About rockmommyct

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

Laurie Berkner, Rockstar to Preschoolers Everywhere, Talks Live-streaming and New Tunes for 2021

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

So many parents have a Laurie Berkner memory that gives them the warm and fuzzies. I have several — the nights I’d play “Bubbles” and my then-toddler sons would gleefully splash along in their bath, or the time I played “Silly Brushing Song” to motivate my older kid to spend more than 15 seconds at the sink, brushing his teeth. My favorite two tunes, hands down, are “We are The Dinosaurs” and “Monster Boogie,” but my kids love “Superhero” the most.  

Laurie Berkner (Photo by Jayme Thornton)

And even as my kids grow older and discover grown-up music, they’ve still got a special place in their hearts (and on their playlists) for Laurie Berkner. It’s a good thing, too, since we really relied on artists like Laurie to livestream like crazy since March 2020, the month that things began to change. 

[SEE RELATED: Superhero Mom Laurie Berkner: 20 Years of Making Cool Tunes in the Ever-Evolving Kids Music Soundscape]

Laurie’s daily Facebook Live concert series, which featured singalongs and stories and a ton of cool virtual content, was a much-needed reprieve from “homeschool” with mom and dad for my 5-year-old son. And while things aren’t back to “normal” or “2019-ish” quite yet, Laurie’s cooking up some awesome new tunes. 

We recently caught up with the performer and mom to find out what’s next. 

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months?

Laurie Berkner: I know there are many people who have had many more devastating experiences than I have over the last year, but for me, being a parent during this pandemic has been very emotionally distressing. My teenage daughter has been trying to find ways to handle the difficulties of remote learning, being separated from her friends and teachers, and missing all of the hands-on aspects of school that made it fun and challenging, but as I witness her struggling, not being able to personally help her or do much about it, has been quite painful for me. 

As far as my career goes, all of my live performances since last March have, of course, been either canceled or postponed. Suddenly having to wear so many hats (videographer, photographer, recording engineer, set designer, administrative assistant, etc.) on top of running my business and being the performer and composer/musician, has been exhausting and quickly became unsustainable. Luckily, I have an incredible person as my COO who decided to buy an RV with her partner, and they moved into my driveway in July. This has meant that I actually have help now with a lot of what I was trying to do entirely by myself — and it has been amazing.

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process?

Laurie Berkner: In response to the fact that schools were closed in the spring, I started doing daily Facebook Live concerts for a couple of months. The interaction with people all over the country (and the world, actually) was really inspiring — and I wrote songs that I might not have otherwise. I also finished an album that I had started before the pandemic, doing the final recordings remotely. That was a harder process, and I found myself paring down some of the instrumentation of a few of the songs, as well as singing some of my own background vocals in order to simplify things. I went through intense periods of creativity and intense periods of feeling like I had nothing in me. It has been an exhausting, roller coaster of a year.

[SEE RELATED: Laurie Berkner’s Daily Livestream is Exactly What Kids and Homeschooling Parents Need Right Now

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Laurie Berkner: I am hoping that my daughter will be able to go back to school in a somewhat “normal” way. I hope that I’ll be able to hug the people I work with and that I will be able to make live music with the people in my band again!! And I hope that as a country we truly start to hold each other accountable for the racism that has been built into our culture and make meaningful, conscious, changes towards equity.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Laurie Berkner: I have been doing Livestream Family Concerts every six weeks that will be continuing into 2021. The next one is on Valentine’s Day (tickets at live.laurieberkner.com). Also, the album I mentioned that I just completed is called Let’s Go! and it will be released on March 5th (pre-sale starts on February 5th).

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?

Laurie Berkner: I’m basically still trying to figure this one out, but I do find that allowing myself to explore and enjoy my own creativity while I’m with my daughter, as well as when I find time to be alone, means that I almost end up having enough time to do both. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Sara Watkins’ First Record Since Becoming a Mom Reimagines Childhood Classics in Unexpected Ways

Listening to Sara Watkins’ album Young in All the Wrong Ways (2016, New West Records) takes me back to the late ’90s, to the strains of ethereal vocals and pretty guitars — Belly, the Cranberries, Lush — with spirited folk and bluegrass woven throughout. 

