I had all of these big plans to post an article today, but I spent the entire morning at my kiddos’ Halloween parades at their respective schools. It’s alright — posting content is awesome but today is their day. I’d be shocked if any parent had a “productive” morning, work-wise. So here, in honor of the Great Pumpkin and the spookiest holiday of the year, is my Avengers family, Halloween 2016.
By necessity — for lack of time and resources — I’ve defaulted to the category of “solo” artist. And in November, I’ll bring my one-woman act (Marisa Mini) to two venues: Branded Saloon in Brooklyn, and The Lumberyard in Redding, CT.
In some ways, this is a blessing. It’s also the way I started, and the way many (if not most) of us start playing music. Flying solo, I have the ultimate flexibility in my set list: If I feel like playing an old tune from 2003, I can pay it. If I want to play the tune with a cool reverb effect, I don’t have to run this by anyone. Ultimately, it’s my decision to go with the reverb. Or with the flanger, etc.
I have complete creative control over wardrobe, too: I can’t tell a bassist to wear a sexy leotard (I wouldn’t do that anyway, but still!). If I’m feeling like a leotard, I’ll put one on. Or if I’m just in an Vans-and-jeans mood, that works, too.
Yet as thrilling as it is to play a set that I control, there’s something lonely about the prospect of playing a solo show. Especially because I know how wonderful and fun it is to collaborate with other musicians.
If I have more time by myself, I can get into a self-critical mode, second guessing my song choices or even whether or not I can hit notes in my head voice. Also, without the live sounding board of a band, I don’t know if the set arrangement I’ve considered represents the right choice.
The vibe of a solo show is different from the vibe of a full-band show — and this kind of sucks sometimes. I don’t want to be a “coffeehouse girl” — I want to be a full-fledged rock and roller! But the sole act of playing guitar all by myself, only accompanied by a microphone and an amp, screams “coffeehouse girl.”
There’s also something terrifying too. When you’re playing with a band, the entire team shares the blame when a mistake is made. Because if you sound shitty, it doesn’t matter if it’s because the guitar is out of tune or the drums are ill-timed with the bass.
When you’re solo, you are the one who is credited for your amazing pipes or clever lyrics. But you’re also the one who is frowned upon when you play the wrong note.
I can no longer blame “the drummer” if there isn’t a drummer to blame!
The bottom line is that I simply don’t have time for anything else but a solo show. I don’t have time to search high and low for musicians, or to even drive to a rehearsal space that’s more than 10 miles in from my home. I don’t have time to argue with bandmates about how a set should or shouldn’t be arranged. I only have time to finesse my guitar chops in the comfort of my own home, and to sing when no one is listening.
But I can promise you this: I play an engaging and sonically inspiring set at both my Brooklyn and Redding shows this month. I know this because I’m practicing my tail off, sneaking in guitar-fingering exercises ever hour or so, while my kids are in preschool.
So, your kid wants to be a rockstar — for Halloween. Unless you’re the type of rockmommy who breaks out the sewing machine for costumes, or spends hours on Pinterest in search of cool, DIY dress-up ideas, you want to order something — and fast.
However, navigating the vast array of kiddo rockstar outfits can be overwhelming. And unless you’re a member of a KISS cover band, you probably don’t have a ton of glitter, face paint, fishnets, or other rock-and-roll-esque props on hand.
To help you along, we compiled a list of five cool, ready-made outfits for little kids and bigger ones:
1. We can’t get over how cute this Toddler Elvis Costume Romper is — and neither will you when your little “Hound Dog” lover prances around his preschool parade.
3. If your 8-year-old loves your old hair metal records, she’ll love this ’80s Glam Rocker Child Costume, complete with tank top, vest, tattoo sleeve, belt, leggings, head tie and an assortment of rock pins.
5. This Rock Star Glam Girl Costume features a sleek baby pink jacket and striped dress with a sparkly belt that reminds of us of a.) that Electroclash band we used to love in the early ’00’s; b.) the ’80s New Wave era that we barely got to experience. Inflatable guitar not included, but it’s definitely a must!
If you’re like most moms, you’re busy as heck, trying to juggle school schedules, a zillion activities, and a tiny bit of “me” time. If you’re falling short on the latter, having a few quick workout videos on hand (that you can do anywhere, anytime) can make a huge difference in your mood … and your month!
While getting abs like Gwen Stefani’s may seem out of your reach, the good news is you don’t need to do a lot to strengthen and tone your midsection — and look and feel amazing.
Here, I’ve put together a workout using a Bosu ball and hand weights that you can do several times per week in order to build those rockstar abs. Now, the only thing you need to do is buy a cute crop top to wear for your next gig.
Disclaimer: These exercises aren’t meant to replace the advice of your physician or other health professional. Always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Lisa Loeb’s music brings me to my happy place. I’ve felt this way since 1994, when I was an impressionable teen who aspired to be like the cool kids in “Reality Bites,” the movie that featured Loeb’s first hit single “Stay (I Missed You)” and put her on the alt-rock radio airwaves.
Over the years, as Loeb has taken on various acting, musical, and public-service roles, the genesis of who she is — a singer-songwriter who makes uplifting, sweet, and sometimes offbeat music that’s simple yet sophisticated— hasn’t changed a bit.
As such, Loeb’s sunny energy is unmistakable in her latest children’s record “Feel What U Feel.”
The first two tracks, “Moon Pie Star” and “Say Hello” set the mood for a fun and delightful listening experience. My other favorite songs include the tambourine-and-disco-charged title track “Feel What U Feel” and the folksy “You Can Count on Me,” which I enjoyed hearing while racing Hot Wheels cars with my kids.
Lisa Loeb (photo credit: Juan Patin)
Overall, the record offers a mix of tunes. Songs like “Wiggle” are meant to be listened to when you’re in an equally silly mood, hanging with a toddler. Other tracks, like the thoughtful ballad “It’s All Right to Cry,” are relatable to kids and adults, and best to listen to when not playing Hot Wheels.
More than anything, Loeb’s latest album shows that great pop music isn’t necessarily bound by age and lifestyle. Since Lisa and I share even more in common these days, as moms of 4-year-olds (she also has a 6-year-old) who want to stay creative, “Feel What U Feel” is a timely addition to my music library (and makes me grateful for my Amazon Prime membership, which allows me to stream the record for free!).
Recently, Rockmommy sat down with to chat with Loeb about her musical endeavors, creative projects, and motherhood. I’m thrilled to share that as warm and sunny on the phone as she is in her music:
Rockmommy: Lisa, I’m so excited to talk to you! What inspired your latest album?
Lisa Loeb: I’ve been making kids’ records since 2003, way before I had my own children. It started when I asked my friend (Elizabeth Mitchell, a well-known, Grammy nominated children’s artist, to help me out. It’s not that I was super into kids’ music but because I connected to records like Carole King’s “Really Rosie” when I was a kid. That album was produced in a way that was really for grown-ups, and I remember thinking the lyrics were really interesting; the songs were more like books and stories put to music. I loved how the stories went to different places than normal songs would go, I always felt so cool listening to it as a kid. So, Elizabeth and I collaborated and recorded “Catch the Moon.”
After making my first few children’s albums and storybooks, I started playing kids’ shows regularly. I would play classic songs like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ and the kids would rush the stage. It was the equivalent of when I sing ‘Stay’ for grown-ups. The more I toured, I realized that there’s a lot of value to these classic songs. And as I became a mom later on, I realized that one of the things that connects with kids was these nursery rhymes and songs. When I later recorded an album of classic songs (‘Nursery Rhyme Parade!’ for Amazon), I decided didn’t want my kids to hear a reggae version or heavy metal version. I decided to record the most simple and classic version of these songs you can sing along with anytime, whether it’s nap time or diaper changing time, or even dinnertime.
For my new record, “Feel What U Feel,” I decided to return to writing originals. I love that this album will also be coming out on Amazon. When you’re a busy person in general, the convenience of going to Amazon Prime is mind boggling. And in this world where people don’t go to record stores, I thought, ‘it would be really great to see if more people heard about the record by going somewhere where they’re shopping for kids’ stuff anyway.’
For ‘Feel What U Feel,’ I wrote a handful of songs, songs, like ‘Wiggle,’ where kids can dance along, and ‘You Can Count on Me’ which was really about all the milestones. If you listen to the message it emphasizes individuality. I’m telling the listener, ‘you can do things alone, but you can always rely on me.’ I see this as an all-ages album. There are some songs I wasn’t sure if I was going to put it on a grown up record or a kid’s record.
Rockmommy: Who is the listener you had in mind? The tween girl? A first grader? A mom with kids who wants something to sing along with in the car?
Lisa Loeb: Part of me has this idea that everyone will want to listen to it… like kids my son’s age, who are 4, and 5-year-olds who understand language and can take in some of the details. I hope grown-ups and grandparents listen to it too. At my live shows, I play my song, ‘The Disappointing Pancake’ (from the book-CD Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing Along) sometimes. Grown-ups enjoy that song a lot. Kids’ music has informed my writing as a grown-up, and when I’m playing songs live, people of all ages like listening to them.
Rockmommy: How do you differentiate between audiences, and what your grown-up fans and kids what to hear?
Lisa Loeb: For some shows, I have had to write two set lists. You have grown-ups and kids… and you don’t know beforehand who’s going to be there. Sometimes I ask people if they have a request. If it’s more little kids in the audience, I play the classics, and more songs about monsters and that sort of stuff. As I perform I start to feel what’s right for my audience, based on their response.
Rockmommy: Everyone love the song “Stay (I Missed You).” Is it a blessing or a curse to have that one iconic song?
Lisa Loeb: A blessing! I’ve been around a lot of other successful artists, and so I’ve been able to watch their relationship with their hit songs. The people I know who can appreciate the good things and not be so connected to their ego and what people think of them tend to be happier, more creative people. There’s one famous duet I know, with one guy who not as famous as the other — he is the more the secondary guy. Recently when I saw the duet and got to hang out with them backstage, the ‘secondary guy’ was surrounded by friends and family, enjoying the show and what he did. But the more famous guy was standing by himself, kind of grumpy, and angry he didn’t have new songs to play.
So, for me to have a song where people come running to the stage because they know it, that’s great. Yeah — it would be awesome if they knew every other song I’ve written that’s a good song, but I know a lot of people who don’t have any hit songs who are great musicians. I always hope I can pull people in with a song like ‘Stay.’ The thing I’ve heard more than anything after shows is, ‘Lisa I only knew that one song … I didn’t know you had other good songs!’
Rockmommy: Any advice to other rocker moms on how to balance doing what you love with being a full-time parent?
Lisa Loeb: I think it’s a team sport. The only way to do something is to prioritize it — whether it’s working out, sleeping — anything you want to do you have to prioritize it. Schedule it, and let others know it’s a priority. It’s not always easy. Sometimes I’ll think, ‘I should be reading to my kids … I shouldn’t play my guitar,’ but then I step back and say, ‘You know what? This is important to me, and I read to my kids a lot.’ Sometimes I look back and say, ‘Ugh, I shouldn’t have gone to that concert.’ Sometimes you don’t know what’s most important. So, you just do your best.
Pregnancy, like playing a rock show, is physically demanding. Your body is expanding, you feel increasingly exhausted and uncomfortable, and simple tasks such as climbing a flight of stairs can cause you to break into a sweat.
But while there’s lots of guidance on whether to go to a loud rock show while you’re pregnant (spoiler alert: most docs think it’s totally fine), there isn’t a lot of advice circulating in cyberspace about playing a show while pregnant. Specifically, it’s hard to find advice on how to adapt to adjust for your changed physical and mental state.
Rockmommy founder Marisa Torrieri Bloom, at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, plays a gig at six months pregnant in 2012
Fortunately, plenty of moms — including me! — have played while expecting I’ve seen more than a few of moms-to-be armed with guitars, drum parts, and the like play some pretty amazing rock and roll shows. In fact, a couple of moms I know went on tour during their second or third trimester.
Whether you’re thinking about hitting the road for a five-week tour, or playing a couple of gigs before bunkering down for a year of sleepless nights with babes, pregnancy doesn’t have to hold you back from experiencing your rockstar moment.
Of course, it goes without saying that if you feel uncertain about anything, you should talk to your doctor. Since I’m a pretty athletic person, wielding a guitar while standing and singing wasn’t a huge physically exhausting feat during either of my pregnancies — but I definitely needed to make some major adjustments (see #2). But for some people, particularly those with high-risk pregnancies or physical limitations, playing a gig while expecting isn’t going to work.
For those of you expecting mamas who want to play a show or several, here are six tips to follow:
1. Focus on fun first. If you’re reading this blog, you probably LOVE playing live music and rocking out on stage. But depending on the kind of pregnancy you’re having, you may or may not feel like doing much of anything right now. If you’ve decided to play a show because you really really want to play one, try to stay positive as you practice and plan — don’t get tripped up about not being able to do cool backbends or wild acrobatics (if that was your thing pre-pregnancy), or about others judging you for putting on a few pounds. Just focus on delivering a kick-ass show with your bandmates, and the rest will follow.
2. Scale back as needed. Whether you play three-hour sets that rival those of the Grateful Dead, or you play drums, fast and furious, for a punk band, you may be surprised at how exhausted you are after doing something pregnant that you’ve done a million times before with no problem. If you find yourself tiring easily, consider trimming down your set (or skipping the physically demanding songs) so it feels more manageable.
3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! If you’re knocked up, you need to drink more water than usual (The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink about ten 8-ounce cups). And if you’re knocked up while playing an instrument in a hot, sweaty nightclub or bar underneath bright lights, you definitely need to drink more. But water isn’t the only way to quench your thirst. Rockmommy Trish Naudon Thomas, mother of 6-year-old Myla Sol and drummer for The NATCH! and The Fantastic Partnerz, swears by green juice smoothies. “Drinking green smoothies every day not only helped with getting my fill of folic acid, it helped with my energy levels for practice and gigs which was about 5+ times a week,” says Thomas. “I still drink my cherished green smoothies to keep up with my extremely energetic 6-year-old.”
New York City musician Rew Starr sings on stage while pregnant in 1993.
4. Try to adjust or control your environment as much as possible. You can’t control everything, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adjust your practice or gigging space to suit your pregnant state. Rockmommy Katy Otto, drummer for the band Trophy Wife and mother to a young toddler, suggests planning in advance to make sure you’ll have the things you need, such as access to a bathroom that you can use, again and again, throughout the duration of your gig. “If you have certain things you will need in a venue, such as a non smoking space, make sure to think them through and ask about them ahead of time and don’t feel bad asking,” says Otto. “Don’t feel guilty doing things like getting a hotel room to be more comfortable even if you’ve crashed on floors and couches all your touring life — do what you need to do to feel healthy and good.”
5. When it comes to lugging equipment, don’t be a hero. If you’re used to hauling around heavy amps and carrying string instruments to and from rehearsal, being told to you need to slow down might bruise your ego. However, most physicians believe that the longer a woman is pregnant, the more her ability to safely lift a load decreases, mostly because her center of gravity and balance have changed (plus, the hormones of pregnancy cause a woman’s connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons to soften). New York City mom of two and singer-guitarist Rew Starr says she “gigged pretty much up until delivery,” but had the benefit of only having to tote around a microphone. But for others, such as bass-playing moms with the heaviest of amps, it’s not so easy. If you don’t have other bandmates who volunteer to carry your stuff, ask the venue’s staff to lend a hand: Call ahead to make sure someone will be available to load, unload, and reload your car with your equipment before and after you play. “Asking for help and knowing your limits is OK,” says Starr. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘no I just can’t lug gear.’”
6. Talk to your fans about social media photos. While some women love showing off their baby bumps, others (myself included) would rather keep their pregnancies private, from the moment of conception to the moment after delivery. So if you’re a social media maven who doesn’t feel uncomfortable having photos of your protruding belly all over the Internet, step up to the mic and ask your fans to withhold from snapping pics while you play.
Playing a rock show is a cathartic experience, pregnant or not. By keeping some of these suggestions in mind, you’ll feel great at rehearsals and on stage. Plus, your tiny fetus will probably be bouncing along to the beat, enjoying every moment with you.
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
It’s a full moon tonight (whatever that means), so while the sky is beautiful and the weather is mild and breezy, it’s prime time for a rock show. If you’re in the Washington, D.C., area, head to Chapala Restaurant to see my longtime band Grandma’s Mini reunite. Show starts at 8:30 p.m. ET, and we’ll be playing a mix of old classics (“The Rules,” “Hypo,” “Laid Off,” etc.) and newer pieces (“Trapper Keeper,” and “Gimme a Shake”).