About rockmommyct

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

Inside the ‘Kindie Rock’ Life of Rockmommies Jennie and Sarah of The Not-Its!

by Jennie Helman & Sarah Shannon

“Just one more bedtime story, then I’ve got to get to practice.” Good night family, hello “band family.”Cover for digital

That’s what we tell our kids on the one night a week we hang out for the purpose of working on old and new tunes and connecting with one another. We represent the girl power of The Not-Its! We’re tutu-wearing, 40-something rocker moms. We play what’s known as ‘kindie rock’ — if you’re not familiar, that’s independent rock for kids and their grown-ups.

And our bond in this band is so strong; we are lucky.

We’re raising pre-teen girls (Sarah with two and Jennie with three), maintain day jobs, and have our own start-up businesses on the side – Lugabag(Jennie), a travel seat for toddlers that attaches to a rolling suitcase, and Rockaboo (Sarah), a preschool music, movement and mindfulness program.

As we juggle year-round show schedules, travel, writing songs, recording albums, practicing, The Not-Its! is what we like to call our “jobby”— somewhere between a job and a hobby. It’s a job because we work really hard. It’s a hobby because it doesn’t pay the bills, but it brings us great joy.

We get to create music with dear friends, see new places, connect with incredible kids and families, and contribute to communities in a positive, soulful way. We’re often asked how the heck we have the energy to do what we do. And the thing that makes most sense is that we believe in and do what we love, and that keeps us young at heart.

Our bandmates are also parents: Danny, Michael and Tom also manage day jobs along with their “jobby” with the band. Our Not-Its! kids are a lucky bunch — they always get free snacks in the green room, stage access, studio play, and cool trips (we all went to India a few years back).

But as moms we’ve struggled. There are the daily worries of being spread too thin, vacations cut short, missed soccer games, the perennial “to do” lists stacking up. We know every mom can relate. Yet over the years we’ve been able to let it go, recognizing that we only get one shot at life — we have to do what we love knowing everyone around us will benefit. Our girls see us challenged, making mistakes, determined to get it right, working hard. We know they’re watching and learning.

It’s easier now than when the girls were toddlers and it was a constant balance of parenting while playing. Either the girls were rocking out or tugging at our tutus (“Can’t ya see I’m singing here, kid?”). There are too many sweet moments to count. Sarah had a song where she’d call her oldest to the stage, pull her in her lap and sing about a story they made up together. Sometimes the kids would cry the entire show because they should have been napping, or make their way on stage for more crackers. After one show we found Jennie’s daughter literally asleep in her open bass case backstage.

And as the girls have entered middle school, being engaged looks just a bit different. Being older and more independent, they share ideas that we eagerly mine as gems for content. Now and again they slide us a new lyric, brainstorm song content, grab the mic during sound check, act silly (but cool) with their friends at a show.

Our songs have to connect with both kids and parents – no matter what age. As an example, “Curriculum Night” (off our latest album, Ready or Not), evokes that feeling of parental excitement (tinged with a bit of anxiety) in meeting your kid’s teacher. The lyric about “grown-ups squeezing into tiny chairs,” is a memory we can all relate to… every year from Kindergarten on. Kids laugh, parents get it. Item number one in our band’s manifesto (even though we don’t really have one) is to make music that we want to hear with lyrics that are not dumbed down — and our kids are a good “first test” audience.

We see a toddler boldly walk on stage as if they were a part of the band, or a family dancing together. We hear from fans that they played one of our records over and over on a road trip and it didn’t drive them crazy (or secretly share that they play our tunes even when their kids are not around). Stories like these give us a great sense of lift and gratification. Rocking out family-style at a live event or to a favorite record builds stronger connections and inspires what we do. There’s nothing better than experiencing music together, no matter whose family it is.

Our worlds are not perfect, but they sure are rewarding — and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jennie Helman (bassist) and Sarah Shannon (lead singer and former member of the Sub Pop group Velocity Girl) live and work in Seattle. The latest album by The Not-Its!, Ready Or Not,was chosen as one of the top albums of 2018 by the annual Fids & Kamily poll. Catch the latest news about The Not Its! and their upcoming concert dates at www.wearethenot-its.com and view their new video “Hide and Seek” on their video page.

Folk-Rock Mama Edie Brickell’s Big Comeback is Blissfully Nostalgic

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians in the late-late ’80s, when Casey Kaseem played a video clip of “What I Am” — highlighting the ditty as one of the week’s hot movers on the Billboard 100 chart. I was young, and loved pop music like Debbie Gibson — but also loved Guns N’ Roses — and Edie Brickell was unlike anything I’d ever heard (my parents played the Beatles, The Zombies and Elvis, but never any Jimi Hendrix, Eagles, Grateful Dead or Woodstock-worthy rock).

