portable Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Avocado); $14.99:

For the mom who loves to sing in the shower. And if she’s a millennial mom, she probably also loves avocados.

Bluetooth shower speaker (Photo: Amazon)

These wearable riffs on blue and gold make striking accessories for music and design lovers alike.

Reclaimed Guitar String Earrings (Photo: Uncommon Goods)

[Related: 2019 Mother’s Day Gift guide edition]

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.

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

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Earth Day comes and goes every April, but rarely do I hear a song about the planet that gets stuck in my head, and lifts up my day. But after listening to Bronx, NYC family musician Fyütch’s new single ‘Pick it up (Earth Day Rap: Music Adventure for Kids!)’ that’s all changed. 

The song has a cool, catchy dance beat, as Fyütch launches into the rallying cry, “pick it up/put it back/switch it up/swap it out” while showcasing dance moves with his crew in Central Park, NYC.

Fyütch’s new song ‘Pick It Up’ (Earth Day Song)

We recently caught up with the dad (whose name sounds like the first syllable of “Future”), to talk about zero waste, landfills, recycling and making social changes. 

Rockmommy: So what inspired ‘Pick it Up’? 

Fyütch: Earth Day has taken new importance in my life as a teacher and a Dad. I live in NYC and unfortunately there’s a lot of littering here. My daughter noticed pretty early on people throwing trash on the ground, like gum wrappers and napkins. At only 2 years old she asked me why they did that! So that was one conversation starter. 

Next, this idea of refusing items we don’t need, finishing the food on our plate, turning off water when we brush our teeth are just basics. She loves to play at the playground, but sometimes I’m so tired I just turn on the iPad or TV for her. So I’m also challenging myself to be a good example to get up and be active. Most holidays and special days are reminders of things we should always be mindful of. I like to say everyday is Earth Day, because there’s always simple adjustments we can make to be more eco-friendly. My songs closely reflect my personal growth, hence the Earth Day song.

Rockmommy: In January, you released the track ‘Black Women in History.’ How did that come about? 

Fyütch: Very quickly actually! During the 2020 Holidays I was with my family. We were enjoying the response to the Kwanzaa song featuring Pierce Freelon. I knew I wanted to follow that up with a song for Black History month. It all started with a few lyrics in my phone notes: “Black women in history. Gotta say it loud so it’s not a mystery.” I started making the beat on my parents’ couch right after Christmas. 

I’m a fan of Rissi Palmer, so I emailed her and introduced myself. We spoke on the phone for the first time and hit it off. I pitched her the song idea and she loved it! I spoke to Snooknuk on the phone shortly after. I had just recently met her on a zoom call, and I really liked her music. So we kept in touch. I told her the idea and that Rissi was on board; and she was ecstatic! 

On New Year’s Day I finished the beat and the lyrics, and sent them a rough demo. They recorded their parts within days! Thankfully, we all have green screens at home, so they sent me their video footage and I edited it the weekend before we released it. Very quick collaboration process, but honestly it didn’t seem rushed because we were all so excited to release this into the world. 

[SEE RELATED: Pierce Freelon’s 2021 to-Do List: Music, Media, and Helping Others]

Rockmommy: What do you hope to accomplish through your art?

Fyütch: Educate, entertain, and empower. Normalize telling the truth in school. The songs I make about social justice and racial equity shouldn’t be ‘radical.’ History isn’t squeaky clean. And the present isn’t perfect. Sometimes these honest, transparent conversations are difficult for adults to have, for teachers and parents to have. But kids are usually just fine tackling these complicated issues at face value with curiosity and excitement. 

We don’t have all the answers all the time and it’s ok for them to know that. I can’t think of a better way to prepare them for a complicated world. Music and art in general are wonderful tools to teach and learn, especially at reaching different types of learners. In my family, there are a lot of teachers and pastors. I grew up with inspirational, community-minded people. So it’s just in my nature to want to inspire. I also think there’s something truly powerful about being a Black man in classrooms. I didn’t fully grasp it until my educator friends opened my eyes to it. There are kids from certain backgrounds whose entire impression of Black people comes from the media. So I’m very proud to represent and tell my truth, and hopefully open the door to different perspectives. 

[SEE RELATED: Bronx family musician Fyütch’s New Song ‘Black Women in History’ Celebrates Dozens of Unsung Heroes]

‘Pick it Up’ group shot (photo courtesy of Fyütch)

Rockmommy: What lessons do you hope to impart on the next generation?

Fyütch: Think for yourself. Do your own research. Ask lots of questions. Never settle. Dream big, set goals, and work hard for what you want. Work with each other to create the kind of world you want to live in. Empathy is key. 

Rockmommy: How has parenthood influenced or shaped your perspective as a creator?

Fyütch: My daughter is my life. I really had that proverbial switch turn on in my brain as soon as she was born 3 years ago. My hustle kicked into overdrive. Everything I do is for her. It’s all about legacy at this point. How does she see me? What are my non-verbal cues teaching her? Patience is a word that comes to mind. I can’t bury myself into my work. I have to find balance. Trust the flow of the day. Have a schedule but be ready to adapt. Be present. Appreciate the time we have together. These are great lessons for life. 

Not too long ago, she asked me why I was busy at the time. I jokingly told her “I’m working hard and trying to get rich so we can live wherever we want.” She said, “Daddy, we’re already rich.” Wow! The truth is we already have everything we need, and she knows that. Love, shelter, food, health. More money won’t equate to being a better Dad. So, I’m learning to trust the process and enjoy the journey. The same principles apply to my art. I don’t have to force creating. I’m in a great space where it just happens. And so far these genuine moments of creating have been striking a chord with my growing fan base and I’m super grateful.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

My Top 10 Favorite Liz Phair Songs in Honor of the Rockmommy’s 4/17 Birthday

Indie rock queen — and fellow rockmommy — Liz Phair is one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, and I’m so bummed that I didn’t get to see her last summer, in what would have been 2020’s most epic grunge reunion tour with Alanis Morisette and Garbage

Liz Phair, rocking out (photo source: UPI)

It would have marked the third or fourth time I’ve seen Phair since discovering Exile in Guyville eons ago, when her music spoke to everything I was feeling, coming of age. But while Guyville got me hooked on Phair, it’s Whip-Smart, whitechocolatespaceegg and other records that kept me coming back.

On April 17, Liz Phair turns 54.

Here are my top 10 favorite Liz Phair songs (and their respective albums). A few of them may surprise you!

#10 “Rock me” (Liz Phair) 

“Just take off my dress/let’s mess with everybody’s mind” is probably the first thought that pops into my head when I’m crushing on someone. And the way Liz sings it, brash and unapologetic, on a record released when she was over 35, is so inspiring to us MILF rocker gals. 

#9: “Flower” (Exile in Guyville)

I’ve fantasized about covering this sexually explicit, lyrically jaw-dropping song for years. The first time I heard it I felt alive in a way I had never felt before — I had no idea a woman could wield power with barely more than a whisper, and express her desires so openly. Of course, nowadays female artists say things much more graphic than Liz Phair did in this song, but in the 1990s and early 2000s, this track was something special. 

[Related: https://rockmommy.com/2019/04/liz-phair-proving-that-there-isnt-an-age-cutoff-for-wearing-miniskirts/]

#8 “Why Can’t I?” (Liz Phair)

It starts out as sweet and sappy, builds up to the chorus and then BOOM — we’re suddenly in the midst of Liz Phair’s relationship angst, with all of its glorious ebbs and flows.

#7 “Extraordinary”

Loaded with roaring guitars guitar hooks, Phair’s voice is clear and confident, transforming this rocking tune into a powerful anthem.

#6 “Polyester Bride” (whitechocolatespaceegg) 

Beyond the addictive chorus and the catchy guitar hook, this song’s appeal lies in its thought-provoking question, repeated throughout: “Do you want to be a polyester bride?” In other words, do you want to surrender to the inevitable doldrums of wife life — or flee that fate to enjoy a life of adventure? Most of us chose the former at some point, perhaps by necessity, but still. 

#5 “6’1” (Exile in Guyville)

This is the first track on Guyville and the first Liz Phair song I ever heard. And it kind of blew my mind. Here was this woman, whose voice wasn’t gravelly and raw like Courtney Love’s, or dramatic and bitter like Alanis Morisette’s. No, Phair’s vocals came out low, and almost monotone. Yet they still packed a punch, as she belted out, underneath the cascade of shimmery guitars, “I bet you fall in bed too easily… with the beautiful girls who are shyly brave.” You only get one chance to make a first impression. And after hearing ‘6’1,’ I became a Liz Phair fan for life.

Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville (source: Matador Records)

#4 “Supernova” (Whip-Smart) 

I love this bouncy, wah-pedal, pop-rock track, an ode to her ex. I especially love the part when she sings, “you f*ck like a volcano,” because when it comes to picking a mate, priorities matter.

#3 “Johnny Feelgood” (whitechocolatespaceegg)

I love a good bad boy, and “Johnny Feelgood” is dirty in the subtlest way, a homage to the ones we used to fall for but couldn’t hold down. It’s like she read my mind when she wrote this. Side note: it’s shocking that this isn’t everyone’s favorite whitechocolatespaceegg song, when Liz asks fans to share in Twitter polls. It’s most certainly my favorite on that album, and my third favorite Phair song of all time. 

#2 “Mesmerizing” (Exile in Guyville) 

OK, so this track, sandwiched in between the more popular “Canary” and “F*ck and Run” doesn’t make a lot of Liz Phair favorite-song lists. But I think it’s absolutely brilliant and I never skip over it when I’m listening to Guyville. The song is like sunlight on a foggy day, with breezy, lithe guitar strums, and a perfect lyrical hook, “I want to be… mesmerizing too.” It is so, so good.

#1 “F*ck and Run” (Exile in Guyville)

It’s no surprise that F&R is my favorite Liz Phair song, but can you blame me? It pretty much captures every emotion a woman feels after a one-night, intoxicated hookup, and the universal longing for something deeper, more meaningful, and even more traditional in the midst of it. It’s probably your favorite Liz Phair song too, or is it? 

What is your favorite Liz Phair song? Comment, please! 

Oneonta, N.Y.’s Mountain Jam Guitars is a Treasure Trove of Beautiful Instruments

It’s not every day you stumble upon a small-town, independent guitar store on a Main Street in America — especially these days, with so many online music outlets. But on Saturday, that’s exactly what happened, when my family decided to take a stroll through the picturesque town of Oneonta, N.Y., about 20 miles south of Cooperstown, N.Y., and stumbled upon Mountain Jam Guitars.

Mountain Jam Guitars in Oneonta, N.Y. (photo: Marisa Torrieri Bloom)

With no specific agenda except to window shop, we came upon the guitar hub almost by accident. I almost missed the nondescript silver sign, that marked the entrance to a guitar player’s candy store — stringed instruments of all shapes, sizes, and models, from the Gretsch G9201 Honeydipper Metal Resonators to cream-colored Fender Strats. Psychedelic pedals and ukuleles in rainbow hues filled out the space beautifully.

John, the owner of Mountain Jam Guitars in Oneonta, N.Y.

John, the owner and a self-proclaimed Deadhead, encouraged me to plug into a 30-watt Orange tube amp and test out one of his favorites: the D’Angelico Premier Series Grateful Dead Limited-Edition 50th Anniversary Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar in satin walnut, featuring Seymour Duncan humbuckers and artwork inspired by the Grateful Dead’s epic record American Beauty (the album that features beloved tracks “Sugar Magnolia” and “Ripple,” among others).

The tone was so beautiful that I forgot to check my tuning before launching into one of my originals, followed by an attempt at “Uncle John’s Band,” which I’d memorized all the lyrics to, but not the music.

The D’Angelico Premier Series Grateful Dead Limited-Edition 50th Anniversary Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar

My kids were getting antsy to go to the gaming store for Pokemon cards and trinkets, otherwise I would have stayed longer. But I bought a couple of packs of guitar pics and strings for the road.

I hope that Deadheads, guitar players and would-be musicians frequent these stores the next time they’re ready to invest in a new instrument, amp, or pedal. While I love online outlets like Sweetwater as much as anyone else, nothing can replicate the experience of plugging in and playing, soaking in the aura of a music shop, and engaging in a shopping experience that feels personalized and reflects the passion of its owner.

The the visit to Mountain Jam Guitars (145 Main Street, Oneonta, N.Y., 13820) made my trip to Oneonta, N.Y., a memorable one, and restored my faith in the small businesses that make small-town America so charming.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.