About rockmommyct

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

The Green Orbs’ Heather Hirshfield on Music, Videos and Raising Teenage Girls

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

The Green Orbs’ music is infectious and silly, as in laugh-out-loud silly — and that’s exactly what the band, made up of brother-sister duo Heather Hirshfield and Eddie Rosenberg III, want you to do. Don’t believe me? Just watch the carnival-worthy “Mr. Mustache,” and you’ll agree. We sat down with Hirshfield, a piano teacher and mom of three, to get the scoop on the band’s upcoming release, Thumb Wrestling Champions (out September 7). 

Green Orbs_ukes_photo credit Nicole Michaelis

The Green Orbs

Rockmommy: You have an amazing musical background! What did you listen to growing up?

Heather Hirshfield: I listened to a wide variety of music growing up. My parents had a really cool domed-top deco record player and a huge collection of records and 45s that we listened to on a daily basis. The Beatles were very popular in the house, but we also listened to Billy Joel, Paul Simon, The Beach Boys, Beethoven, Mozart…..gosh, really so many great artists and composers to list! When I received my own record player as a present, I listened to a lot of musical soundtracks like Grease and Annie, and also Disney storybook records. My sister and I loved to put on The Monkees and dance around our room. We really were constantly listening to music. Music was, and continues to be, a huge part of my life.

Rockmommy: Before the Green Orbs, did you play other music? What was that like?

Heather Hirshfield: As a kid, I played piano, and played marching trombone in the marching band. I enjoyed both immensely, but I gave both up when I went to college which in hindsight was a huge mistake. After having my children, I started playing piano again and remembered how much I loved it. I did not really perform anything, though, until my brother and I started The Green Orbs.

Rockmommy: I read a bit about how you and your brother got started — can you tell me about how your latest collection of songs came about? Was there an inspiring idea/theme?

Heather Hirshfield: Our new album “Thumb Wrestling Champions” is the end result after many, many years of work. We were just writing different fun songs over the years, until we realized we had enough for an album! There is no overarching theme, but many of the songs were inspired by my girls, either through stories that I told them when they were little, or by something that they may have said.

Rockmommy: Let’s talk about video for a second. In the era of YouTube, having a video that connects to your audience is super important. How do you come up with the concepts for the video? Do you and Eddie sit around and brainstorm? Do you seek feedback from little ones on what connects?

Heather Hirshfield: We have been talking about videos a lot for this album! We haven’t had a brainstorm session specifically for videos … we just share ideas as they come to us. Personally, OK Go’s videos have been a huge inspiration for what is possible in a music video and I hope one day to be able to create a video as epic as theirs! As far as feedback, our niece and nephews are our sounding board right now.

Rockmommy: What are your most popular songs? is there a particular age group that connects with your music?

Heather Hirshfield: We have played some of our songs from the album for school children and “Doug the Bug” is always a huge hit. “The Suction Cup Shuffle” is also well-liked because it gets everyone up and dancing. We also have a group of songs in the YouTube Audio Library, and an instrumental song called “Splashing Around” that my brother wrote is hugely popular!

I think that kids 3-12 will really enjoy “Thumb Wrestling Champions,” but, of course, we hope that anyone who listens to it will enjoy it!

Rockmommy: You have three daughters! How old are they? What are some of the challenges you have with balancing motherhood and making music and everything else?

Heather Hirshfield: My girls are now 18, 16, and 13, and it is still a struggle finding time to do anything! I am so fortunate to be able to work out of my home as a piano teacher and musician for the last few years so I am here when they need me. On the other side of that, though, I really had to work on setting boundaries with them and letting them know that I can’t drop everything to get them a snack when I am working on something on the computer. It was also hard for me to realize that what I was working on was important and that I didn’t have to be at my kids’ beck and call constantly.

Rockmommy: What advice do you have for other rock n roll playing mommies (and daddies)?

Heather Hirshfield: My advice would be to always do what you love and remember that it is important that your kids see that you are passionate about whatever it is that you are doing, whether it be work or a hobby, so that they will have the desire to go out and find their own passions.

For more, check out the band’s social media feeds: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Respecting – and Reflecting on – Soul Queen Aretha Franklin’s Legacy

By G.T.

It is hard to think of someone more ubiquitous in providing influence and inspiration than singer, songwriter, and musician Aretha Franklin.

