The first few months of pandemic life and quarantine may have been the most difficult in many ways, as we grappled with the unknown.
Yet this period of uncertainty spurred creativity among musicians, who found themselves writing new material for the first time in months.
Nashville singer-songwriter Elliott Park is among them. Over the spring, Park and his three teen daughters Anna, 18, Autumn, 16, and April, 14, created an acoustic, 12-song collection — Songs With My Daughters — that is beautiful and compassionate, with the daughters’ gorgeous harmonies intertwined with jazzy pop-rock tunes, like “To the Moon and Back,” and nostalgic tributes (like “Blue Skies Over the Rainbow” — my favorite).
It’s like hearing Jack Johnson but better, because daughters make everything that much more awesome.
We caught up with Elliott in one of his rare free moments to talk about the new record, and life in this crazy new world.
Rockmommy: Talk to me about this album! When and how did the idea to do a quarantine album with your three daughters come about?
Elliott Park: Well it wasn’t really intended to be a quarantine album. I had been planning a new family album for several months but midway through recording process the pandemic hit and I started feeling like the songs I was producing didn’t quite fit the mood of the times. So I put my nose back on the grindstone and reworked it with a little different vibe. Still quirky but with a little more intimacy and organic feel.
Rockmommy: Who wrote the songs? Was there any teenage angst about lyrics (kidding, kind of) or musical direction?
Elliott Park: I wrote all the songs except one, Blue Skies Over the Rainbow… which is a mashup of two of my favorite classics; Blue Skies and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The girls and I collaborated on that one. It was a ton of fun coming up with the parts. There was not TOO much angst haha, but at times it was a little difficult to pull them away from what they were doing. I’m proud at how hard they worked.
Rockmommy: How long have you been playing music? How has that influenced your girls?
Elliott Park: I was raised in a musical family but never learned an instrument. I was always too shy to sing. But when I went to college something clicked. Almost every evening after basketball practice I would sneak over to the music department and tinker on the piano. That went on into my twenties and then I started singing and writing music at around age 30. I found I had a knack for songwriting and it sort of developed into a career. My girls have grown up with it as well. We have an old Magnivox record player we call Maggie. She’s sung us all to sleep a few thousand times and still does to this day. I’d like to think they’ve developed their musical interests from listening to all those old records. Sweet Maggie.
Rockmommy: These songs are so sweet — do your daughters and you have similar music tastes?
Elliott Park: Thanks! Well I think we have overlapping sets of musical interests. But I really dig a lot of the stuff they listen to. I think it surprised them one day when I was singing along to a Billie Eilish… It kind of crossed their wires there for a few seconds haha!. Likewise they REALLY love the old classics, and I don’t just mean rock. If you look at their personal playlists you’ll see Sinatra, Billie Holliday, The Carpenters, some Gershwin tunes… a lot of different genres. I think those overlapping interests shape this album and I love it to pieces. They can mimic the elevator voices on a Percy Faith track or knock off the Andrews sisters like nobody’s business.
Rockmommy: What was the recording process like? Did you do this DIY with a good DAW, or with an engineer?
Elliott Park: I had a lot of it remotely recorded, but it all came together in my bedroom using Logic Pro X on my old iMac. Towards the end of the project it would crash about three times an hour no lie. We did all the vocals in my bedroom. I had to yell through the walls for silence many, many, times.
Rockmommy: Obviously the pandemic sucks. But is there some level of gratitude for the time with your daughters that you had BECAUSE of the pandemic?
Elliott Par: Definitely! We made the best of it. I’m proud of us all for staying at it all the way through.
7. Are you planning a social distance concert or parking lot shows?
Not at this time. I’m not huge on performing and honestly I’ve used this pandemic as an excuse not to perform. It’s awful and I need to change that about myself. That’s some bare bones honesty right there haha.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
It’s been quite a year, and if you’re a mom, dad, or kid, you’ve likely experienced a level of family bonding you never thought possible. Frances England, mom of two teenage sons, gets it. Her latest tune, ‘Glue,’ out today is inspired by the intimacy of living in a coronavirus pod, for better and worse.
But the song is also a welcome respite from the severity of the pandemic in our everyday lives.
We recently caught up with her to talk about the new tune, the first single off her forthcoming album, ‘Honey,’ out November 16.
Rockmommy: What inspired the song, “Glue?”
Frances England: The idea for “Glue” came from the CoronaCoaster we’ve all been riding since March of this year. I was just thinking about how our worlds got so small when we were suddenly only allowed to be with a very limited group of people — our immediate families, our partners, our pets. “Glue” is a song about appreciating the people you’ve been stuck with 🙂
Rockmommy: What messages do you hope to impart in your music?
Frances England: For kids, I try and subtly weave in messages about being compassionate, empathetic, a curious observer, animal protectors, good stewards of the earth. For parents, I try to create songs that speak to how wondrous and magical the ordinary is when you have young children. My kids are older now, but I remember how stressful and exhausting it can be to parent young kids. It’s also the most special space in time and I hope my songs capture a little bit of that.
