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

Girls Girls Girls’ Nikita Seis and Tawny Lee on Reviving the ‘Crüe,’ Partying with Tommy Lee (and MGK), and Gigging in 2021

NYC-based Mötley Crüe tribute band Girls Girls Girls plays such a high-energy, awe-inspiring live show that phone calls and email requests to play private events are pretty much the norm (as are fangirls like me).

So when the band received a random email in late 2018 about playing a private party in Los Angeles, GGG bassist Nikita Seis was hesitant to celebrate. It just seemed like another fan request.

Girls Girls Girls, NYC’s Mötley Crüe tribute band, partying with Tommy Lee in 2019.

I just got the typical email that I always got about possibly ‘playing a private party in LA in March,’” Nikita tells Rockmommy. “I was on my way to see The Struts with a friend and told her about the email, and how nine times out of ten those are just some random person asking us to play their party and they never pan out.” 

But her mindset changed a few hours later as she pulled in to the driveway of the suburban Nashville home she shares with her husband and kids, and the host of SiriusXM’s Hair Nation confirmed the date for the release of Mötley Crüe’s biopic The Dirt, for March 22nd.

“At that point I realized there was a chance the two could have something to do with each other, and the next day, when I spoke to the woman in charge, it was confirmed,” Nikita tells Rockmommy. “She told me the filmmakers wanted us and it was contingent on all four members of Mötley Crüe signing off on us.”

After dusting off their instruments and scrambling over the next six weeks to bring on a new singer, rehearse like crazy, and try to stay sane while balancing job responsibilities and parenting, the band pulled off a visually and musically epic rock set at LA’s legendary club Whisky a Go Go — to the delight of an audience that included none other than Tommy Lee and Machine Gun Kelly (who plays Lee in the movie), front and center.

Girls Girls Girls rocking out. (Photo: Drew Osborne)

It’s a moment and a memory bassist and rock-n-roll mom continues to savor, especially now, as the excitement around live music’s return is being tempered by the delta variant, and the summer 2021 window for worry-free gigging is starting to close.

But she — and the rest of her Crüe-playing bandmates, including lead singer Trixxx Neill, guitarist Denise Mercedes Mars and the drummer better known to GGG fans as Tawny Lee — remain hopeful, even in the midst of uncertainty.

We recently caught up with Nikita and Tawny to talk about the tribute band’s 15-year legacy, and how they balance rock aspirations with work pressures, motherhood (Nikita’s kids are 11 and 9), and life on life’s terms. 

Rockmommy: I’m so psyched to interview Girls Girls Girls! What’s the coolest thing you’ve done in the last two years?

Nikita Seis: This is probably obvious, but getting to play the afterparty for the ‘Dirt’ premiere at the Whisky [in Los Angeles] was probably the coolest thing we’ve done in the last 15 years!

The show itself was very surreal, playing ‘Kickstart my Heart’ and then watching Tommy Lee and Machine Gun Kelly walk down the stairs and come over to the side of the stage and start rocking out. I felt like the whole thing happened in slow motion and I’m not sure how I even hit the right notes. It was like I was just sort of out of my body, because I did spot them when they started coming down the stairs.

That’s the side of the stage I usually play on, and we’ve had several fans over the years tell us we’re “wrong” because our Nikki [Sixx] and Mick [Mars] are reversed, but we decided to switch for that show. If we hadn’t, I’d have been right next to Tommy. Denise [our guitarist], as always, was so engrossed in her playing she didn’t even notice him! 

Tawny: OK, obviously playing at the Whisky afterparty with Tommy Lee air-drumming up front was the coolest thing we did in the last two years/ever. The second-coolest thing, on a personal note, was playing Toronto in January 2020. 

My sister, GGG backup singer Hurricane Yoshi, had just moved to settle in Toronto the month before, after over 10 years of living in NYC, so being able to perform with her in her new hometown was pretty sweet and helped dull the pain of the slap in the face that is losing your sister to Canada (or any other country, to be clear).

Rockmommy: How did the Motley Crüe movie experience come about, when you went to LA?

Nikita: I’m not sure how they found us, but I just got the typical email that I always got about possibly ‘playing a private party in LA in March.’ I was on my way to see the band The Struts with a friend and told her about the email, and how nine times out of ten those are just some random person asking us to play their party and they never pan out. 