An icon in music, it would be easy to characterize her legacy simply by listing the recognition she received across more than five decades of recording history — 17 Grammy awards and 31 Grammy nominations. Her first win came with her first nomination in 1968 (a win in the best R&B vocal performance category for her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect”) and the last in 2008 (a win in the best gospel/contemporary Christian music category for her duet with Mary J. Blige on “Never Gonna Break My Faith”). Her influence was further recognized when she became the first female musician inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul

But what cements her legacy is not encapsulated in a trophy or enshrinement, but rather in how far reaching her voice influenced and changed music, empowering women to find their voice and command respect without compromise.

And a career without compromise remains a tough road for any musician to travel on. With forces trying to pigeonhole musicians into genres and identities that can be marketed and sold, Aretha Franklin is evidence that paving your own road has its rewards. Her earliest musical roots lie squarely in the gospel space and as she expanded and explored into more secular spaces of soul, R&B, and pop, it became more about completing a picture rather than settling on an identity, fusing different aspects to create a sound that is uniquely Aretha. Even more impressive is that she was able to accomplish all this while remaining relevant in a 50+ year career regardless of the trend of the day in an ever-changing musical landscape.

Her songs encapsulated that notion of empowerment, starting with that first Grammy-winning song, which accomplishes the rare feat of a cover recording becoming the definitive version of that song. Other songs in her repertoire speak to that, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools”, and “Think”, the latter of which makes an appearance in the 1980s film The Blues Brothers, and features Aretha performing it with all the spirit the song entails. In just her short six-minute appearance in that movie, you can see just how powerful she is as a performer and how she can draw upon all her secular musical and gospel roots to create an everlasting moment in just one scene.

And that musical legacy will survive well beyond her days as evidenced by the multitude of artists across all genres that draw upon her body of work to cover from their own perspective (remember the hard rock version of “Chain of Fools” from the band Little Caesar, released in 1989?) and to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul.

What makes Aretha’s history and story even more inspiring is that she was able to stay true to her musical vision in a time when African-Americans were fighting for basic rights. And not only that, she was able to use her music to be not only a soundtrack for the civil rights movement, but she also put her money where her soulful voice was and helped financially support Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The Rev. Jesse Jackson recently told the Detroit Free Press how she quietly funded payroll and would work with Harry Belefonte to help keep the civil rights movement moving, using her voice in concert to raise money without keeping any for herself.

And she stepped up to support women of color in their time of need, even if she was not necessarily in support of their beliefs. She was famously quoted in a 1971 interview in Jet Magazine as offering to post bail for then jailed Angie Davis.

“Angela Davis must go free,” Franklin said in that interview. “Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up… and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a black woman and she wants freedom for black people. I have the money; I got it from black people.”

Of course, Franklin had other odds stacked against her. The queen of soul had four children — she was only 14 years old when she had her first, and had to balance motherhood with schooling and later, stardom.

Aretha Franklin’s star will continue to shine as a beacon of hope — immortalized in songs that inspire and empower and backed with deeds that reflect that the songs she gave the world were not simply songs but a glimpse into the kind of life that she lived. She is a true representation of the power that music has to change the world.

GT is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.

 

My Kid Doesn’t Want to Be a Rockstar

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

He’s only 6, but my oldest child, Nathan, has made it quite clear he doesn’t want to play guitar, piano or drums. He doesn’t want to sing either, or be in any kind of musical group or glee club. 

Nate

My little rockstar Nathan (who doesn’t want to be a rockstar) 

Part of me is a kind of bummed about this. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of making music, and when I finally joined my first band in my early 20s, couldn’t wait till my first gig. I loved singing and writing songs. Even poetry, my truest love and most intimate artistic expression, was a gateway to songwriting and music. 

So of course I assumed I’d pass on this love. I keep my collection of guitars and amps in the play room, with instruments of all sizes scattered about. There’s a drum kit and a piano in the basement. I’m not unlike other musician parents — like Julie Rustad, Trish and Chris of The Natch!, or rockdaddy Philip Dickey — who have played instruments or formed bands with their kids. I envisioned days spent making tracks on Garage Band with my special guy. 