Sara Watkins (photo credit: Jacob Boll)

A lot has happened in the six years since she released that record, most notably, her journey into motherhood. And while songs on her upcoming family record give off a different vibe, they are equally beautiful and nostalgic. The first single, “Pure Imagination,” for example, reimagines the classic track from 1971’s Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory in a fresh, whimsical way. 

We recently caught up with Sara to chat about her new album Under the Pepper Tree, mom life with a young daughter, and more.

Rockmommy: What’s it been like balancing parenthood, music, and life over the last year? 

Sara Watkins: After a while I found myself in the groove of the pandemic lifestyle, anxiety would be a low hum, but when unexpected things happened, it felt immediately overwhelming because of the challenges the pandemic brings. There were some non-COVID related health issues in my family this year and not being able to just drop everything, go and be together was really, really hard and conflicting. I know I’m not alone in that of course. I have a 3-year-old and am so grateful I got to spend this year with her. The challenge of pandemic-era childcare is a big one, though, so with the exception of the couple weeks in which I was in the studio recording, I mostly just worked at nap time. Man, I am grateful for naps. 

Rockmommy: How did the past year of spending more time at home influence your music and/or creative process?  

Sara Watkins: I feel like most of my creativity has gone into playing with my toddler, and I haven’t had a lot to spare on writing music. Instead, I found myself learning and exploring other people’s songs, many of which I recorded. There is a whole world inside the arrangement and Gene Wilder’s vocal on the original recording of “Pure Imagination” (from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). Discovering the right way to approach that song on my record was a delightful challenge. 

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Sara Watkins: I’m hopeful that new life will begin to grow up in the ashes, and that I will remember the lessons I learned in 2020 and carry them with me. 

Rockmommy: Can you tell us more about your upcoming record? 

Sara Watkins: Yes! My album Under the Pepper Tree will be out in late March and it’s my first children’s record! It will be available digitally of course, but I think the songs and arrangements will really shine and capture kids’ imaginations when they listen to music on vinyl while holding the beautiful artwork by Adam Sniezek. As a parent, I have discovered decision fatigue and it’s so nice to be able to put on a record and know that all the songs will simply come in their order. I can enjoy the ride and when it’s done, it’s done. It’s beautiful. I am hopeful this record will be a calming transition from wild and energetic afternoons to peaceful evenings and bedtimes. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Catching up with Passing Strange’s Kate Mirabella

If new music is one of the silver linings of 2020, Passing Strange’s record The Water and the Woods is pure sterling – saturated with lush, keyboard-and-percussion soundscapes and stories that had me listening long into the summer. 

We recently connected with Kate Mirabella, lyricist, singer and keyboard for the Connecticut alt-rock duo (with Anthony Paolucci) to talk about what’s next.

Kate Mirabella

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound?

Kate Mirabella: The best way to describe my sound is an emo Fiona Apple. One track on an album can be dulcet and melodic and the next one is an angry jazzy revenge song. It’s definitely moody and lyric-focused. 

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months? 

After losing family members to Covid, losing my job, and not being able to play shows, I was feeling pretty low and stuck. I usually write and play every day, but it was hard to be creative this year. One thing that got me through it was the phenomenal music that came out this year. Phoebe Bridger’s “Punisher” and the two Taylor Swift albums got me super inspired and writing again.

Not being able to practice as a band was difficult, but it also gave me some time to reflect on my sound. I actually wrote a few songs in quarantine that will be on the new album. The tone and lyrics have a heaviness and darkness to them, which I think shows where my head was at this year. 

[SEE RELATED: Passing Strange Share Their Journey to ‘The Water and the Woods’ and What They Want Most in the Post-Pandemic World]

Rockmommy:  What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Kate Mirabella: The news of vaccines has been so wonderful to see. I feel there will be a huge creative renaissance coming up in response to the pandemic. I can’t wait to go out to museums, shows and be with friends again. It feels like we can plan on it looking like the roaring 20’s after the Spanish Flu. 

