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

For Trophy Wife’s Katy Otto, Motherhood Inspires New Creative Endeavors — and an Appreciation for Free Time

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

As any new parent will tell you, having a baby shifts your world in unimaginable ways.

Yet there are some new moms, between diapers and deadlines and sleepless nights, who seem truly unstoppable in continuing their life’s journey, babe on their hip, embracing motherhood while strengthening their purpose, motivated to find new meaning in their life, work, and service.

Katy Otto is one of these women.

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Katy Otto with her son David, now 1.

When Otto, the drummer and singer of Trophy Wife, the band she shares with co-collaborator/musician friend Diane Foglizzo, isn’t busy raising her one-year-old son David with her partner, she’s busy creating art and continuing her activism for numerous issues — such as LGBT rights, gender equality, and a focus on parenting that is less about what you have and more about what you do and how you choose to live.

We interviewed Otto recently to learn more about her quest to balance working (at Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania!), music (she also has her own label, Exotic Fever), and motherhood.

Check out our full Q&A  — especially if you’re a rocker mom looking for some good, gritty inspiration on getting your groove back.

Rockmommy: You’ve been a mom for a little more than a year and recently you played your first show in a while. What was the experience like?

Katy Otto: The first show I played post-birth was with my band Trophy Wife in Durham, N.C., at the Pinhook on December 11. My son David was just over six months old. The show was a bit of a drive from where my band lives in Philly, so we took David with us and dropped him off on the way at my parents’ house in Bowie, Maryland. He stayed with my folks overnight for the evening of the show.

The Pinhook was celebrating its seventh anniversary. The space is a queer punk club in the south, and it means a great deal to our band. We were honored that they invited us to play, and while we had thought about waiting a bit more to get out and play a show, this seemed like the right time to do it. I was still nursing at the time, so I pumped in the club (with a cover on) basically just in the middle of the room. It was pretty intense but felt like one of the most punk things I’ve ever done, actually. The sound guy looked a little surprised but rolled with it. Everyone was very accommodating — I stored my milk under the bar by a keg.

The show itself was incredible. We were overwhelmed by the amount of support people in Durham showed us, some even knowing our lyrics. I think it had been the longest stretch in my life I had gone not playing music in front of people since I started as a teenager. I was very nervous, but once our set started, that all evaporated. I felt very whole and like myself being able to be in my element like that, particularly with my bandmate Diane.

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Katy and David

Rockmommy: Are you still creating new music with Trophy Wife, and Diane Foglizzo?

Katy Otto: Yup! Diane and I have written four songs since our last album: two while I was pregnant and two since David’s birth. We’ve been playing out and even traveling here and there for shows. It’s been great. I’ve also been grateful for the support of my partner, family, and friends in helping to provide childcare so I can rehearse and play out. I also play in a four-piece band in Philly called Callowhill that is finalizing songs for our first full length. We have a seven inch/digital EP out.

Rockmommy: Do you think it is more challenging to keep up with the Philly rock scene you were an active participant in now that you are a parent?

Katy Otto: I am not able to go out to shows I am not playing as much, but I still feel very connected to Philly’s underground music community. I moved to Philly six years ago after living in the D.C. metro area my whole life. I am so glad I made that decision. Philadelphia is extraordinary in terms of the music, art, and activism people are involved in. I also know a number of other creative parents and recently did a series of interviews while I was on maternity leave with people on balancing parenting and creative practice. If you are interested in reading them they are here: http://www.fvckthemedia.com/issue63/frontpage

Rockmommy: Do you think mom musicians, in general, have it harder than other musicians (e.g., single men, dads, etc.)? In what ways?

Katy Otto: I don’t think anything is that cut and dry. I don’t think gender is binary. I think there are many factors at play, including the support networks people have, as well as other resources such as money. I have been fortunate in weaving together a strong web of support to allow me to continue my musical practice. I also have very understanding band mates in both of my active bands. There are some aspects of societal gender roles that have meant that, in general, I think there are more challenges for a mother even just perceptually when she is away from her child and out in the world doing things. For example, I’ve had even “progressive” male friends ask me when I’ve been at a show I am about to play if my partner Chris is “babysitting.” It really is mind boggling. I think one time I said, “Who would he be babysitting?” Dads parent their children. They don’t babysit their own children. This is an annoying kind of question, but I also think any single parent is going to obviously have a host of different challenges that I don’t have as a co-parent managing childcare and an outside life, regardless of gender.