Rockmommy: What are you most looking forward to, over the next few weeks, during these crazy times?
Frances England: COVID + the California fires + our country’s political reality have made for a hyper stressful time, and to be honest, I have been feeling anxious about pretty much everything. During the next few weeks I’m hoping to balance all those externals with some quiet things that calm me down and fill me up: songwriting, family bike rides, experimenting with a new camera. I also manage a community park in my neighborhood so that keeps me busy in all sorts of interesting ways.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor in chief of Rockmommy.
Playing rock n’ roll requires a lot of stamina. So does motherhood. This month, Rockmommy correspondent Rew Starr talks to NYC rocker mom Val Kinzler — a self-described cross between “Janis Joplin & Karen O” — about life, music and finding balance in a crazy world.
Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?
Val Kinzler: I’m still adjusting to the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown. Living on the Lower East Side in NYC with my son and two pugs. I’ve been teaching music virtually — which still feels kind of strange — and hosting songwriting webinars. I work with an LBGTQ non-profit record label.
I also participated in a successful livestream fundraising effort to help save The Bitter End venue on Bleecker Street, which was produced by Room Full Of Music and Off Stage Tunes, and another livestream benefit for the NAACP via Tune Hatch.
Beyond that, I’ve been cooking, cleaning, eating, taking 8- to 10-mile walks with my son to avoid public transportation and trying to squeeze back into my skinny jeans!
RS: How is this different than pre-pandemic life?
VK: Prior to the pandemic, I co-curated a week long NYC Women Who Rock Fest in conjunction with Mike McHugh and New Century Booking that featured some awesome,
power house women artists including you! I’m amazed that we were able to complete all of the fest dates just before the lockdown!
RS: What about the kids? What does going back to school look like?
VK: Jesse is thirteen and actually did great with Google Classroom, and is still participating in online distance learning. Recently he informed me that after taking a “mental age calculation test” he is actually 27! So, I kind of feel like I have a “QuaranTEEN” and an adult child rolled into one!
RS: So tell us about your life. So how many bands have you been in? Is it more than boys you have been with or less? (laughs)
VK: This is a loaded question. I dissected and re-assembled the trajectory of my varied band experiences and realized there’s got to be a book penned by me eventually called “Road Kill!”
My earliest girl band was The Sirens, which played classic rock and Grateful Dead covers at Long Island colleges and bars, with a born-gain Christian manager who desperately wanted to “get to know us better,” and I went from there to my excuse for dropping out of college: a punk-pop all girl band called The Technical Virgins (i just received newly rendered live and studio tracks and a pending script/screen play for the “TV’s” that the singer/songwriter/bassist/flute player Susan Neuffer wrote). The TV’s played in the 1980’s at A7, with Marilyn and The Movie Stars and The Bad Brains, at Maxwells in Hoboken, CBGB’s on Valentine’s Day (we opened for the Sick F*cks) and at Queens College (on the bill with ISM) and other rock n roll joints that are long gone.
We had interest from the Go Go’s producer and I met with Sid Bernstein several times. Sid wanted to change our name. The founding TV’s said no. I still miss him, though.
After playing piano exclusively for years, I picked up the guitar because, I was moving from squat to squat on the Lower East Side, sometimes sleeping under a friend’s kitchen table.
I had to sell my piano and started writing a lot more on the guitar which proved to be a blessing because, with my limited chops, I was forced to keep my writing simple and more intuitive rather than getting sidetracked by riffing on the keys.
I joined open blues jams at places like Dan Lynch on Second Avenue between 13th and 14th Street where the Holmes Brothers, Joan Osborne, Jon Paris, Grant Green Jr., Harry Holt and others packed the joint. I also backed up some groups as a keyboard player — most notably, The Jive Five, which was really cool because, we’d play the oldies shows with Little Anthony, The Dixie Cups, Ronnie Spector and these singers and their tunes still remain timeless!
Valkyrie and The Vikabillys was my first all original band. But, I was still doing back-up gigs, singer-songwriter open mics and blues jams.
I played The Lone Star, Bitter End, Village Gate, Kenny’s Castaways, and after recording two projects, one with Popa Chubby (I still love those tracks!) and my debut East Third Street record produced by Genya Raven who also sang backgrounds with me.
Hilly Crystal (CBGB’s) came in to the studio to lay down the voiceover of the sanitation worker in “Alleyways Of Love,” a song I wrote about a hooker and a garbage man who fall in love when he spots her as he’s picking up the trash. That record landed me some cool gigs, I opened solo in California for Marty Balin and Chuck Negron at a show where Joe Walsh and Clapton were also booked.
After joining a heavy metal band called ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for a brief time, I then joined Blue Lagoon, a hard-hitting blues rock band, as their lead singer.