Kate Mirabella of Passing Strange (Photo Credit: DeFilippo Foto)

Rockmommy: Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Passing Strange’s third studio album will be in the works this year! Some of these songs are a few years old, while others were written in quarantine. I can’t wait to get these songs out there and play them live. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor of Rockmommy.

Joy Rose, on Mamapalooza, Motherhood and Turning up the Volume

By Rew Starr

JOY ROSE is one of a kind. I knew I had a unique connection with her before we even met because my middle name is “Joy” and my Grandmother’s name was Rose!

After meeting at a MaMaPaLooZa gig on the waterfront on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I knew I was hooked. It was my first time joining this festival, I felt so honored to be counted as a mom that rocked! I found my new religion with Joy at the helm… she has continued to inspire, celebrate and give Moms all the glitter, respect and pizazz they deserve. 

I recently caught up with this mom of four — where Zena (26), Brody (31) and Blaze (29), are gathering in Florida to support their brother, Ali Marpet (27), Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive lineman, who is heading to the Super Bowl. 

Joy Rose and daughter Zena, 2003 (Joy is also mother to Ali, Brody, and Blaze)

Rockmommy: What have you been doing these days?

Joy Rose: I am greatly looking forward to a better and brighter 2021! I spent the summer farming a remote plot of land during the summer season, and then trying to survive the ‘vid’ as I circled back to New York, all while mentoring interns at the Museum of Motherhood, and cultivating personal creativity whenever possible.

Rockmommy: Meeting you for me was love at first sight with MAMAPALOOZA. How did you come up with this concept?

Joy Rose: The feeling is mutual. The concept for Mamapalooza was born out of multiple brainstorming sessions with friends about how to address the absent voices of women in the arts at the time. I write about this in my chapter in Motherhood and Music for Demeter Press (2018). One of the things that made Mamapalooza so amazing for me was that I was (and remain) an authentic fan of each of the women I promoted. 

Their courage, fortitude, creativity, and ability wowed me again and again. We all came together at a very special time in the world when our generation of women, born and raised out of the feminist movement of the 1970s, emerged into motherhood in the 80s and 90s believing Helen Reddy’s anthem “we are women, hear us roar.” 

We were all hungry to connect, poised to make noise, and ready for the challenges that came from both the personal and professional world. 

Joy Rose and Zena, 2019

Rockmommy: You have been a pioneer for moms in my eyes for Museum of Motherhood, can you elaborate on this endeavor?

Joy Rose: Women have a sad history of being “disappeared”. We make advances, get written out of the books, and the patriarchy goes marching on. MOM is committed to putting Motherhood on the map by elucidating the art, science, and history of m/others. We’ve done a LOT to champion the art and the scholarship of motherhood in the last 20 years. By curating these knowledge(s), I aim to keep these advances and reflections available to those interested in the subject. It’s important for me to also state that I am as invested in championing the subject as I am in deconstructing persistent and damaging stereotypes. There is no one perfect mother. There is no perfect family. We are all on a journey of discovery.

Rockmommy: Are you making any new music?

Joy Rose: I’m writing songs for my new grandbaby, but that’s about it. I am still very interested in hearing other people’s music though, so send it to me!

Rockmommy: What about playing out? Do you see ever in the future?

Joy Rose: I am currently gestating on an art/music/performance project. It needs to be something visible and international and I’m starting to mentally gather people. However, let me also be honest that it is very difficult to do everything and the museum keeps me extremely busy.

Rockmommy: Tell us something we don’t know about you?

Joy Rose: I’m very shy. It takes everything in my soul to step out into the public arena as I am extremely insecure. I also went back to graduate school in 2014 earning my Master’s in Mother Studies from the Women and Gender Studies Dept. at CUNY The Graduate Center in NY (2015). 

Rockmommy: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?

Joy Rose: Making noise. Raising your voice and speaking your truth is the most important thing! It’s the equivalent of shining your soul light. Don’t die with the music still inside you. I dragged myself onto the stage, trembling, doubting, and ultimately victorious by standing with my two feet on the ground and lifting my throat to the stars and then sharing those victories with others.

Rew Starr is an actor and musician in who lives in New York.  

The Bright Siders’ Dr. Kari Groff Emerges from a Dark Year with Upbeat, Purposeful New Tunes

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When the coronavirus hit New York City back in March, Brooklynite Dr. Kari Groff, a psychiatrist, mom and musician, faced the same fear and uncertainty as her neighbors. But instead of shuttering inside with he stringed instrument, she opened the door – channeling energy into playing for her neighbors, right on the stoop of her Park Slope home. 

The Bright Siders (photo credit: Jefry Andres Wright)

Picking up the fiddle earned Groff little fame (see the New York Daily News writeup here) and gave her a much-needed energy boost. 

“As a musician, to not perform and play together was also giant loss that has needed to be accepted and processed,” says Groff, who spent much of the last year nurturing a new-ish musical project — The Bright Siders, her duo with songwriter Kristin Andreassen. Their album A Mind of Your Own (Smithsonian Folkways) is out today. 

We recently caught up with Groff to learn more about the new record, pandemic parenting, and how she hopes to help others.   

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound? 

Dr. Kari Groff: Because The Bright Siders collaborated with so many different musicians from so many diverse backgrounds, I would say that our album A Mind of Your Own has infusions of pop, jazz, rock, folk, Latin, and even one punk rock piece called “Bully This!”

I definitely would describe the sound as “fun and upbeat” but purposeful and thoughtful.

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months? If you’re a parent, please speak to those challenges too!

As a person, it was difficult to be separated from so many of my friends and family.  As a parent, it was difficult to see my child go from being an active and independent elementary school student to an isolated, online learner. 

As a musician, to not perform and play together was also giant loss that has needed to be accepted and processed.  Professionally, I had to develop new skills as a physician to address a large-scale trauma that was happening to many people because of Covid-19.  Everyone has been affected but in very individual ways. 

But if I had to point to the greatest challenge of all, it was that we were not able to gather together in a time of great sadness and to not be able to lean on the things that bring me joy (parties, live music, making music together, etc).

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process? 

Dr. Kari Groff: As the mother of a biracial child (Haitian and European background), the Black Lives Matter movement made me think even deeper than ever before about it meant to be a White mother to a Black child and what the Black American experience is. My daughter (age 10) wrote some amazing new songs at home and we were able to collaborate on this.  Being with her so much at home inspired me as a songwriter.  She is extremely creative and has a natural sense for what makes a good pop song.  She pushed me to elevate my skills and to expand my creative process. She would question my lyrical and musical choices thoughtfully. 

My daughter also has younger twin sisters with her dad and his wife. I have her twin sisters over to our home frequently to play and make music. All three are so musically talented, and I absolutely delight in their song creations and amazing voices and energy. My experiences with them really made me think about how The Bright Siders could do even more to be more inclusive and representative. I could see them carrying the torch of this project forward with me, along with Kristin and Smithsonian Folkways, because of their amazing energy, musical skill, and unique experiences and voices as Black Americans.  

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Dr. Kari Groff: I am grateful that there is a vaccine that is being delivered. I’m excited for a new and diverse political administration, especially our first woman VP!!!  I am excited to travel and perform again! I am hopeful that the pandemic will make us think about how we can live more compassionately towards each other and with greater environmental awareness.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share?  

Dr. Kari Groff: The Bright Siders is releasing our debut album A Mind of Your Own today (Smithsonian Folkways). The album is an incredible collection of songs and skits, in spirit of Free to Be, You and Me. It’s all about emotions and growing up. The music is very family friendly, educational, and uplifting. We are also releasing a video-book called “Victor and the Great Pause”- a thoughtful and deeply compassionate story about a dog that experiences NYC during the early days of the pandemic. 

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?  