I will say that I know a number of cis men in hetero relationships who are musicians who I have seen have a very different experience than I have. They have said to me that becoming a parent didn’t vastly impact their ability to tour, etc., or the activity of their band, but in a lot of these cases I’ve seen that that is because their female partner bears the brunt of child rearing duties. When I did my interview series, I did interview men who play in bands, but I specifically chose to speak with men who I knew where playing a very active role in their children’s lives — including some single fathers. I think the question you pose is complex and I don’t think there is a clearcut answer.

Rockmommy: How has motherhood influenced your music, or creativity in general?

Katy Otto: I view the time I have to play music now as more precious than ever, and I value it as sacred. I feel drive to be out and present in the world, doing the thing that has meant the most to me since I was a teen. I want to have both – motherhood and a creative life. I think there are also all kinds of ways to be a mother, and we can challenge that definition all the time. My bandmate recently got me an awesome book called Revolutionary Mothering. It provides a lot of excellent conversations on motherhood as experienced by queer women, women of color, and low income women. It really has challenged a lot of stereotypes I’ve seen and absorbed in the dominant culture about motherhood since I was a child. I am incredibly grateful for this book and can’t recommend it enough.

I am also only just learning how motherhood will affect my creativity, since I am new to this. It’s been hard to eke out the same space and time to create, but again I feel so grateful when I have it that I think I pour a lot into it. I am interested in building networks and relationships with other mothers and parents so we can pitch in and help each other out with child care and support as we all continue to create in the world. I want my child to be part of a beloved community of mutuality, and working towards that also seems like its own kind of creative practice. I have always felt like community organizing and social justice work, indeed political imagination in general, were urgent forms of creative practice.

I also think my interest in heavy, dissonant music has only continued to grow the older I get. So far I think motherhood has only added to that.

Rockmommy: We always like to ask rockmommies about balance — have you found a way to balance your motherhood, work, and other endeavors? Or is it something you’re still working toward?

Katy Otto: This is a constant work in progress, and I know many other mothers know much more than I do. I have not been afraid to reach out and ask for support, and I’ve been humbled and lucky to receive it. I have a partner who is very committed to an equitable sharing of childcare and other domestic work. We both work full time too, so we’re continuing to negotiate what that looks like. He is very dedicated to jiu jitsu practice, and I try to make sure he has enough time out of the house for that, too. We check in about scheduling regularly. It’s a lot to balance work, creative life, parenting, and time for our relationship with each other. A key has been the help of friends and family. David, my son, has a beautiful array of other people in his life. This feels really positive to me and right for our family.

Recently Trophy Wife played a benefit show for Decarcerate PA in Pittsburgh that offered childcare on site, in a room with sound protection. That was an incredible experience — David’s first trip as a roadie. Part of how it worked was the combination of a supportive partner who understands my need to drive across the state and play music in DIY venues, a bandmate who is incredibly accommodating to a person with a child, and a community that actively supports and welcomes parents. The show was a release for the second edition of the zine “Women in Sound” by Madeleine Campbell. She is a phenomenal human being and you should definitely check her zine out here.

Rockmommy: What is the best motherhood advice you’ve received, which is worthy of being passed along?

Katy Otto: I hold on to something that Ian MacKaye of all people told me, when I had a lengthy conversation with him while pregnant. He basically shared the idea that the single best way for me to parent was to continue being my authentic self. It’s been important for me to know that when I am living in the world as the person I’ve worked hard to be, that will help me be who my child needs. The instinct to parent is in our bones. We can make the roads by walking, as the book I mentioned Revolutionary Mothering emphasizes. We can reject blueprints and paradigms that aren’t right for us, some of which reinforce dangerous binaries and stereotypes. I continue to be inspired by so many of my friends who parent and create with beauty, imagination, and courage — and I’m particularly grateful for all the folks who allowed me to interview them for the series I mentioned before. I hope to keep adding to it, and I hope it can be part of ongoing conversations.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy

Ladies Rock Camp: A Badass, Three-Day Rockin’ Mommy Getaway

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

As you know, summers fill up fast! But if you’re aching for a couple of days to yourself to do something creative, rather than the usual mommy-spa-or-Vegas girlfriends getaway, consider Ladies Rock Camp.

Ladies Rock Camp is a three-day event, held at various locations throughout the country, which serves two purposes: 1.) to give women the chance to try a new instrument/form a band in a nurturing, non-intimidating, testosterone-laden environment, and 2.) support respective girls’ rock camps all over the country.

The New York-area LRC, which benefits the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls (also in NYC), will be held June 24-26, 2016, at The Blue School, located in Lower Manhattan at 241 Water Street, NY, NY. Enrollment is still open, but filling up fast, so grab your spot!

As a former teacher for LRC (I taught vocals at the grown-up camp, and guitar at the girls’ camp), I can attest to how awesome it is. Everyone who attended — whether they’d been in a band before and decided to try a new instrument or never played at all — had a fabulous time learning, jamming, and mingling with the other ladies. Some brought friends, but you don’t need a buddy to go — just an open mind and a positive attitude.

As noted, proceeds benefit the respective girls’ rock camps linked with each LRC.

If you’re not in the New York area, that’s OK, too. There are tons of other options for 2016 and 2017. Bookmark these links to the respective ladies rock camps in different cities so you can stay up to date on the camp nearest you:

Boston

Los Angeles

Seattle

Philadelphia 

Portland, Oregon

—- Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.

Eight Cool Father’s Day Gifts for the Rockdaddy in Your Life

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Most days, we’re all about the rockmommy — like the mama who nurses/bottle-feeds her babe while playing the drums with her 5-year-old, or the one who spent the last weekend helping her grade-schooler master the G chord.

But in June, we’re all about the dudes for Father’s Day. If the papa in your life is a rock daddy — or wants to be one — here are six gifts he’ll love more than a Gap card.

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Moby’s memoir

1. Bamboo Guitar cutting board, $23.99: What better way to chop up some fresh veggies than with this cool cutting board shaped like dad’s electric guitar?

2. Audioengine HD6 Premium Powered Speakers, $750: Whether Dad loves Led Zeppelin, Prince, or Pink, he’ll have a blast listening to his favorite tunes on this badass speaker set with built-in amplifiers.

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Audioengine HD6 Premium Powered Speakers

3. Toca Freestyle ColorSound Djembe drum, $29.99. Get dada his own drum like this seven-inch, metallic red one, so he can play buy the fire, or jam with the kids (they’ll love it too!).

4. Rock and Roll Guitar Bottle Opener, $14.99: Dad will love having his favorite fizzy drink or beer with a vintage-looking bottle opener that celebrates his rock-and-roll style!

5. Moby’s Porcelain: A Memoir, $16.27: Give the father in your life a great beach read. DJ Moby’s newly released, highly rated memoir promises a “piercingly tender, funny, and harrowing account of the path from suburban poverty and alienation to a life of beauty, squalor and unlikely success out of the NYC club scene of the late ’80s and ’90s.”

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Rock n’ Roll Guitar Bottle Opener

6. Drummer luggage tag, $11.15: If dad’s a “Travelin’ Man” — and one who happens to play drums — this is the perfect little gift to show him you’re thinking of him when he’s not behind the kit. Plus, it’s a cool way to ensure dad’s luggage stands out in an airport’s baggage claim area.

7. Bruce Springsteen Framed Photo Collage, $44.99: Remind pops of how much fun he had at the last Springsteen show he attended. Seeing this cool collage on the walls will lift his spirits during diaper duty.

8. Vans C&L Old Skool sneakers, $65: If daddy is nostalgic for the days he enjoyed the Vans Warped Tour, these cool kicks will help him feel at home again.
—- Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.

This Weekend in Philly: Rocker Moms Get Their Music On for a Truly Empowering and Cool Event

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Philadelphia is overflowing with great music shows and one-of-a-kind arts events — so many, in fact, that it’s hard to pin down just one thing to do over the weekend. But if you’re a parent who wants to support other parents — or if you’re looking for something you’ve never seen before — we’ve got the “to do” for you, literally.

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RABIES SHOT plays their debut show at this weekend’s First Time’s a Charm Showcase, which benefits Girls Rock Philly.

On Saturday, June 4, punk-rock-influenced band RABIES SHOT — a brand new, four-piece group headed by the mom-and-pop team of Eleni K. and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Howze, along with keys/sax/backup vocalist Yoni Kroll, and vocalist/keyboardist Charles Smith — is playing the First Time’s a Charm showcase, an event that is centered on the contributions of female-identified, trans* and queer folks and people of color in the DIY/punk community in Philadelphia.

The showcase is just what the name suggests: A sonic experience featuring new musical projects by groups who meet at least two of the following criteria: 1. one or more members that identify as female, trans, queer, and/or a person of color; 2. one or more members of a band playing for the first time; and 3. one or more members of the band playing an instrument they have never played before. Proceeds of the $10 event, to be held at PhilaMOCA on Friday, June 3 & Saturday, June 4, will benefit Girls Rock Philly.

We’ve got our eye on RABIES SHOT — which Howze describes as a “heavy, electronic punk band” — because it’s the first time Eleni, who shares son Thomas, 2, and daughter Stella, 5, with him, will play an instrument at a show. It’s also total proof that becoming a mom doesn’t mean you have to quit your creative life!

“Eleni taught herself to play bass after the kids went to bed over the last 10 months or so, having never played an instrument,” Howze tells Rockmommy. “I own a recording and rehearsal studio so we started going to the studio once a week when we had a sitter instead of ‘date nights’ and she wrote a few songs with me on drums and guitar. That stuff is sitting on the shelf.”

Want to hear more?

Check out this stream of the RABIES SHOT demo. The band’s debut EP will be available for download/purchase this weekend!

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.

How to Win a Signed Copy of Kim Gordon’s ‘Girl in a Band’

I love a good rock n’ roll biography, and Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, has put out so many of my favorite rocker mom tell-alls! And the most well-written and compelling memoir, by far, is Sonic Youth bassist-singer Kim Gordon’s “Girl in a Band.”

Gordon’s book tells the tale of an aspiring art student with an interesting family and cool friends who, by way of luck and talent, finds her way into the NYC’s 1980s punk- and indie-rock scene.

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Kim Gordon’s “Girl in a Band”

The story unfolds as we are taken into her romance with bandmate Thurston Moore, her journey into motherhood and music, and the unravelling of her personal life years later. It’s a cathartic and beautiful story of a true art-rock visionary.

If you don’t have a copy of GIAB already, now you can win one signed by Ms. Gordon herself!

Dey Street Books will give away one signed copy of “Girl in a Band” to a Rockmommy reader! You can enter to win in one of two ways, throughout the entire month of June 2016:

  1. Like our Facebook page (Go to facebook.com/rockmommy1 and hit the “Like” button)
  1. Post a comment at the end of this blog — either on rock and roll, motherhood, music, Kim Gordon, or life in general — and make sure it includes your name and e-mail address.

We’ll get back to you in July with a winner!*

*Disclaimer (because we have to have these things): Contest is unlikely to change, but subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. Winner will be selected based on a random drawing of names, and chosen by Rockmommy.

Quickie Workout Moves For Rocker Moms (by a Rocker Mom/Personal Trainer)

Every mom I know has insisted “I don’t have time” when it comes to a million different things — from writing thank-you notes to playing shows to exercising. And I can totally relate! So my trick is to try to squeeze in the extra stuff (like exercising, or practicing my guitar) into the nooks and crannies of my day. I figure it’s better to do something for 10 or 15 minutes than not do it at all — which is a trigger for slacking off completely.