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Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians in Portchester, N.Y., on 11/08/18

I was instantly hooked on the dizzy, slide-guitar tune from the six-piece band that I wanted to use my allowance on the band’s debut record, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars. I’ve never looked back. The hours I spent listing to “The Wheel,” “Nothing,” “Little Miss S,” “She,” “Circle,” and — of course — “What I am” were well spent.

But I’d never seen Ms. Brickell (who some refer to as Ms. Simon, per her famous husband).

Turns out, she was busy being a mama (of three kids, no less), and dabbling in musical side projects all of these years. So when I found out her band was coming to my area, I went nuts!

Thursday night’s performance at the Capitol Theater in Portchester, N.Y., was epic. Yes, Edie’s voice has changed (the timbre is a little different), but she sounds terrific. And the New Bohemians, with their drums-percussion-keys assault, play in perfect harmony. I loved every second of it, from the classics to the new tunes off the just-released album Rocket like “Eyes in the Window.”

I’m hoping for more great shows like that in the future!

Marisa Torrieri is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

These Rockin’ Mamas and #GranniesWithGuitars Decry Stereotypes About Who Can Play a Killer Solo

By Francesca Farruggio

Everyone uses the term “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” in different contexts…

Food for thought: your sweet and innocent granny can totally shred on guitar. Let that sink in for a moment.

I know, it’s weird to imagine grandma rockin’ out (at least for some of us) but we all have hidden talents from our youth that tend to get suppressed over the years. And why should we snuff out these sparks in our personality as we age?

All we’re saying is, don’t let these special parts of you slip away — embrace them! Play drums till you’re 80, or finger-tap a Van Halen-worthy solo till you’re 90.

And now … here’s a #RockGranny absolutely killing a quick set. Much respect!

 

We also fetched a couple of great articles from ABS-CBN News and VIR capture 81-year-old guitar-slinging Singaporean granny Mary Ho discussing her still-growing relationship with music. “Maybe it’s just my nature, it’s the love of doing things, learning things… I don’t ever get tired,” she said.

All hail Mary!

So if you can’t find the motivation to pick up your axe and shred, ladies like these should be your inspiration. If you’re a newbie who always wanted to play an instrument, these ladies should convince you it’s “too late” to try. Mary Ho didn’t start playing until she was 60! 

And of course, let’s not forget the clip of pearl-wearing Paula Jo Taylor, going to town at NAMM 2017 in Nashville, which has garnered nearly a half a million views.

Yes, we’ll say it again: You’re never too old to let your inner Rock God out — music has, and always will be for the soul, where age is simply a number, my friends!

Francesca Farruggio is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.

Ben Rudnick: How My Daughter Inspired My Favorite and Best-Known, Musical Project

by Ben Rudnick

As a songwriter, I aim to be like my good friend Jeff, who plays harmonica and mandolin in an internationally famous Canadian rock band. The band had a big hit in the late 1980s and my pal is now a “micro celebrity.”

Inspired by Jeff and his Canadian rock and roll cool as the measure, I place myself in the sub-micro-celebrity realm. My band and I have played over 900 shows, recorded twelve CDs, accumulated seven Parent’s Choice Awards, have a play based on characters I’ve created in songs and have recently started releasing digital singles.

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Rock daddy Ben Rudnick of Ben Rudnick & Friends (Photo credit: Susan Wilson)

It’s also safe for me to say that this fun and rewarding ride never would have happened had I not sang silly songs with my daughter Emily when she was very young.

When we were crossing the street to go to preschool, we’d sing “I need a hand, when I’m crossing the street.” Pretty straightforward and to the point for sure! We’d sing it over and over and skip our way to school. Good times indeed. With that seed I wrote a song called — wait for it! —  “I Need a Hand.” That song went on our first CD, Emily Songs, and was a runner up in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Yoko liked it!

[RELATED: Stay-at-Home Rockin’ Dad Gunnar Madsen on Parenthood & New Projects]

At some point Emily and I were coloring and started singing about the colors we like. Ultimately that led to us dancing around the living room naming all our favorite colors. “I Like Silver, I Like Gold” kicked off that first album and has been the most played song in our repertoire. Colors never go out of style!

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Singer-songwriter Ben Rudnick with his daughter Emily.

Another everyday endeavor that led to one of the band’s most-requested songs was making macaroni and cheese for lunch. Or dinner. Or lunch and dinner! Whatever. The point is I made a lot of macaroni and cheese, which led to Emily and I singing “macaroni and cheese is so good to me, macaroni and cheese makes me say please” and the song, “Macaroni and Cheese.”

So okay, I’m an extreme example of where singing silly songs with your offspring can go but the point is it was really fun. The songs we created came from everyday activities. It’s all a state of mind. That it’s given me actual sub-micro-celebrity status is gravy.

Have fun with those kids! Enjoy these days.