[RELATED: ‘I Started a Band with My Toddler’: The Nap Skippers’ Julie Rustad on Life and Gigging with a Wee One]

But aside from singing a few little lyrics here and there, Nathan shows no urge to play along with me. Like most little dudes, he identifies with my his dada — a baseball lover. He wants to play all sports all the time. I love sports too, but still: I can’t help but envy other parents whose minis want to be in their bands. 

As I navigate his instrument-free, singing-free life, I hope to remember that the most important thing I can do is encourage my child to try new things. Maybe my little guy’s destined to be a painter, computer programmer or an engineer. Maybe he needs another mentor who isn’t his mother, to guide him into a life of gigging or playing. 

Maybe I shouldn’t spend so much time thinking about these things. 

There’s still time for him to come around, to pick up a microphone or a guitar and fall in love.

He’s only six, after all. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

The Most Danceable Kiddie Record for Ska- and Punk-Loving Parents is Coming in September

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Kids Imagine Nation — an Orange County-based, three-piece kids’ music group with members from ska band Suburban Legends — is releasing its second album, a cheerful party record that should be played while your 6-year-old frolics about in a bouncy house (or in the kitchen). The record, simply titled Kids Imagine Nation Two,  comes out in September. I’ve already listened and can attest that it’s loaded with lots of super high-energy tunes — my favorites are “Rock Party” and the hilarious kiddie workout accompaniment “Exercise.” 

TWO album artwork

The album is the perfect anthem for Southern California parents who skate or listen to lots of ska, surf rock or West Coast punk fans. Preschoolers will vibe on the good energy. Think of it this way: If Gwen Stefani launched a kiddie music side project, this is what it would sound like. 

Speaking of which, if you’re in Los Angeles, check out the group’s early morning performance at The Grove on October 4, filled with more original songs and stories that entertain and inspire kids. 

Jessie Baylin Talks Music, Making New Record ‘Strawberry Wind’ and Baby No. 2

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Jessie Baylin’s smoky voice, whimsical spirit and adorable songs have made Strawberry Wind — an Amazon Original album available for digital download through Prime Music — one of my family’s favorite summertime jams. 

Rockmommy recently caught up with Nashville-based Baylin, who in April welcomed son Oliver Francis Followill with husband Nathan Followill (of Kings of Leon), and big sister Violet. 

Here, Jessie shares her inspiration for the new album, dishes on her love of great food and tells us why the struggle for balance is real. 

Rockmommy: Tell me about Strawberry Wind (loved “Supermoon” video). What inspired this record? Is it true you were pregnant during the recording?

Jessie Baylin: This record was something I wanted to explore for a long time. Amazon gave me the opportunity to make it and it was inspired by my daughter and also the dreamer and the child within all of us. I was pregnant when we recorded Strawberry Wind! I didn’t know I was until about a week after we finished the album that there was indeed a strawberry boy in my belly. haha.

Rockmommy: How is motherhood influencing your creative process?

Jessie Baylin: It’s taken over my creative process a bit, ha! Though I have found that being a parent can be incredibly inspiring and filled with moments that are worth more than anything in this life, I still try and carve out time for when I can be creative. I am still in the newborn phase with my son so I am not quite there yet.

Strawberry-Wind-Cover-web-largeRockmommy: How’s the work-life balancing thing going? I hear you had a second child recently!

Jessie Baylin: Life at home is my priority, trying to figure out how to do this with two children. It is a lot but I’m rolling with it, and now that my son is sleep trained and on a schedule I think ill be able to see the light now.

[RELATED: Cheri Magill’s Tour Guide Chronicles Day-to-Day Adventures in Motherhood]

Rockmommy: In your spare time, what else do you like to do?

Jessie Baylin: I love to cook at home and connect with my friends. We have a lot of big dinners at the house on the weekends, and that brings me a lot of joy.

Rockmommy: Do you and your husband [Nathan Followill] try to carve out time to make music together? Or are you mainly doing your own creative things these days?

Jessie Baylin: Typically we don’t make music together though we love listening to albums together and discovering new records to listen to at the house. There’s always music playing around here.

Violet and Oliver courtesy of Jessie Baylin

Jessie Baylin’s little baby and his big sis.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Cardi B Fall Tour a ‘No Go’ as Singer Experiences the Pull of Motherhood

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Cardi B has discovered that motherhood changes “everything, everything, everything.” Like many of us, underestimated how hard it would be to bounce back to her music career post-baby — specifically that six weeks isn’t enough time to properly get back to work, mentally or physically. 

