About rockmommyct

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

How Life and Motherhood — Plus Sickness, Snow, and Paid Work — Can Dampen Guitar Practice Goals

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

So had this whole vision of making March a true “Rockmommy month.” Time-strapped as I am, I would play two to three hours of guitar every week NO MATTER WHAT.

I started off with a bang, playing guitar at every possible free moment, and then some. After my kids went to bed, I’d strum. In the middle of a busy day, I’d strum. When talking on the phone to my spouse, I’d strum.

This worked well for a few days.

Most of you know that my main paid gigs are teaching guitar and freelance writing. My work is second only to motherhood and marriage. On March 3, I scored an insanely good opportunity to go out of town (to D.C.!) to cover a show. The same day, I got called up to do several other assignments. Life got suddenly busy again, but I was still determined to stick to my “two hours no matter what” promise.

Then my younger kid got sick with pinkeye, which wiped out a whole day. After the insanely D.C. show, it snowed on my birthday (which wiped out another day). Then, I got sick with the mother of all colds, complete with a sore throat and ear infection (my first in a decade or so).

By mid-March, I subconsciously shelved my disciplined guitar-playing resolve so I could focus on caring for my sick kids, working, cleaning, recovering, and building snowmen in the unexpectedly frosty March weather.

By the end of March, I was finally able to pick up my beloved instruments again, which I’d only played while teaching.

I alternated between feeling guilty for abandoning my guitar-player goals and feeling OK about it. On the one hand, I truly believe that setting goals is the way to achieve productivity and happiness. On the other hand, I’m a mom of two little boys! Feeding healthy meals to my kids, playing with Legos and pirate ships, and ensuring everyone’s clothes are clean is what I do. It’s my job. I don’t have help 24/7 — my husband is super busy in his own career and we don’t have a nanny to do all of my housework while entertaining my little guys. That, and I value the quality of my freelance writing! I can’t submit an article that’s half-assed and uninspired.

Now that it’s April, I’m back on track with my guitar-playing goals. I’m going to do my absolute freaking best to play 20 minutes to 30 minutes a day, gradually increasing the time I spend practicing as I get closer to my next gig, scheduled for May 20th.

Having goals keeps us motivated and driven. But when life happens, staying on track with goals isn’t easy — and it’s alright if progress slows a bit. This is true whether you’re trying to stay in shape, lose weight, knit a sweater, finish a novel, or play guitar for half an hour a day.

And should life get insane again, I hope I can do a better job of cutting myself some slack.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

From the Mic to the Canvas: Krissy Dale Finds Balance in Reclaiming Her Artistic Roots

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Like lots of creative moms in their pre-kiddo days, rock singer Krissy Dale didn’t have the luxury of pursuing her craft whenever the opportunity arose and motivation struck. Instead, she spent her 9-to-5 hours working an office job, which left only nights and weekends for getting her musical fix as a singer for several cover bands in Connecticut’s Gold Coast area.

And like every rockmommy, when Krissy had her first child — daughter Lyla, 6 — things got that much tougher.

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Krissy Dale, with her portrait of Prince.

Still, in spite of the guilt from leaving her daughter to play shows at night, adjusting to her husband Bryan’s career in the entertainment industry (as a singer and head of a karaoke company, Kings of Karaoke), and trying to get ahead in her daytime career, she managed to make it work.

Until one day, it just didn’t.

Shortly after the Dales relocated to Atlanta in 2013, Krissy found herself working her day job nonstop, trying to help her now-preschool-age daughter adjust, and overwhelmed by all the changes in her life. Then she got pregnant with baby #2. After her son was born, Krissy found her life had gotten even more hectic than she’d imagined. The only chance she got to sing was when her daughter was playing with music toys or watching a musical — most of her artistic energies went to helping her kids with their own projects.

Fortunately, as 2016 neared the halfway point, she would discover, almost by accident, that her creative days were far from over.

It was just before June that Krissy picked up paintbrush on a lark— the first time in more than a decade, when she minored in art in college — in an attempt to paint the most perfect birthday present for her husband. In the process, she realized that the outlet of painting filled her with the same joy she felt as a singer, while helping to calm her frazzled nerves.

Eleven months later, she’s added to the Prince portrait, with stunning profiles of popular musicians and other figures — including haunting close-ups of Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Robin Williams. Her paintings are hypnotizing to look at, and, as anyone who’s seen them up close will tell you, evoke so many different emotions simultaneously (see her whole collection at KDaleartwork.com). And in doing so, they offer intimate glimpses at the most powerful, talented, creative and sometimes troubled individuals whose bodies of work continue to inspire so many.

Here, Krissy tells us about her journey from singing to painting, and offers advice on how to balance it all when you have so many balls in the air but can’t afford to drop any of them.