But when I got home from the concert and pulled in to my driveway, I heard on SiriusXM’s Hair Nation ‘Mötley Crüe has announced ‘The Dirt’ will finally be released on March 22nd.’ 

At that point I realized there was a chance the two could have something to do with each other, and the next day, when I spoke to the woman in charge, it was confirmed. She told me the filmmakers wanted us and it was contingent on all four members of Mötley Crüe signing off on us. This was right before Christmas, so she said we might not have an answer immediately.

This was okay for us because we hadn’t played in three years at that point and didn’t really have a permanent singer, so it bought us some time to find one. We auditioned Trixxx Neil and one other girl via video. The show confirmed right around February 1st and we had about six weeks to prepare for the show of our lives, with a singer we’d never performed with and with a band member (me) living in a different state. To have pulled it all off felt like a huge achievement!

Rockmommy: What was the last gig you did in the “before times” in early 2020? 

Nikita: We were so fortunate to have played a couple of gigs in Canada in January/February 2020. COVID was just hitting the news, and we had to answer some questions on whether we’d traveled to China recently while going through customs. I remember seeing that a few cases had been reported in Atlanta, and I was flying through there, but it still felt like it was just hype. We got to play a club in Toronto and a casino in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Rockmommy: When the pandemic happened, what did you do? So many people played acoustic shows on FB Live, but that’s hard to do with a full band! 

Nikita: I never really felt a need to put GGG out there during the lockdown. We’re best as a live band, with the makeup and the outfits and the energy of the crowd. Personally, my bass stayed in its case from when we got back from Canada until we booked our most recent show that we just played. 

Tawny: On account of unfortunate timing, I moved to a new apartment during the height of the NYC pandemic, and I’ll admit I went into full lockdown mode and put my drums into various storage spaces — under the bed, on closet shelves, in ceiling storage, down in the basement — and didn’t dig them out until our Maryland show [in summer 2021] was booked.

Rockmommy: Speaking of Maryland, what was that like? Was there a renewed appreciation for what you’re doing? 

Nikita: It was great to be out there again, but there was also sort of a weird cloud hanging over things, with delta sort of starting to emerge. Like the first “welcome back” thing that happened was showing up to the grounds and finding out we had a different sound man because the person I’d been talking to all week was now in the ICU with COVID. And the day before I was supposed to leave, both my husband and son got sick. They tested negative for COVID, but I had the stress of possibly having to cancel the show. I was grateful that it was an outdoor show. We all want to return to normal but it still doesn’t feel totally within reach. But the bikers and fans at the show were awesome and it did feel good to be on stage again!

Tawny: The members of the Hell’s Angels we met were among the sweetest, most respectful guys we’ve met on the road. It had been so long since we played that it felt brand new again, meeting the other bands on the bill, doing sound check, meeting people from the audience… It was great.

Girls Girls Girls! (From left to right: Denise Mercedes Mars, Tawny Lee, Nikita Seis, Trixxx Neil)

Rockmommy: So all-girl tribute bands have grown, but good ones are rare. Do you get compared with Mötley Crüe a lot? Are people shocked (or not surprised at all) that girls can KICK ASS playing like the pros?

Nikita: We’ve been together almost 15 years now. I do kind of feel like back in those days we got a lot of surprise at the fact we were girls kicking ass, but thankfully we’re hearing that part less these days.

Rockmommy: GGG’s members have tons of personal responsibilities. Like kids, spouses, and jobs. How do you make time for music?

Nikita: It’s got progressively harder for me at least. My kids are 11 and 9 now. It’s easier now than when they were younger, but it is still hard to find the time to practice. Thankfully, since I’ve been playing these songs for so long, it’s really just minimal upkeep. I have a very supportive husband who steps up when I have to fly out a few days for rehearsals or gigs. 

The last gig that I played in the same city as my family was in 2016, and my son was 5. At that time I didn’t want to have him at the gig because I felt like I’d have a hard time being Nikita and not being Mom. Now I’d like for my kids to see me play at least once, so I’m waiting for the right show so they can see me. They’re getting to the age where I’m not cool anymore, so hopefully I can change their minds!

Tawny Lee: I have zero kids, and it’s still hard making time! So big props to Nikita and all the other musician parents out there. My career has always been pretty demanding, but GGG is important enough to me that I will always make time, even if that means working in the van with no internet or plugging in at a hotel “business center.” Which has been tricky at times, given that historically my work has had no idea about my side gig. It can be tricky to reasonably explain why I’m driving to PA and then OH and then upstate NY in a three-day stretch, or why I’m visiting Alaska in January.

Rockmommy: Any upcoming shows for the fall, or tour dates?

Nikita: We have a few upcoming shows we’re scheduling that we haven’t announced yet! Hopefully with the pandemic they all go off without a hitch!

 Rockmommy: What is your favorite Motley Crüe song?

Nikita: This is like asking who your favorite child is. But ‘Live Wire’ is sort of the song that kicked off the first album, first video, etc., and it really set the tone for their whole career. Just a kickass piece of music, with a little bit of cowbell!  And ‘Girls Girls Girls’ will always be one of my favorite songs, not just because it’s our namesake. 

I remember being a sixth grade girl watching that video for the first time  There’s a part at the end where Nikki Sixx is summoning a brunette to come to him, and I remember wanting to be that brunette. As inappropriate as that is, that’s the girl who steps on stage now with her bass, even if at home I’m a mom who drops her kids off at sports before going to book club.

Tawny Lee: Yeesh, Sophie’s Choice. ‘Live Wire’ overall, ‘Primal Scream’ for the beat, ‘Ten Seconds to Love’ for the ridiculous lyrics, and…’Public Enemy #1’ because it makes me happy. And ‘Take Me to the Top.’ And…OK I’ll stop.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Blues Guitarist Rafe Klein of the Name Droppers Talks Music, Dad Life, and Gigs in ’21

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Connecticut-based blues rocker and guitar-wielding dad Rafe Klein first caught my attention when I watched a virtual livestream of his solo set in mid 2020. But it wasn’t just his cool guitar chops (he studied with the legendary Charlie Karp in his 30s) and singing that impressed me. He had a presence — an unmistakable confidence and earnestness in his delivery — that piqued my interest and kept me listening. 

So I was particularly excited about his latest project — a musical collaboration between his band the Name Droppers and international recording artist Carole Sylvan, which culminated in the record ‘Love’ that dropped earlier this summer. The record, produced by Vic Steffens, is loaded with funky guitar riffs, rich, soaring vocals, and danceable beats. 

Rafe Klein (far left) and the Name Droppers with Carole Sylvan (center). Photo courtesy of Rafe Klein.

We recently caught up with Rafe to talk about what’s next, including his September 2nd show at Café Nine (New Haven) with Frank Viele.

Rockmommy: Hi Rafe! How would you describe your music for those who haven’t heard you? 

Rafe Klein: The Name Droppers play blues rock. I really like the idea of using traditional blues riffs, but using them differently, maybe less frequently, or perhaps as a reprise. Then turning them into a non-traditional blues song, which could be, but is not limited to, the standard 1-4-5 progression, but still recognized as a blues.  

Rockmommy: So when did you start playing guitar?

Rafe Klein: I started taking lessons about 13 years ago. At first just playing chords, mostly on acoustic. Then I started playing electric, and began to learn how to solo, started working my way around the neck. I’m still learning, and always looking for ways to improve my playing.  

Rockmommy: How have you been making the most of gigging and playing out this summer?

Rafe Klein: We’ve had a decent amount of shows this summer, and fortunately, most of them were well attended. I think because of the pandemic, certain venues now have twice the budget, since most of last year’s budget is still available to them. 

But now, because of the new Delta variant, bands, and booking agents are both thinking twice about booking gigs into the fall or winter. It’s a complete unknown, and it may be something we’re all just going to have to deal with for a while, or maybe even longer.  

Rafe Klein (Photo: Kvon Photography)

Rockmommy: You made a record with international recording artist Carole Sylvan (‘Love’). Is there anything more you can tell us about the music?

Rafe Klein: This record, produced by Vic Steffens, has been a work in progress for over two years. Besides the Name Droppers, we’ve got a great lineup of additional musicians, including soul man Bobby Harden, who is a guest vocalist on a song he wrote called ‘What Do You Call It.’ 

Carole’s ability to put together vocal arrangements and do all the parts and background vocals herself has really impressed me. I’m proud of the record, and think its collection of original songs, plus a few covers like ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ — one of my favorite songs — make it stand out, and hopefully make some noise.

Rockmommy: What are your hopes (and plans) for making music this fall? 

Rafe Klein: Fortunately, ‘Love’ is being played on over 100 college radio stations in the United States, and we will be supporting the album. Carole Sylvan & The Name Droppers have two shows lined up this Fall: Cafe Nine in New Haven on September 2nd, and a return Triad Theatre in New York City on November 11th.  