Eventually, my music evolved when I met Joe Vasta, who also became my romantic partner. Joe and I originally connected through Thommy Price, who I’d worked with in the 1990s.
My main band now is the Val Kinzler Band. David White whom I met and played with in King Bee and The Stingers, Joe Vasta, and Jon Ihle. We recorded our debut record “Nothing Sacred About Hatred” in Oklahoma for a Christian label. The label’s owner was busted for embezzlement but, we got a great record and two videos out of the deal! I refer to VKB as my grown-up band because we’ve all been there, and are done with “THAT!” I’ve also joined several other all-female groups.
RS: We met in the Dirty Mothers. You had a newborn. How were you so able to try anything even at that vulnerable state?
VK: Yes! I also remember Joey Zero years earlier when I was playing at Sun Mountain in the West Village insisting that I must meet his friend REW!
Joey booked us both at The Continental and after seeing you perform for the very first time, I totally understood why Joey wanted us to coordinate! I was totally psyched to learn that Kelly Britton and you had teamed up! Jesse was under a year old. I was not yet healed after having a cesarean section. But, it sure was a blast and I loved playing all of our original songs. We each had a slightly different style but the vibe was in sync. I had no immediate family to help me with Jesse when he was an infant. Also, took me two years to get back into shape physically because I gave birth at 46!
I used to take Jesse to rehearsals and wherever I needed to be. But, there were times when I had to pull out of gigs because I didn’t have a sitter or money to pay for child care and it became really strenuous carrying my guitar on my back and the diaper bag while having the baby harnessed to my chest using public transportation.
There were also rehearsals when Jesse was sleeping in the harness on my back and we’d turn down low to keep rehearsing. I literally couldn’t put him down at times or he’d fuss. I think he wanted to be close to the music! Luckily, certain musicians (like you and Kelly) were also parents and were cool with me having to bring my baby!
RS: I love your twist words. When did this start? Ever think of making a Val dictionary?
VK: I think my “oops” with words comes from a learning disability known as dyscalculia and perhaps a touch of dyslexia. I used to write everything backwards in elementary school out of boredom I thought but, as the years progressed, I began to reverse how I saw numerical equations and it’s become such a part of me that I simply create new words automatically.
I read signs in reverse and it can really screw me up at times if I’m not concentrating.
Like, if the teacher gave an exercise with two rows of words, and instructed me to take one word from each column to fuse together sensibly, I’d write “road rail” and incorporate it into a sentence rather than “rail road.”
Songwriting for me is challenging because it’s like inventing and solving a crossword puzzle simultaneously.
RS: Are you making any new music?
VK: My most recent single “Some Bitch” is on Spotify and desperately needs a video!
It’s a quirky tune about cyber cheating. “Some Bitch is dancing topless on your lap top, I can smell her perfume from out here… etc.” I also wrote a quartan-tune inspired song called “In the Rain” and am still catching up on half completed songs my band was working on for our forthcoming record.
RS: What about playing out? have there been opportunities?
The only live show I did recently was in Tompkins Square Park for the anniversary of the riots.
It held meaning to me due to the history of The Lower East Side, the squatters, the musicians and artists and Monika Beerle, who became my muse in “Broken Ballerina.” Also, it is so important to join other musicians and artists right now as these are uncertain times and music is the universal language of healing and inspiration!
I am scheduled to play at Porch Stomp, 2020 as part of Kat Minogue’s Stage on Governor’s Island on October 10th. Violizzy, Rigel Mary and Jesse will probably join me.
RS: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?
VK: All of my personal achievements can now be applied to reinforcing life skills in my own child and the students I teach.
To me, being a rockmommy means dissecting and recycling stressful moments creatively by incorporating my love for music! Jesse and I always turn on the radio in the morning and wind up dancing to our favorite tunes. Pain in life is inevitable, remaining stagnant is no longer an option.
I’m grateful that my son is tenacious and driven. We both use music, dance and exercise to keep a positive mental attitude. I love my close relationship with Jesse especially when we have opportunity to jam together. Taking him to rehearsals, gigs and not sheltering him from my artsy friends has lost me some people along the way. I was definitely mis-judged as being reckless at times.But, interestingly, those particular ex-friends never had children of their own.
Rock n’ Roll is all encompassing and celebrates uniqueness and survival!
I’m definitely a survivor and passionate about inspiring hope in Jesse and others.
Rew Starr is an actor, musician and rockmommy who lives in New York City.
It’s been a busy few days without the added stress of life under our current administration/COVID and I’ve had precious little time with my beloved guitars — my Fender Strat, Gibson SG, and Yamaha acoustic (of course, I have 7 others, but these are my three favorites).
As my eyes glazed over news headlines this morning, I caught a glimpse of a video from the artist H.E.R., playing guitar like a bandit.
In September, H.E.R. became the first black female artist with a signature guitar, a gorgeous Fender Stratocaster that’s as jaw dropping as an Oscars gown.
I’d never heard of H.E.R. before the announcement, but her music — rock meets soul meets R&B meets reggae — is pretty awesome. She’s so badass — I wish I had that kind of presence and confidence at 23.
The guitar, Fender, and H.E.R. give me hope during these dark days. No one loves seeing young women play instruments more than me. I just wish I had the space for all of them, but my basement, where most instruments reside, is currently a sea of Legos. Anyway, Happy Wednesday! Enjoy the video.
I am an MOB — a mother of two boys, 8 and 6 years old. They know mama is a singer and a songwriter, and that she gets dressed “fancy” from time to time to go out and make music in the world.
Before that, I was a supple, younger woman who sang in a coffee shop for tips on Larchmont Blvd. with a three-piece jazz band and then later, workshopped my own songs in that same coffee shop. I was a woman who traveled the world singing in the finest of music lounges in far off, distant places including New Delhi and Beijing.
And before any of that, I was a mixed-race girl (African American/ Irish American) growing up in the city of angels, who rollerskated in her backyard to her favorite albums — and her dad’s record collection — Donna Summer, the O’Jay’s, the ET soundtrack and OMD.
She dreamed as she skated, that she would one day be famous.Known. Seen. Important.
I have been insecure about my place in the world for a long time. As a parent, that is a quality I’m hoping skips my kid’s generation. But I know that outcome requires conscious effort on my part and even then, there are no guarantees.
I write music that uplifts, inspires and encourages me. It is my safe place. I write music that speaks a truth I am desperate to put into the world as my default tendency is to keep it locked inside so that I don’t make other people uncomfortable.
In writing my song “Rally Call,” I consciously chose to do the opposite.
I wrote it because I was at a point where I no longer wanted to compartmentalize myself due to the color of my skin. I was done with erasing myself for someone else’s comfort and I was done with buying into the false belief that I needed to wait for someone else’s permission to live my life.
When I think about parenting my kids, I want to get it “right.” That means making sure they never feel rejected, hurt or disempowered, that they’re always invited to every birthday party (pre-covid) and that they feel like anything is possible at all times. I know, I know — a parent’s perfect formula for disappointment and self-judgment.
I want my boys to be compassionate people. I want them to be proud of all their heritage — being black, being mixed, being part Irish, being part English, being part Jewish. I want my boys to be confident enough to stand up when someone is working from a closed heart and to know the truth of who they are.
Rally Call is a small part of the recipe for making all this possible. Watching their mom put out a song about ‘getting rid of those papers’ — a reference to a time when Black Americans had to actually carry papers to show they had a right to be out without a white person — and no longer waiting for permission from someone outside herself to fully be herself is inspiring.
It normalizes doing challenging things. It normalizes loving oneself. It normalizes speaking out when injustice is present.
We as parents have an opportunity to instill self-love, growth mindset, compassion and courage in the souls we’ve been asked to shepherd. We get to do that in a plethora of creative ways.
My goal in sharing this music is for us all to keep getting into ‘good trouble’ when we feel like slinking back onto our couch and scrolling our phone or watching shows to distract ourselves.
My boys love the song. They love the guitar riffs, the drums. They know some of the lyrics. And truth be told, there are some days when I’m grateful they don’t fully know what the song is about: I’m still trying to get right with god, the universe, or whatever it is that pulls the strings of life, about my needing to have a conversation about black lives matter at all.
It’s a delicate, complex melody to be a conscious parent, to be an advocate for kids loving and accepting themselves in a world that doesn’t support ALL kids in this endeavor. It is a delicate, complex rhythm change to move out of stereotypical thinking into radical love.
And I can only imagine the nuance and tension of being a parent of non kids of color — there is the temptation to overlook or turn away from the truth of people of color’s experiences.
Rally Call is my love letter to America — reminding us all that until we’re willing to own all the parts of ourselves, our country’s entire history, only then will we truly have a chance at being free…and isn’t that what we want for our kids?
The greatest rock songs have the coolest riffs — like AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and Joan Jett’s “I love Rock n’ Roll.” But without lyrical substance, many these tunes would fade from memory.
New Haven indie punk band Shame Penguin’s ‘Fall of the Mountain King’ gives us both.
The song opens with a catchy bass riff, which eases itself into the auditory cortex of one’s brain— almost seducing the listener to sway to the mellow beat. But if you just stick to the surface, bopping along as the music segues from clean and distorted and back again, you could miss the song’s true cathartic beauty.
Pay attention as singer Dustin Sclafani’s vocals escalate from nostalgic and whispery to the brink of anger, and you’ll learn that the idealized childhood he rhapsodized about in the first verse never actually happened.
We recently caught up with Sclafani to tell us more about this piece, and what Shame Penguin’s been up to lately.
Rockmommy: ‘Fall of the Mountain King’ is so many things — it’s easy to listen to, yet it’s catchy and it’s complicated, lyrically. What was the story you wanted to tell?
Dustin Sclafani: The story behind Mountain King’s lyrics is an interesting one for sure. I wanted to give the sense of confusion to the listener make them lean in and go back and listen again and again. See, I grew up in a single parent household before it was considered a normal family structure. So throughout school I was consistently living in a state of confusion, forced to make Father’s Day cards for no one and really told by society I could never be a real man because I never had those critical father-son moments that drenched pop culture like ‘Field of Dreams’ — nope I never played catch or learned how to throw a spiral.
So these lyrics are more of a statement against the nuclear family, the first verse is everything pop culture tells us is important for a father and son, the first states that, ”That was not my life….” the second chorus brings the listener into the reality of what was my life and the second verse is the imagery conversation I have had with my father that has brought me peace. I wrote these lyrics for every son that grew up fatherless to let them all know they are not alone and they are going to be OK.
RM: Can you tell us about the songwriting process with Shame Penguin?
DS: I actually love this question because it had so many answers … usually Tristan Powell would send me riffs that he comes up with and if one jumps out I either bring lyrics that I have already written, because I have notebooks and notebooks of lyrics, or I will find a phrase that fits perfectly too it. Then we will meet up and go over the song a couple of times before we bring it to practice and we as a band jam on it. Sometimes Jon Ozaksut will be noodling around on the bass and come up with these ridiculous bass phrases that are just too good to ignore and we write from there — btw that is how Mountain King was written. But honestly I don’t consider any songs written till we have jammed on them a couple of times and we begin to widdle at it and the song tells us what it is going to be.
RM: We’re in COVID life. Did that impact recording or writing and producing?
DS: Covid 19 impacted everything… early March we were set to launch our EP and start playing out ridiculously… then the industry shut down and all four of us didn’t even really play together for 4 months. See, people have to understand I have a son that is the youngest survivor of open heart surgery so I have to be careful.
In that time Vic Steffens, the most amazing producer and person ever, pulled me aside and said that the rest of our material was really good and he wanted us to do a full-length instead of our original EP. So I mean when someone of that caliber believes in you enough to invest further as the rest of the world is burning around you, you gotta feel pretty lucky. So after our lockdown hiatus we went to Sage Sound Studios, because to save local businesses you have to support local business, and the four of us had to relearn what it was like to be a band. Covid hit us so hard I have 2 grand worth of merch shirts in my closet (available on our bandcamp) lol.
RM:Can you talk about how you’re trying to be the best dad you can be, even though you didn’t have the traditional ‘model’ in your own youth?
Well, you see it is a blessing and a curse. Traditionally, we are raised to be better then the generation before us. So me being in my kid’s lives at all is an upgrade. But in all honesty because I helped raise my little brother and sister when I was 9 on I kind of had a cheat code.
RM: Have your sons heard the song? What do they think?
DS: My oldest Cash was in the studio when I recorded the vocals and to be transparent I was not in his life from when he was 2 till he was about 8 years old — his mother and I were young and I was in a very destructive relationship with my twin son’s mother at the time. So the song kind of hits him as well. But all three of my guys love the track and honestly all the stuff Shame Penguin does because they get to see me happy and they see how hard I work for them and they want me to be happy just like them.
RM: What’s next for Shame Penguin this fall?
DS: In October we are shooting an interesting concept video for ‘Mountain King’ and we are finishing up some final touches on the album and preparing it for release. We started a weekly livestream concert series every Wed night on our Facebook page called Maraczi Midnight Radio and we are hoping to do some outdoor, safe shows and of course we wait for our world to open back up again. Oh and the most important thing myself and R&B artist and dope dad Manny James have acquired a bus that will be taking people to the voting polls Nov 3rd because we are all about being the change we are looking for.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
Mimsey Mack is one mysterious, guitar-wielding lady. Between the thousands of likes on her “Facebook” page, inspiring 80s-rocker fashion getups and bluesy tunes, you’d think she started playing music in her tween years. But not so. As it turns out, the self-described “indie-funk-punk rock” artist only picked up her first electric guitar in 2012, well after her kids passed middle school.
Today, the mom of six — yes, six! — adult children is brimming with ideas and songs, proving once again that age is just a number (and sometimes an excuse).
We asked the one-and-only NYC songstress (and fellow rockmommy) Rew Starr to sit down and chat with Mimsey about life post-COVID and navigating new opportunities in these challenging time.
Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?
Mimsey Mack: Thanks so much for the interview, Rew! It’s been a challenging time for us musicians, but I’ve been keeping busy. I started massage therapy School right when Covid happened and will graduate in August. I’m excited about integrating that into my career. I also took an online music therapy course to better equip me to perform at psychiatric centers, domestic violence centers and other locations, specifically for individuals who have been struggling and need hope and a new direction in life. Other than that, I have been playing lots of drums, guitar and even a little bass guitar.