Ben Rudnick is a father and the band leader of Ben Rudnick & Friends. See the band perform the 17th Annual Holiday Extravaganza at the Cabot Theater in Beverly, Mass., on Saturday, Dec 8.

The Most Rock n’ Roll Pumpkins Ever

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I don’t know about you, but I’m over the moon that it’s Halloween! While I normally don’t spend hours on social media (though my husband would probably disagree), Halloween is one of those days when I’m entrenched in it. I love seeing the pics of little kids’ costumes, decorations and festivities.

I’m especially tickled over some of the cool, Pinterest-worthy rockstar pumpkins I’m seeing.

Check out this Martha Stewart one:

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Or this one, from the Firewire Blog:

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And this one is another favorite (also from Firewire):

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Enjoy the day — costumes, candy, pumpkins and everything else!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Finding Bandmates, Post Parenthood: Why it’s a Real Challenge

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’ve been in bands easily half my life. Much of the time, they’re formed out of friendships, work/school connections or circumstance, plus being in the right place at the right time.

That’s how Grandma’s Mini, my longest-running Washington, D.C., rock band with my bestie Ann, came together. I met her at a new job, we clicked, I had her over to “jam,” and before the night was over, we’d written five or six songs. The same thing happened when I formed Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties with my friend Morgan. I started working at the New York City Guitar School, met Morgan, clicked with Morgan, and bam — she joined my namesake band. From there, we started other bands through the NYC Guitar School Connection.

IMG_1717A few other times, I’ve used personals — like when I met my friend Debbie, a drummer and singer, who wanted to launch her own musical project. Or, I’ve met musicians through open mics and the music “scene” — rock shows at bars, mainly. And I met one of my guitarists while he was working at Guitar Center in Brooklyn.

But as a parent, I don’t have time to work the scene, to make friends and connections by going to lots of shows or open-mic nights. I barely have time to go to Guitar Center, or any music stores. I’m lucky if I see one band a month. Much of this has to do with the reality that I live in a suburb, a beach town in Southeast Connecticut. Were I still living in New York City, I’d find musicians left and right.

[RELATED: The Ramoms Take on The Ramones, Mixing Motherhood and Punk Rock in Philly]

At the moment, I’m at the mercy of Craigslist — which weirds out some people — and whoever finds my Bandbox profile, in trying to find a bassist and drummer. Craigslist has given me a few good leads — a bassist who’s also a dad, and a drummer who lives 40 minutes away. But the drummer bowed out at the last minute after deciding my musical interests didn’t match hers, and I have yet to meet the bassist.

Another challenge is that SO many people in my neck of the woods want to start cover bands! Don’t get me wrong — I love playing a good cover or two, and at one point, started my own all-girl cover band. But I want to write, sing and play originals. I want to create, not recreate, a song.

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From my band Grandma’s Mini’s DC gig at The Pinch in September 2017

So I’m hopeful, and I’m open to suggestions. Is there some untapped band-finder resource out there for suburban moms? An online directory of bored drummers who live in New England? Please share in the comments if you have any good tips.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

 

 

Timing Yourself: A Helpful ‘Push’ to Practice When Life Gets Hectic

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Music is all about timing. Quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and so on. But so is pretty much everything else. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about timing lately, as I always feel like I’m running out of time, between working, mothering, sleeping, breathing, and slipping in workouts and volunteer commitments. It’s impossible to do everything I’d like to do perfectly — or at least as well as I did pre-kids — because I have so many things competing for my time. 

However, I’ve found that lately, timing myself, as in literally setting a timer when I need to get something done, can be extraordinarily motivating. 

[RELATED: Finding Time to Practice in the Midst of a Busy Life]

Say I need to clean the kitchen. That’s boring. But when I set the timer on my microwave for 7 minutes, suddenly I’m moving faster than a Jimi Hendrix solo. If I didn’t time myself, I’d just drag condiments from the floor where my kids spilled them my kitchen counter to the refrigerator. 

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Jimi Hendrix, master of timing (and guitar solos)

Timing yourself comes in handy in the musical sense, too. Two days this week, I had only 15 minutes to spare before I had to pick up my kids from school. My first thought was “nah, I’ll just fold laundry.” But my second thought was, “wait, that’s 15 minutes to play guitar with no distractions.” And I set my timer and plugged my Gibson SG into my  50-watt amp and BAM! It was time for a mini set. I jammed away happily, feeling like I had all the time in the world. I didn’t worry, knowing that the little timer would go “beep beep beep” when it was time to put the guitar down. And sure enough, it did. But not before I got through three songs. 

Of course, music should be spontaneous and fun. Relaxed. There should be no time-induced pressure to write a song, jam on a Friday night with friends and a bottle of wine, or practice a drum solo. But when you just need to practice when life gets busy, a timer could be your secret weapon, a gamechanger in your hectic day.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.