Rockmommy: What’s your advice for balancing parenthood with being a musician or creative person?

Rafe Klein: If you try to make your kids part of your creation, it can be rewarding. This is not easy, however. I have made a few funny videos where my kids are the main characters. Working with your kids in a creative environment is not the same as working with your musical peers. 

There is a lack of attention, as well as the fact that you are their dad, and not their dance instructor or creative instructor. It can be frustrating, but really cool and rewarding when it works. Encourage your kids to play instruments. Especially the drums if you can handle the noise. Playing drums can open up all kinds of talent or curiosity. The ability to keep time can lead to learning other instruments, or better musicianship.  

I also think if you over-encourage them it could be a problem too. Let them want to do it. If it comes from you, it’s probably not cool. But if a friend from class starts playing violin, for example, and then your kids come home and want to take up violin. Letting it happen organically is more productive then forcing them to learn or practice something that they may not value. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

5 Ways the Hella Mega Tour Rocked My Summer

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Like everyone who snagged tickets to the Hella Mega Tour — a stadium concert starring post-grunge legacy bands including Green Day and Weezer, joined by Fall Out Boy and my current favorite, The Interrupters — I was stoked and charged up. I couldn’t wait for the punk rock/alt rock event of the summer of 2020. 

Fast forward to August 2021, after a year and a half of live-music abstinence, when we finally parked at Citi Field. To say I had developed a renewed appreciation for live music would have been a huge understatement. I felt an excitement not unlike that of my earliest teen years, when going to a large stadium rock show felt decadent and thrilling — and rebellious. 

To some extent it was “rebellious,” although I’m an adult mom who can go where she pleases. I was rebelling against recommendations to stay home, given the delta variant. 

Me and my hubby at Citi Field on 8/4/21 for the Hella Mega Tour.

Nevertheless, savoring the show was so right for so many reasons. Here are 5 ways it charged my depleted spirit in the uncertain summer of 2021, when the U.S. got a “breather” of normalcy before the big Covid whiplash.

1. It took me back to my roots. I grew up listening to rock n’ roll, and was turned onto punk and ska in the late 90s. Unlike other rock genres, there’s an urgency in the pacing — barre chords in quick succession — that I’m drawn to. I’ve loved other artists from other genres, but I’m always 16 when I hear bands like Green Day and The Interrupters. 

2. I saw Weezer for the first time. Somehow I missed seeing Weezer in my youth. It’s not like I didn’t hear “Buddy Holly” on the 99.1 WHFS — the FM radio alt-rock station in Washington, D.C. I did. But I’d never seen Weezer, or Rivers Cuomo, live. He was so badass, strapping on his V-shaped guitar and singing — and he sounded exactly like he always had, age be damned. I sung along to at least half the set — most notably, the cover of Toto’s “Africa.” 

Singing along with Weezer’s version of “Africa” at the Hella Mega Tour stop at Citi Field

3. I realized Green Day only gets better with age. I actually wasn’t a huge Green Day fan in high school. Of all the alternative music I was exposed to, Green Day felt so mainstream compared with, say, The Lunachicks or Murphy’s Law. In my 20s, I would cringe as my ex-boyfriend would play the first three chords for ‘When I Come Around.’ That changed when I saw the band perform live, bringing an unstoppable energy to the stage. Billy Joe Armstrong is a force of nature. 

“Roam” (Trashing Violet) on Spotify

4. I got to sing along to The Interrupters. Doug, the bass player for my band Trashing Violet, who is now a good friend, introduced me to The Interrupters in mid-2019, when were debating cover songs to play. Aimee Interrupter sounded so much like Brody Dalle, but with a touch less angst. I was hooked when I heard “Take Back the Power,” and within months “Kerosene” became my personal theme song. I can’t believe I’d missed the band’s earlier albums, pre-Fight the Good Fight, but to be fair, I was preoccupied with raising toddlers between 2013 and 2018. 