Rew: You making any new music?
Mimsey: Yes! After a long hiatus, I am thrilled to be producing music again. I started writing songs again during the first week of the pandemic. I write songs about my life so sometimes it’s a little weird to sing new songs to others, especially the first time. But I am quickly reminded that we are all songbirds with a special song to sing.
Rew: What about playing out? Have there been opportunities?
Mimsey: I have been performing livestream shows and also performing as a guest on your amazing Renegade Show as often as possible. I am currently living in Virginia, a state that has been a hotspot recently, so I have not been performing live yet.
Mimsey: I like to tattoo myself. I use a single needle. I have given myself over about 10 tattoos. I’m working on two new ones now.
Rew: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?
Mimsey: The greatest part of being a rock mommy is sharing the love of the music and performing with my kids. All of my kids picked up music in their teen years. When they were younger, I was very conservative socially, homeschooled my kids and loved traditions. We listened to Classical and Christian music. After my divorce, things changed drastically. When I decided on a whim to take electric guitar lessons in 2012, and discovered I learned fast and could play, sing and perform, music brought a fresh new meaning to life. It’s funny when kids introduce me as their Rockstar Mom, because I think they are the rockstars.
Rew: Have you written anything new during the last six months?
Mimsey: One very exciting accomplishment during COVID was finishing the filming for my upcoming music video, “Redemption.” Thank you, Rew, for performing in it! It’s gonna be great! It’s a song I wrote a few years ago that expressed my transition from domestic violence survivor to overcomer. I am looking forward to writing songs about my new chapter in life, filled with hope and love.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
Rew Starr is an actor, musician and performer who lives in New York City.
As summer 2020 comes to a close, I’m feeling all kinds of emotions. I’m sad, mostly, but not just because I love this season, but because COVID-19 and other events of the world have created a dystopian-like existence I thought was years away from materializing.
There were definitely many bright moments. But above all else, I’m grateful for the time I had with my kids.
When my sons’ day camp was cancelled, my mama friend Steph and I created “Camp OB” on a lark — named after Oyster Bay (the wine, not the town). Together, we envisioned a summer of activities like playing tennis, doing obstacle courses, crafting, going to the beach, and taking field trips. We planned s’mores by the fire pit and paddle boarding by the Long Island Sound.
I’m incredibly grateful to say that WE DID IT! ALL OF IT (aside from camping outside — I didn’t feel like shelling out for a tent).
But still. With a little creativity and ingenuity, we managed to pack a summer full of activities. Our kids somehow forgot that they were supposed to be in fun camps for 9 weeks, six hours a day (although they did half-day camps for three weeks). And we somehow managed to (almost) forget we’re living in the era of COVID (and racial injustice).
Our final big event of the summer, the Camp OB Talent Show, was appropriately fitting. While I could post a review of my own, my father in law wrote an amazing one already, which I’ll post below:
A Concert for the Ages
by Stuart Bloom
The Camp OB Fairstock Summer Music Festival kicked off Friday morning on the Bloom Tuller Farm grounds. After a riffin’ guitar intro by Marisa, Logan opened the show with a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony piped in from the enigmatic and reclusive artist’s home studio.
Once the crowd settled in, the roadies, Alex and Zack – who doubled as bongo backups on many of the concert numbers — took over the stage to set up for an amazing display on the drums by Declan, who pounded the skins with the raucous enthusiasm of the great rock drummers.
Nathan brought the crowd to its feet with a down and dirty gravel voiced cover of the Scorpions’ Rock Me Like a Hurricane, accompanied by the slashing Marisa on guitar.
Then it was time to change it up, from metal to hip hop as Kellan took the stage and burst through the fog showing all kinds of ink to shout out NF’s The Search that had the crowd dancing in the aisles.
Stephanie brought the festivities to a close with a haunting rendition of A. Corelli’s Allegro.
This was a concert for the ages, and we may never again see the likes of such talent gathered together on one stage. Here’s hoping the live album isn’t too far behind.
Summer 2020 will go down as the most unexpected one of my life, between navigating the cancellation of camps to surviving a tornado. And I know many moms — even those who didn’t survive tornados — are on the same page as me. Who knew vacations would only work if our kids would willingly #maskup, or that we’d be preparing for a school year where most student-teacher interaction will take place in the virtual realm?
Musician, yoga therapist and mama Suzanne Jamieson can relate. Carving out time for creativity is difficult enough with two young children, but with 2020 layered on top, it can feel downright impossible. Yet it is this struggle within such this crazy year that makes her new family album Bounce so refreshing.
Released on July 17, Bounce is an 11-track, pop/New Wave record cowritten with children’s band The Pop Ups. The common thread: Every song is infused with joy and positivity: The single “Lemonade” is all about making the best of a situation while “Luna” recognizes the scary feelings that can come at night.
We recently caught up with Jamieson to talk about her music, motherhood, and how she’s finding joy this summer.
Rockmommy: Can you tell us about your new record? Was it created in reaction to recent events?
Suzanne Jamieson: While I hope that this album brings some positivity in this trying COVID situation, it was not born in quarantine. I actually came up with the concept of this album five years ago, when I was in a bit of a postpartum funk after the birth of my second child. I noticed that my thinking patterns had been swaying toward the negative, which is not like me at all. I said to myself, “Whenever I notice this kind of thinking, I’m just going to say ‘Om.’ Then, I thought of a song…. ‘I’m just gonna say Om. I’m just gonna say Om Om Om Shanti Om…” and I thought, “Hey! That’s a kids’ song!” The idea was born… .I would take all of my knowledge of yoga philosophy and positive psychology and write an album of songs for my kids. That’s what we’ve done with Bounce…and ‘Om Shanti’ is on the album. Ultimately, my kids love it and have taken away some really positive lessons from it, but I really benefitted the most, I think. It gave me a positive focus and the creative process is so healing. I collaborated with some amazing artists. I co-wrote the album with The Pop Ups, and had guests artists Patti Murin and the Alphabet Rockers lend their talents to it as well. It’s been an incredibly satisfying and inspiring journey and I am super proud of what we created in the end.
Suzanne Jamieson’s new record “Bounce” has us jumping for joy. Literally!
Rockmommy: I’m digging the vibe. It’s refreshing to hear great new wave children’s music. Why isn’t there more of it?
Suzanne Jamieson: Thank you!! It’s the best to hear that. It was my number one goal when I started recording children’s music, that I was recording music that the grown-ups would like as much as their kids. That’s why I sought out The Pop Ups…I would sometimes leave their music on even after I dropped my kids off at school. The Pop Ups and I write in a way that really tries to respect that kids are just small human beings. They have full depth of emotions, awareness of their surroundings, and capacity for humor as much as anyone else. That coupled with Jason Rabinowitz’s musical sensibilities with the 80’s vibes and the sort of retro-meets-modern feel of the tunes, and you end up with what I think is a really relevant, fun album.
Rockmommy: I really like “Grateful” — how did the collaboration with the Alphabet Rockers happen?
Suzanne Jamieson: So glad to hear it! I agree, it’s one of my favorites on the album. I met the Alphabet Rockers a couple years ago at the Childrens’ Music Luncheon that happens in Los Angeles Grammy weekend every year….actually I met the Pop Ups that day too! (I basically had to sing “Brave” to myself to walk in to that luncheon alone and go up to all these strangers to introduce myself!!) Then when the Pop Ups and I saw them again at the 2019 luncheon (as they were nominated for another Grammy), I mentioned to Tommy how much I admire what they’re doing with their music. They’ve been singing about social justice all along…teaching kids about about anti-racism, teaching about gender and inclusivity….etc…and we asked if they might like to collaborate on this album. “Grateful” is what came of that chat…and they really added so much to the song. Their lyrics and voices add depth and profundity…and ultimately that is what we are teaching….we can be grateful for everything….from the small things like “that narwhals are a thing!” to the deep, “Gratified, By the things that you say, Telling me I’m perfect, Letting me find a way.”
Rockmommy: What do you hope that young listeners will get out of this record?
Suzanne Jamieson: Well, my hope is that they’ll take away all these positive life skills without even knowing they’re learning them. These songs teach about optimism, resilience, grit, bravery, thought-stopping, making the best of things, gratitude, community, and friendship. Research says if we focus on “being happy,” we are actually less happy. But if we get really good at these life skills, the result is a happier, more satisfying life. Rockmommy: You recently turned 40. Is there something awesome, and celebratory, about the fact that so many women are making music well past their 20s?
Suzanne Jamieson: I was just thinking about this idea of 40 being considered ‘old’ to do something….that’s just crazy! Literally it’s only like 2 decades into being an adult! I sure hope I have a lot of years left, and I sure plan to make the most of them by creating and growing more and more every year. It doesn’t surprise me at all, though, that women in their 30’s and 40’s are getting attention for their work. Women are doing so much nowadays, and have so much to offer. Every mom I know is a freaking powerhouse—literally all of my friends are doing amazing, interesting things and are also great, present moms. I also think there is just this general sea change in a woman’s late 30’s/40’s when it’s like, “OK. I am done trying to be what anyone else wants me to be. Here’s me….” and that is incredibly powerful.
Rockmommy: You became a mom in 2012 (me too!) What’s it like balancing parenthood and music/creative life? What challenges did you not anticipate?
Suzanne Jamieson: Eight years ago… what a trip! Time flies. I think the reason it took me so long to write and record this album from start to finish is that I really needed hours alone with no distractions to write music… and when do moms get that?! I would do it in airplanes, or when I got a solo night in a hotel here and there over the years. I think it can be more challenging to carve out time to work when the work is creative… there is the challenge of it not being My Boss Assigns Thing + I Do Said Thing= $$$ that can make creative types undervalue the necessity for their time and work. But I will say that when I make it very clear to my family that Mommy is taking a voice lesson or Mommy is practicing or writing or whatever, that I felt fulfilled. And as I did that more often, this album really took off.
Rockmommy: Any advice for other rockmommies like yourself, who are trying to carve out a little time to make music?
Suzanne Jamieson: Yeah, write it in the calendar. Invite your husband or get a caretaker (obviously if that’s safe…it’s a weird time…) or get the iPads and let the kids know that you are unavailable during this time. What would the world be without music??? There is great value in art, and never ever forget that or devalue your own contribution.
Rockmommy: School is upon us, and most of the country is virtual or remote. Kids are scared. What is your greatest hope for your kids and humanity right now?
Suzanne Jamieson: Great question. The answer that comes up for me is “Reprioritization.” I think COVID has taught many of us about what is—and isn’t— important. Our relationships are important. Our health is important. Our making this country safe for everyone is important. I hope that we all can tap into those lessons and—even after things re-open—and remember what we’ve been taught by 2020. Tell each other how we feel. Breathe. Stand up for what’s right. Spend time together as families or friends. My hope is we don’t forget, and that this can be a sort of spiritual catapult to a better world for us all. Oh, and keep making sourdough. 🙂
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
I have a pretty vast amount of useless talents. I can throw food high up into the air and catch it in my mouth, like a seal. I can whip up a stunning batch of luxurious, golden pancakes from scratch. But not all of my useless talents are food-related. I can also play any instrument you can think of, with a passable skill level, even if I’ve never played it before. Though I’ve done every kind of performance from busking in the subway to playing my original comedic novelty jams on international television, it hasn’t amounted to what I might consider a useful life skill. Fun? Yep! Necessary in the event of an emergency? Perhaps more so than I had thought, prior to March 2020, but still, not so much.
The author Jessica Delfino jamming with her son in 2020
A sad, but well-loved guitar and a beat up, yet, used daily baby grand piano were some of my first toys, in an era when there weren’t a bajillion toy manufacturers on the market. I had some little plastic people, and the crusty acoustic six-stringed dreadnaught. I’m certain the thing was missing an E string. The little people lived in and on the guitar, and over time, I learned to pluck the strings and make music. At 14, I was playing “Old Man” by Neil Young and “Crazy on You” by Heart and by the time I was 23, I was writing and performing comedic dirty folk rock songs on stages up and down the East Coast and sometimes even on TV and the radio (mostly in the UK, because America hates women’s’ bodies). Today, I still perform, write and lately teach music from time to time. I’ve branched out from piano and guitar, and I can additionally play ukulele, sax, autoharp, singing saw, electric autoharp, banjo, dulcimer, the glockenspiel, a flute, a pan flute, heck, a skin flute. I am music’s annoying cousin who always wants to be all up in its business.
Now I have a 3-year-old son, and I’d love nothing more than to teach him to play ukulele and record a pandemic-inspired family band kid’s album. The ability to play an instrument is touted as being, essentially, a miracle drug. It develops young brains and fine motor skills, pushes back the progress of Alzheimer’s, improves math skills, memory, creativity and dexterity, benefits movement-related issues such as hand injuries, and it even lowers anxiety. Call my instruments my Xanax, massage therapist and meditation apps, all in one. Especially during this pandemic, more than anything else, my guitar and my ukulele, especially, have been what I reach for when I feel tense, bored or sad. Playing songs I know passes time.
Figuring out or writing new songs keeps my brain engaged. Trying to teach my son to play ukulele; well, that’s a lesson in patience and letting go. He wants to run his trains over the pretend rails of the neck of the thing, he wants to smash his fingers over the strings with the showmanship of Pete Townsend, he wants to put stickers on it or lay it down altogether and turn it into a home for little plastic people. His lack of interest allows days to slip by where I forget to encourage him to pick up the little four-stringed thing.
“The cobbler’s son wears no shoes” often comes to mind when I think about my inabilities to teach my own son to play an instrument. I scowl and fume as a universe of YouTube’s countless two-year-old’s pluck Bach out on their Lanakais. Then I am ashamed of myself. What do I care what these other kids can do? My kid is my kid, and I have everything — and nothing — to do with that.
But I did witness a magic moment and hope for his musical potential when I broke out my harmonica one night. As annoying as it is easy to play, my son was immediately drawn to it. He ran his little face up and down the harp, making all kinds of weird and wonderful sounds that I didn’t even know a harmonica could make. He was pleased with himself, and I felt like the mother of the year.
Maybe there’s hope for us as a future family band, after all.
Jessica Delfino is a comedian, musician, writer and mom who lives in NYC. Follow @JessicaDelfino on Twitter and Instagram.