Dr. Kari Groff: My best advice is to get up early before your kids. My own creative, music-teacher mom taught me this. Make time for your creative process. For me, it is the early hours of the morning when it is quiet and before I have started to tackle my physician work for the day. My mind is clear, and I can write lyrics and melodies with greater fluidity and less sort of background noise (literally and figuratively!). I also recommend taking a couple days off here and there just for your own creative process if possible. My co-creator on The Bright Siders project, Kristin Andreassen, hosts an amazing songwriting camp called Miles of Music. This would be the perfect opportunity to have a creative experience in a beautiful setting!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Bronx family musician Fyütch’s New Song ‘Black Women in History’ Celebrates Dozens of Unsung Heroes

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Before he became a dad, musician or social artist, Fyütch was just a schoolboy with an open, impressionable mind. But while he learned plenty about the accomplishments of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, few other historical black women received more than a single, passing mention.

With his new song, ‘Black Women in History,’ Fyütch hopes to change that by educating a whole new generation of young learners about the accomplishments of everyone from Mississippi civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer to Shirley Chisholm. The song also features black female artists/singers Rissi Palmer and Snooknuk, and it’s clever as heck, dropping unexpected, fresh rhymes about dozens of inspiring ladies.

In fact, Fyütch and his co-artists drop so much history in ‘Black Women’ that anyone who listens to the song or engages with the video is bound to learn something.

See it for yourself on #MLKDay2021 — or better, share it with your family, as you honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Genevieve Goings’ 2020 Indoor Time — with Son Kamari and Family — Inspires Upbeat Record in Early 2021

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

This month, Rockmommy talks to artists about their plans or the coming year. Up next: Genevieve Goings, whose upbeat engaging, soulful pop is the perfect energizer for a cold winter’s day. Here, she talks about getting creative, and balancing life as a working mom of a toddler. 

Genevieve Goings and son Kamari

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound? 

Genevieve Goings: I describe myself as making ‘kids music with soul!’ My career began in Hip-hop & R&B in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is an urban influence in my sound, paired with soulful vocals. I truly sing to kids as people, not ‘kids’ – I make music that the whole family will love, with a pop and polished sound. 

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months? 

Genevieve Goings: My son Kamari was born in December of 2019. I learned to navigate having a baby, being a working mom, and coronavirus all in the same year! We are a social family and in my mind I always imagined having the baby out at various places, events, and having some help from our “village” to help care for Kamari. Having to remain inside while working on producing music, editing, detailed things like that with a small infant was challenging to say the least! My husband and I (who also had detailed editing work to do) learned to section out our days and make sure to plan our calendars strategically. Some things though, only mommy can do

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process? 

Genevieve Goings: I grew so much as a producer and engineer in 2020, because I had to take on a lot of work myself. I usually would outsource my mixing and a lot of my production on a music project, and this lockdown really made me dig down deep and learn more about the process of mixing sound. This year I wrote and produced 14 songs for the Disney Junior “Ready for Preschool” short-form music show, and I mixed most of the album as well as playing the instruments, and singing the songs. 

As women, often we have an ‘imposter syndrome’ complex, and I was guilty of this. I would say things like, ‘I produce a little bit,’ or ‘I can produce, with help.’ The truth of the matter is, I AM a producer. There, I said it!  

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Genevieve Goings: I hope that We as a nation can come together and forgive each other, have compassion, and can really get creative on how to navigate our new normal. We are amazing, and driven, and we can do it! We have learned so much about our flaws as a society, and I hope that we can move forward with a fresh look at the world and ourselves.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share? 

Genevieve Goings: YES!!! I recently released a single called “Grateful” off my upcoming EP Great Indoors. This is a collection of songs to be enjoyed while we shelter in place. “Shadow Puppets,” my next single, out January 15, is really fun and imaginative song about the endless possibilities of shadow puppetry. I also have a really fun video to accompany that. The full project will be released February 5 on the new label 8 Pound Gorilla Records, and you can pre-order now on iTunes! Disney will also be releasing Vol. 5 of “Ready for Preschool” in January and you can hear my newest work that was produced entirely from my home studio! 

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life? 

Genevieve Goings: I am still learning this, but I am finding that really putting the electronics down at a certain time is pretty much a MUST for a balanced life. Just because technology allows us to be reached at any given moment, that doesn’t mean we have to be.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.