5. the show helped me forget about Covid, even if for a night. This stupid virus isn’t even worthy of capitalization. I hate it so, so much. I hate the fact that we cancelled a show with my friends Shame Penguin because of the delta variant, and I hate that my kids have to wear masks to school to stay safe. So it was nothing short of ecstatic bliss when my vaccinated husband and I wove through the T-shirted, tattooed masses in Citi Field to find our seats. To live again, and relish the pure joy of live rock and roll, felt so good and indulgent. I have never appreciated music more — and I cannot wait to see another summer stadium show soon.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Superstar Bassist Divinity Roxx — Who’s Toured with Beyoncé — Drops Uplifting Back-to-School Jam (and Practice Tips)

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Grammy-nominated bassist Divinity Roxx made a name for herself playing R&B, funk and hip hop alongside musicians like Beyoncé. But’s it’s her solo bass slapping and lyrical riffs — poetic, hypnotic, and pointed — that take me to a different headspace (check out ‘Rebel’ here)

This fall, Divinity’s creating more of that — for the next generation. Her latest song (and video) “Ready Set Go!” is funky, fun and inspiring tune that we all need now, after the most challenging academic year in modern history.

“Put that pep in your step, put that pride in your stride,” she sings to the beat as a cool keyboard-and-bass melody flutters underneath, urging the listener to embrace the day.

Divinity Roxx

“When I started writing the lyrics, they seemed to write themselves,” Divinity Roxx tells Rockmommy. “I wanted to talk about being prepared for a new day and everything that goes into that. I wanted kids to feel like every new day is filled with possibility and as long as they were prepared, they could meet that possibility with success.”

We recently caught up with Divinity to talk about making music, theory and the best way rockmommies like me (with small hands and limited time) should practice.

Rockmommy: Hi Divinity! For our readers who don’t much about you, how would you describe your music?

Divinity Roxx: My music is a mood elevator, a culmination of all the genres that have inspired me over the years based on hip-hop and funk. 

Rockmommy: How long have you been playing bass? Did you start with another instrument? 

Divinity Roxx: I’ve been playing the bass since my 2nd year in college. I played the clarinet throughout elementary and middle school.

Rockmommy: This song “Ready Set Go!” is such a perfect ‘back to school’ anthem right now. It’s super catchy! How was this created? 

Divinity Roxx: Ready Set Go! was created initially as part of a pre-k curriculum. They were looking for a song about being prepared, so I thought the title ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ was perfect. When I sat down to write it I wanted to create something really fun and catchy. 

One of my favorite songs is ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ (I’m not kidding). It is the simplest song, yet it is so profound, lyrically and musically. It will also stand the test of time. I’m always striving to write a song with all of those qualities. Twinkle is also in the key of C. I wanted ‘Ready Set Go! to be in the key of C but I didn’t want a typical 1, 4, 5 progression. So, I used a bit of my theory knowledge and started playing chords on the piano around the key of C but starting on F major, and eventually, I began making my way around the progression of the song, which still turned out to be a 4, 1, 5 kinda thing. 

After looping that for a bit and adding the drums, I picked up the bass and began playing around the progression. The line started writing itself. I’ve learned to let the bass do that. I try to interfere but the bass is usually telling me what it wants to do, and it’s always right. 

My favorite part of the song is the bassline, especially in the 2nd half of the chorus. It kinda feels like that Atlanta skating rink vibe. I’m from Atlanta and I used to love skating at the skating rink. My dad would take us there on the weekends. The DJ kept the party going so I wanted to keep the party going in the song. When I started writing the lyrics, they seemed to write themselves. I wanted to talk about being prepared for a new day and everything that goes into that. I wanted kids to feel like every new day is filled with possibility and as long as they were prepared, they could meet that possibility with success.

Rockmommy: How was the video produced? It’s so fun! 

Divinity Roxx: I wanted to make a lyric video because we didn’t have much of a budget to hire a videographer and do the whole music video production hullabaloo. We (my wife and I) set up two tripods and recorded the video with our phones (iPhone and Android) in front of a green screen in our apartment. We spent a day recording me by myself performing the song in my home studio. Then we asked our little primo and my Goddaughter if they’d like to be in the video. 

They loooved the song and had been singing it for months so it was only right to have Sofia and Ryan join us. Again, in front of the green screen in our apartment, after their parents said yes, of course. I was resistant to editing the shots myself because there were so many good shots to choose from and I wanted someone else who was looking at it from a different vantage point to choose the best shots so I had a friend of mine who is a talented video editor edit the video.

I had found a company online to do the graphics and sent them some reference ideas about how I wanted it to look and they knocked it out of the park. Lyricvideo.tv. Those guys are great. I think they’re based in India.

Rockmommy: What are some of the best musical moments you’ve experienced this summer? 

Divinity Roxx: This summer, while strange, has afforded me some awesome musical moments. I was really excited about a song I was featured on, ‘Family Reunion’ with a fellow Family Music artist, Fyutch. I also played my first Family Music live show at Levitt Pavilion in Westport, Conn. That was exciting. And I played an adult show in Tenafly, N.J. and gained a new group of fans. I hadn’t played live in a long time so it was great to get back on the stage. Still got it… ;). 

Rockmommy: What are you looking forward to, or hoping for, for the fall? 

Divinity Roxx: I’m looking forward to releasing a full-length Family Music Album titled ‘Ready Set Go!’ in October and I’m also looking forward to releasing my next single, ‘Happy and Healthy’ in September alongside an even cooler project that I can’t disclose at the time but I really hope I’m able to share it with Rockmommy when it drops. 

Rockmommy: How can I get better at playing bass while trying to juggle everything else in my life?

Divinity Roxx: Try to use the time when you are practicing to experience some joy. If you set a 20-minute timer to “practice” be sure that you split that time up into sections, with a warm-up (1-2 minutes), some focused scale stuff (5-7 mins), and then some jamming (playing songs, making up songs, jamming along to records, etc) (12 mins).

And/or switch off between focused practice and focused fun. I think when we start a new instrument as adults (especially when we already play an instrument), we spend too much time judging ourselves and whether we sound good, or whether we’re improving-which means we aren’t having any fun. Playing music is supposed to be fun. And if you only have 20 minutes, then make it the most fun 20 minutes of your day.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Getting Kids to Practice their Musical Instruments is Harder Than I Realized

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

“Logan, can you practice your piano please?” 

It’s a question asked daily, sometimes three times, to my 7-year-old Beethoven-loving son. And the response is almost always the same:

“NOT NOW!!”

To which, I’ll usually follow:

“YES NOW!”

To which, he’ll caterwaul:

“Not yet, mom!”

It’s unbelievably frustrating. I try to be patient, because badgering my kid is not how I envisioned I’d spend motherhood.

I never took piano lessons as a kid. I’d just play with the keys on the baby grand at my grandmother’s house, trying to figure out how the sounds could make a song. I learned “Chopsticks” from Nana, and the tail end of a few other songs from my friend Karina. I didn’t pick up an instrument (other than the recorder) until I was 16, and no one offered me lessons. I didn’t know what “Middle C” was until deep into my 20s.

So when I’m nagging my son to practice piano, I’m frustrated. Why won’t he do it on his own? Doesn’t he realize how lucky he is that I’m paying for lessons? What should I do to encourage him to pick it up (without my asking)?

My son Logan, practicing piano with his bear Ludwig watching.

The irony is that I always prided myself on getting kids to practice guitar, before I became a mom. Since becoming a guitar teacher 2006, I’ve learned to create challenging but manageable practice schedules for kids. While some kids don’t practice at all, at least 70% of my students over age 7 do, at least twice a week.

[SEE RELATED: 6 Ideas for Getting Your Kids to Practice Between Lessons]

But man, being a mom is different than being someone’s music teacher.

I’m keeping this post short because I have to go remind my little pianist, yet again, to practice his keys. I have to remind him that Ludwig Van Beethoven practiced every day, for hours and hours, before he became a master of the keys.

So if you’ve mastered the art of getting your little ones to eagerly play their piano, guitar, or whatever — even when they’d rather play video games, I want to know your secret. How are you encouraging your budding musician to build his or her repertoire and skills?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Annie Keating’s Brooklyn-to-Bristol County Journey Results in Gorgeous, Road Trip-Worthy Record

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When the pandemic hit the NYC metro area, lots of families hunkered down, and a few lucky ones ventured out — transplanting from two-bedroom apartments and brownstones to more bucolic parts of the country to experience a new kind of “remote learning.” Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter, guitarist and indie Americana artist Annie Keating was one of the lucky ones. And in April 2020, she bid farewell to the city, and — along with her wife and kids — traded her beloved borough for Bristol County, Massachusetts, until the end of the summer.

Annie Keating (Photo Credit: Ehud Lazin)

What emerged from that challenging period was a fresh perspective and new material: Annie’s latest record, Bristol County Tides, is an emotional, 15-track journey, evoking nostalgia (“Hank’s Saloon”), grit (“Third Street”), and longing for change (“Marigold”) during uncertain times. Hands down, it’s the best record for road trips in summer ’21. 