For time-pressed moms like me — and who among the child-rearing set isn’t time-pressed? — my friend, personal trainer and mom Sharissa Reichert, who plays the washboard and sings in the band Milf & Dilf, put together some great “quickie” exercise videos for Rockmommy.

Our first exclusive, 3-minute video takes you through back lunges, ab work tailored to a mama’s post-baby body, and arm toning moves that’ll keep yours strong and sexy.

 

Why Rockin’ Mama — and Team Christina protégée — Alisan Porter Should Win The Voice

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I got hooked on “The Voice” in Season 2, many years back, and will never forget the anger I felt when rocker Juliet Simms was denied victory. She should have won — critics knew it, her coach CeeLo knew it — but somehow Team Blake’s Jermaine Paul snagged the big prize (of course, Jermaine is a talented singer in his own right, but many of us expected Juliet to win!).

Since then, I’ve gotten excited over a handful of candidates — the standouts in my head are Matt McAndrew (Season 7, Team Adam), Cassadee Pope (Season 3, Team Blake), Michelle Chamuel (Season 4, Team Usher), and, of course, Jordan Smith (Season 9, Team Adam). All were the kind of candidates you just knew, at first listen, would make it to the finals (and they all did!).

I wasn’t planning on watching “The Voice” past the blind auditions this year, but something — rather, someone — captivated me in a way that few other “Voice” contestants have since Juliet Simms. I’m talking about Alisan Porter. Her rich, passionate, vocals are breathtakingly piercing — and utterly inspiring.

As many music and entertainment writers have noted, Alisan’s jaw-dropping vocals on her audition cover of Linda Ronstandt’s “Blue Bayou” — as well as Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” and Aerosmith’s “Cryin’”– made her a true standout. A one in a million girl — and certainly someone who deserves the title of “The Voice” for the show’s 10th Season.

But while her voice is compelling, so is her personal story.

Alisan Porter’s entertainment career began in 1991, when the now 34-year-old mom of two scored a starring role in the movie Curly Sue. But instead of seeing her acting career take off, years later, Alisan found herself in the midst of alcohol addiction. And while she’s been sober for eight years, most of her energy up to this point has been focused on motherhood and marriage.

Should Alisan nab the victory on Tuesday night, it’ll represent a true comeback for someone who seems to truly deserve a comeback.

Another reason you should vote for Alisan Porter — either by downloading her song on iTunes, or voting for her on The Voice’s home page/app before Tuesday 10 a.m. ET — is that no one else like her has won the show. Finalist Hannah Huston (Team Pharrell) is the 20-something gal who can sing anything (kind of like Cassadee Pope … and dozens of other contestants); and country singer Adam Wakefield, while talented, is  really just another version of Team Blake Season 7 winner Craig Wayne Boyd.

My second choice for winner, Iraqi-American bluesman Laith Al-Saadi, is also a true original — with his bellowing, big voice and out-of-this-world guitar soloing ability. But the show is called “The Voice” for a reason (no offense to guitarists!). A winner should bring something unique to the collective pop-rock vocal soundscape as well as a powerful contribution to the world of popular music.

Finally, it would be nice to see a female coach actually win this thing for once — especially someone as talented and nurturing as Christina Aguilera. The female coaches have the odds stacked against them on this show, since every season has only allowed for one female spot (and, as it looks, one minority spot), while bro-mancers Adam Levine and Blake Shelton remain the big mainstays. As a side note, wild gal Miley Cyrus and R&B piano mama Alicia Keys are sliding into the new judge slots for Season 11, replacing Pharrell and Christina Aguilera, so that should shake things up a bit!

Those of you who don’t follow the show should take a few minutes to listen to Alisan Porter for yourself (just do it before Tuesday!). I’d be shocked if any person, rockmommy or not, isn’t moved by her vocals and her presence.

The Voice Season 10 Final airs Monday, May 23, 2016, at 8 p.m. on NBC. For more on how to vote and download the official app of “The Voice,” check out the show’s home page.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.