Rockmommy: When I first met you, you were a mama to be, and an aspiring singer! Could you tell us a little more about how you got started in music? 

Krissy Dale: Growing up, I admired every musician on the radio in the ’80s and ’90s – Whitney Houston, Chicago, Mariah Carey, Shanice, Boys II Men, Groove Theory. Hearing their voices inspired me to find me own voice. As a natural introvert, it didn’t come easily! I would write lyrics on a piece of paper, seal them in a plastic Ziploc bag and practice over and over in the shower… until we ran out of hot water.

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Krissy Dale at home in Atlanta

I took vocal lessons with Rose Coppola (RVP Studios), which built my confidence to immerse myself in musical theater in high school and land the lead role of Florence Vassey in “Chess.” I went to college at Fordham University in New York and met my Manager, TJ O’Sullivan, and producers Lou Bastian and Tony Detullio. We wrote a ton and recorded songs I’m still proud of.  Post-college, I played Rusty in the regional musical theater production of “Footloose” – then transitioned into the cover band scene in Connecticut while finishing my Master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational psychology. By day, I worked full-time in human resources at Fairfield University. By night, I was singing all over Connecticut with crazy cover bands and loving every second.

Rockmommy: When you had your first baby, how did you stay connected to the music scene? What were some of the challenges? 

I performed with my band FML until I was 8 months preggers with Lyla (baby #1), and hung up my cover band hat to adjust to motherhood. It didn’t take long for me to reacquire the itch to get back into the music scene to a high-energy band called Pulse. I limited performances to twice a month since I was working full time as well. Challenges included 1) being totally obsessed with my daughter and wanting to be with her 24/7, 2) quickly climbing the ladder in my daytime career, 3) dealing with the guilt of leaving my baby for shows at nigh, and 4) juggling my hubby’s schedule. He worked nights running his booming karaoke entertainment company – and was also the lead singer of his own band, Fake ID at the time.

Somewhere in there I slept. I nursed Lyla for a little over a year, so if I wasn’t sleeping, I literally was always attached to a boob pump. I look back now and have NO clue how I had the energy.

Rockmommy: Can you tell us about your move to art, or painting in particular?

Krissy Dale: In 2013, my career moved us to Georgia, which severed most of my cover band and studio recording ties due to distance. We added a second kiddo into the mix a year later in 2014 – and life went from busy to insane. I worked a lot, Bryan’s karaoke business in Georgia was flourishing, and I no longer had time to think straight, never mind invest time in my music… or myself. We had two babies, a house, new friends, new investments, much heavier responsibilities.

Like many mommies, I lost myself. Between 2015 to 2016, I was burning out at a rapid rate.

In May 2016 I painted a portrait of Prince for Bryan’s 40th birthday gift. While painting, a wave of calm washed over me — reminding me of life’s important lesson: enjoy the journey. It was less about the final product and more about the actual act of painting and carving out time for myself.

As a visual art minor at Fordham, I had taken classes at Lincoln Center and was taught by extremely talented and inspiring individuals. It was great to get back to this integral and creative part of who I was.

Rockmommy: Why do you love painting other musicians? What is it about certain personalities that inspires you?

Painting musicians helps connect my love for music and art together. The stories and lives of each artist are remarkable, inspiring and sometimes painful. Through art, I pay respect and express deep appreciation to these amazing individuals who have touched my life is some way.

Rockmommy: With your busy schedule, how — and when — do you find time to paint? 

Krissy Dale: It is a juggling act! And takes some planning. During the work-week, after the kids are fast asleep, I plan one night to paint for two hours. The other four nights are dedicated to QT with the hubby, kiddos, friends, catching up on work, and going to bed early. Sometimes it happens according to plan, sometimes it doesn’t.

On the weekends, I paint when I can and wherever is most convenient – if my kids are playing outside, I take my canvas outside. If they are eating, I’m painting in the kitchen. If they are napping, I’m in the tranquility of my bedroom painting away. Some weekends it happens, some weekends it doesn’t.

I look forward to that time tremendously.

Rockmommy: What advice do you have to other moms, in terms of trying to balance everything? 

Krissy Dale: It’s hard, and I don’t have it all figured it out. I have days I literally want to chug a bottle of wine when I walk through the door after work – or shamelessly shovel fruit snacks in my mouth while hiding in the pantry from my children.

Most days I’m living minute to minute, but when I can I bake time into the week to slow down.  Sometimes it happens as planned, sometimes it doesn’t. As rock mommies, we naturally put others first, but carving out ‘you’ time is really cool for your kids to witness – even if it’s an hour here or there.

Lastly, I’d encourage you to spend that time creating a better version of yourself – read a book, volunteer, learn something, create something, inspire others.

 

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Why Beyonce’s Pregnancy was Exactly the News I Needed

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

With all of the political turmoil since the inauguration, writing blogs for Rockmommy felt indulgent. So I put blogging on hold … pretty much for most of January. I marched for women in New York on January 21, and did my patriotic duty by joining political groups that aligned with my beliefs.

But I am a journalist, and so, I feel an obligation to return to the keyboard. To write for all rockmommies who need a cool record review or an inspirational interview to get through their days and feel good again.

I have Beyonce to credit for reigniting my spark.

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Beyonce (Source: Instagram)

Yesterday, when the pop-rock mama released that gorgeous, ethereal pregnancy photo and announced she was expecting twins, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Pregnancy is so beautiful, and it is a joy to see her glowing again. After falling in love with her last album “Lemonade,” I came to more intimately understand her marital and personal struggles. Today, Beyonce is moving beyond the challenges of her past, and showing all of us that even in an era of dismal news and discrimination, there is beauty and goodness.

Congratulations, Bey.

We can’t wait to see your new little babies.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

I Teach Guitar. So Shouldn’t my Preschoolers be Taking Music Lessons?

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’d like to start this blog with a big hashtag, along with the word “hypocrite. I’ve been teaching kids ages 6 and older how to play guitar for 13 years. Today, a handful of them are virtuosos, and one of them got so good by age 17 that I hired her for my band. I’m a decent player, but a good music teacher. And I know how to inspire kids to want to play their hearts out.

But my own children, you ask? The ones who are 3 and 4.5 and love to toy around with  multiple guitars, drum sets, and other shakable and non-shakable instruments in my home?

They’ve never taken a music class.

Usually when I tell this to other moms, the first question out of their mouth — naturally! — is “why?” After all, I’ve taught “mommy & me” music classes to crawlers and 2-year-olds, and those little ones have thoroughly enjoyed the experiences (I’m judging mostly by how happy they seem). I’ve also taught 4-year-olds how to strum ukuleles, and every year, I teach a free class at each of my sons’ preschools.

The benefits of early music lessons are numerous: kids who take music lessons tend to perform better academically, and have better patience and self esteem, too.

In addition, most of the little kids I know who take early music lessons in their Pre-K years seem to get a lot out of the experience.

Given all this, shouldn’t it be an obvious decision to enroll my little ones in a music class, especially since I can reinforce the lessons they learn at home?

Perhaps. But not yet.

For one, music classes for young toddlers aren’t instrument-specific. Most classes just expose them to different kinds of instruments, and have singalong type games. My kids already get these types of games and songs in gym class, and on occasion in preschool.

I didn’t have music classes myself, other than a weekly music class that everyone took at my elementary school. Neither did a lot of talented musicians — at least not until they were potty trained or in grade school. By then, their brains were better able to absorb more information, and they cultivated a true desire to learn.

Interestingly, you don’t need music lessons to be interested in music. For me, the opposite is true: after being denied as a child, I took it upon myself to learn as much as I could when I turned 18 and wanted to play guitar (to be like all cool kids). Of course, I wish my parents took some initiative and insisted I learn some kind of instrument when I was 8 or 9 (and I definitely will enroll my kids in some kind of music lesson or program before then).

Then there’s the cost. Classes are expensive. My kids are restless, too. If I want my kids to expend energy, I feel like I get more bang for my buck by enrolling them in something physical, like swimming or soccer. It lets them get their kicks out so they aren’t climbing on me when I want to do story time and put them to bed.

I’m definitely planning on trying piano lessons, or perhaps guitar or drums, when my older son turns 5. And I definitely thinks he likes watching other musicians perform (as does my soon-to-be-3-year-old). Playing music changed my life, and I hope my kids follow in my footsteps.

However, if you, like me, don’t enroll your kid in a toddler music class, no need to feel badly. They’re not missing too much. As long as you do something with your preschoolers— whether that’s going to the museum or playing in the back yard — you’re on the right track.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

5 Heavy Metal Artists I Wish would Make a Children’s Record

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

In 2016, I interviewed a ton of rock mamas who made children’s music — from big name rockers like Amy Lee of Evanescence and Priscilla Ahn to kid-music-genre mainstays like Laurie Berkner.

But I couldn’t help but wonder, as my kids and I jammed out to each of these ladies’ records, what would an Axl Rose children’s album sound like? Or one by Ozzy Osborne?

And so I arrive at this list: The five heavy metal artists whom I wish would make a children’s record:

1. Alice Cooper. The shock rocker and “Trash” talker in eyeliner (and dad) would definitely have my attention if he wrote an alternate version of “Poison” with lyrics that touched on the dangers of drinking tonics in the medicine cabinet (or breaking into Dad’s pillbox and downing his cholesterol medication).

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Rockmommy Lita Ford

2. Slash. The lead guitar virtuoso with the killer black hair would bring legions of toddlers to the Hair Metal Nation station if he recorded an electric-guitar version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and planted a face-melting spider-solo (whereupon his fingers crawled down the neck of the guitar) at the end of the song. No doubt his sons would be jamming out to this tune, too.

3. Lita Ford. The mother of metal (and two grown boys) shreds with the best of them, and sings with the best of them, too. Who wouldn’t love to hear “Kiss me Deadly” reimagined with PG-rated lyrics that 4-year-olds could enjoy? Let’s see … “I went to the play date last Saturday Night … didn’t get to play, got in a fight. Oh no! It ain’t no big thing!” 

4. Glenn Danzig. Deep down, Mr. D. is definitely a mama’s boy (I mean, c’mon, he has a song called “Mother,” right?). I’d love him to turn that “Mother” song into a kid-friendly version so 5th graders everywhere could sing, “mama? Do you wanna bang heads with me?” Or maybe he could try rewriting the lyrics to Lucifuge’s “Long way Back from Hell” so kids would hear his big voice atop a cool, dive-bomb guitar tune?

5. Sepultura. We need more gravelly death metal vocals in children’s music, because they pay homage to Cookie Monster. And they help children who aren’t aspiring to be Adele have more realistic goals (e.g., to sound like Cookie Monster). Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura, who wrote one of my favorite records (Chaos A.D.) and has another tour coming up (how they’ve managed to survive with all those lineup changes is beyond me) is well positioned for this kind of project.

Did I miss any good ones? I’d love to hear any other ideas for a heavy metal children’s album, so please post in the comments and thoughts below.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Feeling Gratitude for Guitars, Guys, and Other Good Things

Wow! I can’t believe this year went by, just like that. I feel like it was yesterday when I was making my “resolutions” list (yeah, I still do one every year — totally aspirational and noncommittal), and now we’re on the brink of a new Presidential administration, reeling from the recent passing of Carrie Fisher, George Michael, and a host of other beloved individuals, and feeling equal parts hopeful and fearful.

Or at least I am.

I’m grateful that as I write this, I can reflect on so many wonderful milestones in my sons’ lives, and my life with my husband, friends, and family. Nathan turned 4, and Logan turned 2. The older one can now dress himself and draw pictures, and keeps asking for drum lessons. The younger one is playing soccer and swimming — and spends his spare time singing Bob Marley songs, while armed with my ukulele. Most of the time, I’m feeling an awesome balance between my personal life, and my life as a writer, musician, and teacher.

I’m not going to pretend that some of the more dismal news — like what’s happening in Aleppo/Syria, political discourse, and economic hardships — doesn’t affect my spirits. But I’m also feeling tremendously grateful. Things can always get worse, so it’s important to appreciate what we have.

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy New Year! xoxox Marisa

What Badass Rocker Moms Really Want for Christmas (and Can Open in Front of Kids)

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

There’s still time to score the perfect gift for the rockmommy (or rockmommies) in your life. We’ve picked the perfect combinations of naughty and nice for singers, guitarists, jazz pianists, drummers, bassists — or pretty much any mom who loves to rock out:

  1. Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick; $21: Our favorite tattoo artist’s line of matte and metallic lipsticks — with names like “Slayer” and “Hexagram” — will make mama feel bad to the bone (and beautiful).
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    Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick

    Blank NYC Vegan Leather Moto Skinny Jeans; $118: Nothing says rock n’ roll quite like leather pants, and this cruelty-free faux leather pair has the edgy look mama wants when she’s toting her toddlers about town.

  3. Drummer Pillowcase; $14.99: With its gorgeous drummer painting motif, this plush throw pillow will inspire anyone to break out their sticks.
  4. NYC Guitar School Online Courses; $50-$119: If she wants to brush up on her soloing skills or learn to riff like Slash but doesn’t have the time to trek across town to the nearest music school, gift her with a pack of online lessons taught by some of the best musicians at world-renowned New York City Guitar School.drummer_pillow_case
  5. Burt’s Bees Baby Organic Plaid Pajama Set; $39.95: Plaid is super punk rock, and can be cozy, too, when she wears these cool PJ’s on Christmas Eve. If you’re feeling festive, splurge for pairs for the whole family!
  6. Pick Punch; $25: Crafty mamas and their guitar-strumming offspring will love this cool pic punch, which lets you make pics out of any old piece of plastic.

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    TASCAM DR-05

  7. TASCAM DR-05 Portable Digital Recorder; $84.99: Help Mom capture every precious sonic moment of your little rocker’s first live show — or record her next gig — with this super-convenient, high-quality recording gadget.
  8. Christina Aguilera MasterClass, $90: Is the rock mama you love an aspiring singer? If so, she’ll love having some “me” time to indulge in 23 video lessons taught by one of the greatest pop-rock singers (and mom of two) of the past two decades.

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