“The creativity and connections born out of pandemic isolation combined with the beauty of the Bristol County tides and environs shaped and inspired these fifteen songs,” Annie tells Rockmommy. “Something deep in me woke up during this time. I think you can feel it in the songs.”

We recently caught up with Annie to talk about her latest batch of tunes, family life back in Brooklyn, and playing out. 

Rockmommy: Hi Annie! I love your record! Did all these songs come together during the pandemic? 

Annie Keating: Thank you and yes, all 15 songs were born April through October, most in Bristol County, Massachusetts. Only the last few (Goodbye, Shades of Blue and Lucky 13) were penned back in Brooklyn when we returned from 5 months away in late August, 2020.

Rockmommy: I’m particularly fond of “Hank’s Saloon” because it was place in Brooklyn, and I relate to trying to stay sober. 🙂 How did that song come about? 

Annie Keating: That’s a fun song and it was a pleasure to write. Yes, Hank’s Saloon was indeed a beloved dive bar in Brooklyn that I played various times. It had a great vibe. You walked in and didn’t want the night to end. Anyway, soon after arriving in Bristol County, Massachusetts, and making new friends, one of them shared an old country music playlist with me, featuring songs by Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson and other greats. The playlist had tons of songs I’d never heard that were just fun, good time old country tunes, and it made me want to try writing a song like that — a summertime song that’ll make you smile. 

Annie Keating’s song “Marigold” from her album Bristol County Tides.

So, I found myself starting with the lines, “I don’t want to stay sober, I don’t want to be good. I’m tired of being measured doing all that I should. If you want you can find me at hanks saloon, if you’d like to get happy today drinks start at noon.” 

From there it was easy to see where the song was going, “Like that summertime evening you don’t want to end, that’s the way I feel whenever we spend time trading stories, drinking cold beer in the hot sun – you make me feel like summer has just begun.” 

Rockmommy: So for this record, how was the PHYSICAL writing process different than that of previous albums, given what was going on in the world and your family’s relocation? 

Annie Keating: The physical process was different in that, although I always write from an emotional place, these songs were deeply rooted in an uncertain, transformative but also an inspired time. The creativity and connections born out of pandemic isolation combined with the beauty of the Bristol County tides and environs shaped and inspired these fifteen songs. Something deep in me woke up during this time. I think you can feel it in the songs. There’s a physical yearning, vulnerability, joy and sadness that comes through on this album more than any other I’ve written — like you can feel the emotional journey and identify with it through your own transformative experiences. My dog learned to swim, my boy learned to fish, and the city girl in me gave way to the country, captivated by the river and the tides high and low. I bought a boat and learned to navigate it through the channels where the fresh water meets the salty sea. I found unexpected kindness and connections in a time of isolation.

Annie Keating

Rockmommy: What about the emotional process? A lot of trauma was happening in the world in 2020, some that’s continuing into 2021! 

Annie Keating: I answered some of that in the last questions I guess but yes, like other artists, songs written during this complicated emotional time couldn’t help but reflect the pandemic experience. 

The song “Half Mast” for example, was one of the first songs I wrote in April and you can feel the collective shock and pain of the dark, early COVID days. We were all pretty much on lockdown and you can hear the sadness in the lyrics, “Time is moving slow, thoughts are racing fast nowhere to go, flag’s at half-mast. Monday brought the sun, Tuesday came the rain, Wednesday I just lost track of the days. World turned upside down, we go on just the same, as things fall apart, we carry on. Days they still start with the sun.”

There’s something about that idea of flags being stuck at Half Mast everywhere that felt just right for that time. We were all in our own kind of mourning and captivity in those early days of the pandemic. Writing these songs was part of the emotional process of navigating what was happening in the world. 

Rockmommy: How are things now? Have you returned to Brooklyn? What about your family? 

Annie Keating: Things are good. It feels good to be home and so great to see Brooklyn opening up, eating at my favorite restaurants again (I went to my first movie with my 18-year-old daughter, “Summer of Soul” [in June] and it was AMAZING!). I’m so grateful that my kids — ages 14 and 18 — are both doing well and resilient despite the deeply challenging last year. My daughter is going off to college soon, my son starting high school and I’m just so thankful that they’re both able to live life, be with their friends again and … experience all in-person joys! Remote learning was no fun. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.


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

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

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

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

Esther Crow (photo by Dan Crow)

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Esther Crow (photo by Dan Crow)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.