In YouTube and Instagram updates posted last week, the new mama announced that she was postponing her fall tour with rockstar Bruno Mars because she needs to focus on raising her baby. 

“Doing a tour with Bruno Mars at the biggest arenas…. I won’t be able to dance properly, do choreography … and my mind is so weird,” she said. “Postpartum shit, it’s real.”

Check out her full diatribe below:

On a personal note, I was practically rolling on the ground when Cardi says her baby is like “gimme the milk NOW!” 

Anyone who’s had a newborn can attest to this. 

Or, as Cardi B puts it, “There’s this feeling that as soon as the baby came out that I have … it’s like … I can’t leave my baby for one second.”

[RELATED: Cardi B Sets a Bar for Playing a Gig While Pregnant]

Fortunately for her, Cardi B is a zillionaire and can afford to take a break from her career. But so many mothers cannot. Maternity leave — or rather, paid maternity leave — isn’t a government-granted privilege.

Most employers don’t give nearly enough paid time off (if they give any at all) to employees. The women at my kids’ daycare, for example, typically only take two or three weeks off before they have to go back to work. Because they’re hourly workers, and not salaried workers, they don’t receive disability payments or any compensation for not working. As this article rightly pointed out, maternity leave is an elite benefit. 

“I respect mothers more than ever now,” said Cardi B in her video. “I see mothers differently.” 

Let’s hope Cardi B’s realizations can lead to some advocacy for the millions of Americans who aren’t offered a single day off work following the birth or adoption of a child, and the 1 in 4 new moms go back to work 10 days after childbirth, according to PL+US research. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Should Rocker Moms Change the Way They Dress After Having Kids? I Say No.

On the cover of my album “Sex & Guitars,” which I released more than ten years ago, I’m wearing a vinyl miniskirt, leaning back in a bed, guitar in arms, eyes seductively gazing into the camera. 

marisa-mini1I still love seeing this photo of me in my pre-kids, pre-marriage days — although (sadly) I don’t wear the vinyl skirt much anymore for lack of opportunity (it doesn’t feel quite right for a PTA meeting or mommy-and-me gym class). Perhaps I shouldn’t be sad: The black vinyl skirt represented a sexy, racy moment in 2008 that resonated with the album’s theme — love, careless flings and heartbreak. That moment felt amazing to live, and is wonderful to remember. 

Fast forward to 2018, and I’m a mom of two very young boys. And while I still rock a tight dress, I feel a little weird when I put clothes on that are provocative and un-momlike, at least in the traditional sense. This is true whether I’m going out with my girlfriends or playing a gig. 

[RELATED: “Baby Clothes with Guitars and Gender Roles”]

I’m not necessarily surprised by my feelings. Women are frequently slut-shamed for how they dress, and still expected to carry on differently when they become wives and mothers. I’ve heard more than one comment from certain relatives that I should give up bikinis in the summertime, although I find one-piece bathing suits uncomfortable. As such, there’s a tiny voice on rock show nights that asks, “Marisa, is that really appropriate for a mother to wear?” 

So today, as a favor to myself, I’m posting this photo of me in my favorite black mini dress, the stretchy one I tend to wear onstage these days, my parental status and age damned. I work out and eat healthfully — why shouldn’t I wear what I want? But even if I didn’t work out and eat healthfully, I should still be entitled to wear what I want. 

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

I wholeheartedly believe in self expression: Anyone, regardless of their size or shape, should be able to wear the clothes that most resonate with their spirit, and makes them feel most beautiful. While there are certain events that dictate style — for example, I wouldn’t wear a vinyl skirt to a church service or a crop top to a parent-teacher conference — why should having kids mean I have to stifle my self expression on stage, when I am performing?

Of course, some have said my kids may feel weird as they get older, seeing mom dressing like a 25-year-old in a concert hall. But maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe we should challenge ageism and the idea that women who flaunt their bodies should cover up the minute they get pregnant, never reverting to their carefree youths. Maybe challenging flawed ideals will help our children embrace their own inner rockstars, however such self-expression manifests itself, when they are performing or creating art. 

OK, that was a mouthful. 

In all seriousness, I’d love to hear from my readers in the comments: Should rocker moms dress less provocatively after becoming parents? If so, to what extent? Are there any limits to self-expression in parenthood?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy