About rockmommyct

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

Getting Candid with Mark Erelli: From ‘Blindsided’ in 2020 to New Music in 2021

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

For many musicians, the loss of performance opportunities in the pandemic has been unbearable – professionally and emotionally. Mark Erelli is one of them.

His twelfth record, Blindsided, came out just a few weeks after everything shut down. Tours were rescheduled, then rescheduled again, then canceled. Shows with a full band turned into solo live streams from his basement. This week, we catch up with the Massachusetts singer-songwriter and dad of two to discuss the challenges of creating music in 2020 and staying positive for the new year.  

Mark Erelli (Photo: Joe Navas)

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

Mark Erelli: I am a parent of two boys, 10 and 13, so there have been many educational, logistical, and emotional challenges of guiding them through this year. But challenges of that nature always exist, though I’m not usually around so consistently to help address them because of my work. So the parenting has been tough but, in a way, it’s been a bit easier because I’m here for my kids and to support my wife. 

The biggest challenge was the impact of the pandemic on the release of my twelfth record, Blindsided, which came out just a few weeks after everything shut down. Tours would be rescheduled, then rescheduled again, then canceled. Shows I was really looking forward to playing with a full band turned into solo live streams in my basement. For once in my career, the groundswell of publicity and my musical profile were kind of synced up and it was all teed up to be a big, career-defining year for me. Of course it wasn’t, or at least not in the way I’d hoped for. And it’s not really something you can recreate, the moment passes and then it’s gone. So I’ve just had to try and wrap my head and heart around that, something I’m still trying to do.

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

Mark Erelli: For a while, I wasn’t really feeling like picking up a guitar and singing or writing. When a new song finally came to me here and there, I found I was far less critical in the early stages of the process. I didn’t worry about if it was good or deep or how it dovetailed with anything else I’d done, I just wrote it and took it as far as I could, then if I liked it I would go back and be a little more ruthless as far as editing and honing the finished work. 

I also used alternative media, like video making and animation, to help develop musical projects in a way that I’d never quite done before. At a time when it felt difficult to write songs, figuring out how to make an animated video allowed me to stay creative, but not be burdened by any of the expectations my normal musical approach might have.

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Mark Erelli: Honestly, I just want to begin the process of moving back toward a life in music. I’ve been working however I could this year, but it’s nothing like it used to be. Live performance  — my own gigs and working as a sideman for others — is a big part of what I do, and I’d like for that to be a big part of my life again on the other side of this. But there’s no “going back” to how it used to be. It needs to be safe for myself and my audience, and we’re going to have to evolve some new work/life balance strategies for both me and my family, and those take time. I can envision some stuff happening outside in spring/summer, and maybe even some proper shows toward the end of 2021, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to recreate the musical life I want until 2022.

Rockmommy: If you could plan the perfect summer for 2021, what would that look like? 

Mark Erelli: Summer of 2020 I did a few outdoor shows, but they were all very reactive to changing restrictions and guidelines. I would like to see conditions be a bit more stable and for promoters be very proactive in providing safe performance opportunities for artists and audiences to come together. We know better how to work under these constraints and so I’d like to take advantage of what we’ve learned and use it to provide more chances for community around music.

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

Mark Erelli: I released a Christmas song, written on Thanksgiving 2020, that came out over the holiday. It’s called “Not Quite Christmas.” And come Valentine’s Day, I’ll have another 3-song EP coming out, with each song exploring a different take on love.

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

Mark Erelli: It’s not a one-strategy-fits-all sort of thing, every artist and every family is different. What works for me is saying no a lot. My family needs a lot right now, and they are the most important thing to me. So that means I say no to a lot of music opportunities and say yes to the ones that are especially meaningful. I try to choose music opportunities that aren’t too disruptive with us all cooped up in one house and have sometimes been able to livestream from locations outside of the home safely, so I’m not keeping everyone quiet while I work. I want my kids to know that I love my job and making music very, very much. But I also want them to see me balance it with being there for them, physically and emotionally. In my book, if I were to have an amazing musical career that came at the expense of my marriage or family, it wouldn’t even be worth it.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Six Rock Memoirs I Can’t Wait to Read This Winter

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

We don’t know what the future holds, but one thing’s clear: We’re not leaving the house much this winter.  

Personally, I’ll be digging into a lot of books. And it just so happens there are some killer rock n’ roll memoirs out there — like, hundreds of them. I don’t have time to read all of them, but are six highly rated, salacious ones I’m hoping to tackle this winter. 

Just a few of the rock n’ roll ladies I plan to read about in 2021. Lisa Robinson’s ‘Nobody Ever Asked Me About The Girls’ isn’t a memoir, but it is full of some great cultural insights and anecdotes by a highly renowned journalist.

Debbie Harry: ‘Face It’ (2019): I’ve never met Debbie Harry, but I feel like we’re cosmically connected, and not just because we’re blondes in bands drawn to New York’s East Village art-punk music scene. Nevertheless, I have a confession: After attending her book talk at NYC’s Town Hall in September 2019, I got super busy with life, and didn’t get to crack it open. This winter, I can’t wait to read some of the salacious tales of Debbie’s adventures with bandmate and bestie Chris Stein and others. 

Patti Smith: Just Kids (2020): Patti Smith inspired so many of my favorite artists, like Shirley Manson of Garbage. But only recently did I stream her 1975 debut album Horses for the first time. And girl, have I been missing out! This memoir, based on Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, is as real as it gets (fun fact: Mapplethorpe created the androgynous image of her in white shirt, black pants and black jacket for the Horses album cover).

Lenny Kravitz: Let Love Rule (2020): Lenny Kravitz was one coolest, most talented and eclectic musicians of the late 1990s and early 2000s — and in this memoir, he dives deep, taking the reader on his journey through the industry, marriage and fatherhood, and more.

Tegan and Sara: ‘High School’ (2019): I’m super excited to read this book about musician twins Tegan and Sara Quin because we’re about the same age, and it’s loaded with ’90s grunge references. Rolling Stone published an excerpt when the book was released — and it takes me right back to my teen angst years, and the moment I first discovered the guitar.  

Patty Schmel: Hits So Hard (2017): Everyone who knows me knows that Hole is my favorite band, and has been since 1994, when the band released ‘Live Through This.’ Hole’s incredibly talented drummer Patty Schmel has been through hell and back, like many in the heroin-infused ’90s Seattle grunge scene. Today she’s a wife and #rockmommy so when I got this book as a present from a writer friend, I knew it was meant for my nightstand.

Bobbie Brown: Dirty Rocker Boys (2013): She’s Warrant’s cherry pie, a sexy video muse that put the pop-metal band on the map. In this memoir, widow of Jani Layne (and the baby mama of his daughter Taylar), spills the secrets of being a rockstar wife. I’ve wanted to read this one for ages!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Stacey Peasley’s High-Energy Record Embraces Optimism and 2020’s Silver Linings

This month, Rockmommy talks to artists about their plans or the coming year. Up first: family pop-rock musician Stacey Peasley, whose upcoming record Make it Happen! drops February 12. If the buoyant title track is any indication, Peasley’s latest album will be the dose of joy we all need in an otherwise uncertain, chilly winter. 

Stacey Peasley (Credit: Katie Ring Photography)

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

Stacey Peasley: As a mom and business owner, I found that 2020 had its challenges. I have two teenagers and a second grader and we had a busy suburban life — soccer games, gymnastics meets, music lessons. Our activities came to a halt, and each child had to adjust to online learning. I am most concerned about my second grader, who was learning crucial reading, writing, and math skills. The lack of normal child and adolescent peer interaction was also a big challenge. Now they attend a hybrid model and are in person and remote every other week. Activities have started up again slowly. 

Pre-Covid, I was working as a performer and music specialist in schools, libraries, and classes five days a week. I was also in the middle of recording my latest album. Suddenly, all of my work was  gone or had to transition immediately to virtual, and I had the bare minimum to work with — basically my iPhone and a laptop! I had to learn to record the vocal tracks on my album’s final two songs at home on my own. I wasn’t able to perform with my band, and that was really surreal.  It was also challenging knowing my income was going to be severely impacted.

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

Stacey Peasley: As a creative artist, educator, and business owner, my mind is always going — songs to write, lessons to plan, curriculum to learn, gigs to promote, music and classes to market and honestly, I love all of it! I started to try to take advantage of this new “down time” and focus more on writing. I wrote a song that will appear on my new album called “At the Parade” during Covid, after the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston got cancelled. This song would not exist had it not been for Covid. I also started to focus on my next project, which is a ballet concept album for children, and I’m continuing to write that. I also had to get creative with my virtual offerings and have now embraced having fun being creative with my very own green screen and backgrounds! Still trying to learn a few new things!

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Stacey Peasley: I am most hopeful musically, that we can all be together again, communally enjoying music. I am so blessed to usually be surrounded by kids and families, singing, dancing, and having fun with friends. I am usually having toddlers and preschoolers giving me lots and lots of hugs. I am most comfortable teaching and performing, and I really miss it. I love the feeling I have making music with other musicians, as well. I have been in bands since I was 18 years old, that’s over… gulp …25 years! My first gig was in 1992! I am also hopeful that our children and nation can heal from this catastrophic pandemic mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

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

Stacey Peasley: I would LOVE to share my new album called Make it Happen! that drops on Feb 12, 2021. It has 10 original songs that I really, really love. I worked on it with musicians and producers in Boston and New York, and I am really excited about it. I also think it shows my growth as a songwriter. 

Stacy Peasley (Photo Credit: Mandy MacCormack)

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

Stacey Peasley: One thing I realized these past few years is that when I wasn’t able to be creative due to the hecticness of life and as a mom, I got really angry and almost depressed. I had all these ideas festering inside of me that weren’t permitted to come out because I had no time to devote to them. As a parent of young children, there isn’t a lot of “me” time! I would suggest small steps to keep those ideas alive, whether it’s writing and singing a song into your phone to capture the idea, knowing you WILL get back to it, asking for help, and even having your kids get involved in the creative process with you. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short. I honestly cannot believe my first baby will be 16 this year! 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Rock n’ Goals for the New Year

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Resolutions, for me, are a thing of my pre-kid ’20s. I’d make sweeping declarations, like “I’m going to lose 10 pounds” or “I’m going to play piano” as if they were easy feats, only to find that the post-holiday afterglow waned within the first few days of January.

Today, having had two kids, I’ve learned that big, sweeping resolutions are super unrealistic.

What’s worked better: Small goals, like committing to playing 10 minutes of guitar per day, every day, except on vacations. I did this in 2019. In 2020, my goal was to play 12 shows in one year. This was a big goal, considering the last time I played regularly with a band was in 2011. But in spite of Covid, I did it!

The secret? Setting a tiny, manageable goal.

I haven’t quite figured out what my rockin’ goal is this year, but I have a few candidates (I’ll pick one by week’s end, I promise). Here they are:

  1. Read 1-2 rock memoirs, cover to cover;
  2. Play music for 15 minutes per day;
  3. Record a solo EP (3-5 songs);
  4. Record an EP with my band by year’s end;
  5. Write one new song every month;
  6. Learn to play 12 hair metal songs, solos included;
  7. Play 6 in-person gigs;
  8. Record an album with my sons from my home studio.

Thoughts? Which one is best for me? Are any of these goals shared by you?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

A Year of Rock n’ Roll Silver Linings

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

It’s been quite a year — and definitely not the one anyone expected 365 days ago. There’s no way to sugarcoat how terrible it’s been, between the pandemic, racial tensions and political strife.

I count myself as lucky, but still experienced a lot of pain and sadness. I haven’t been to Maryland, my home state, since March, and haven’t seen my family in months. My poor kids have had to endure nearly a year of part-time or full-time “home school” — and while their dad has a master’s in education and I’m a guitar teacher, helping them learn was harder than we expected!

But there are so many silver linings to the 2020, and I need to take a moment to share a few of them right now:

  1. Both of my kids learned how to ride their bikes. Bye, bye, training wheels!
  2. I spent 1 out of every 2 days at the beach between May and October.
  3. I set out a resolution to play 12 shows in 2020 and I DID IT!! My band Trashing Violet knocked out four in January and February, and between 3 livestream solo gigs on Facebook, and one neighborhood driveway gig on 6/21 (Make Music Day), I also played a party with my band, and a fun Halloween gig on our drummer’s driveway for his neighbors. Oh yeah, I played First Friday Norwalk (solo) with my friends Castle Black, and The Cellar with my husband and friends (with my kids watching).
  4. Orchestrated a GRGR (Girls Rock Girls Rule) reunion show in Brooklyn with my crew — Michele, Rew & Gail — in February before the apocalypse came.
  5. Interviewed at least 30 artists/musicians/rockmommies
  6. ran a camp for my kids all summer
  7. experienced more things outdoors in cold weather than I ever thought possible, with and without heat lamps (who thought we’d own one?!). I’ll never forget that night in December when my band practiced in our drummer’s backyard in 15-degree weather.
  8. Grew Rockmommy’s followers and published a ton more content.
  9. Learned the basics of DIY home recording, and purchased my first-ever PA, bass, and professional microphone/console set.
  10. Spent so much time with my spouse and kids. I love them so much and am so grateful they have my back.

So here’s to looking forward, and taking on the future with gratitude. I’m hoping for the best for humanity and everyone I love. Thank you for reading this blog, and for being a valuable part of the #Rockmommy community. XOXOX and Happy New Year!

— Marisa

Laura Merrill on Art, Life and the Legacy of her Rock n’ Roll Dad Alan Merrill

By Rew Starr

The first time I met Alan Merrill was on my show ‘Rewbee’s World.’ My friend Jo Brat said she’d recently met him at a random party and I needed to get him on the show since he was the actual songwriter who wrote ‘I Love Rock N’ Roll.’ It’s incredible how everyone reacts in surprise when they hear that. 

Alan Merrill and Rew Starr (Photo Courtesy of Rew Starr; Photo credit: Johann Vipper)

That first meeting was more than a decade ago, but it was LOVE at first sight, in a way. Alan immediately adopted me as his sister… he always told me my ‘Rew’ sticker was the only sticker he ever had on his guitar case… I miss him and think about him every day. He passed away in early Spring 2020 due to complications stemming from the coronavirus. 

I recently caught up with his daughter, Laura Merrill, a creative soul in her own right, to talk about Alan and his legacy. 

Rew Starr: I want to say how sorry I am for your loss. Alan your dad was very special to me and zillions of others. How are you doing? 

Laura Merrill: Thank you Rew. I’ve been OK and slowly adjusting to the new normal. Life without my father is very strange.

He was and has always been someone I could turn to for advice and guidance… especially during a worldwide pandemic. Everyone knew him as a rockstar and to me he was always Daddy.

Alan Merrill and daughter Laura Merrill

Rew Starr: How old were you when you realized your Dad was a Rockstar?

Laura Merrill: Well it must’ve been when I started school because he was always the one to drop us off and pick us up. I didn’t realize how different he was from the other parents until he was in the crowd of them at the end of the day waiting to pick us up. He stayed true to himself and wore his leopard spandex, bullet belt, ripped T-shirt and pink headband in the school yard to greet us.

Laura Merrill (Photo: LauraMerrillImages.com)

We grew up with music being played and recorded around us since we were born so that wasn’t abnormal. It was the reaction of the other students and especially the moms drooling over him that I started to realize he was… special and a Rockstar. 

Rew Starr: When did you understand the impact of his work?

Laura Merrill: It was when I’d hear ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ everywhere. In the grocery store, gym, doctor’s waiting room, everywhere and of course on TV.

Rew Starr: Your Dad was a groundbreaker in so many ways — TV, music, being a Dad spreading love. Did you inherit some of this passion? Is there any favorite thing about him you have?

Laura Merrill: Yes he definitely was a groundbreaker and marched to his own beat. I inherited a lot from him. My love for music, art and fashion. Our humor is exactly the same. Our love and understanding of social media. But mostly his heart, we are very much alike in matters of love and our view on life. That was my favorite thing about my father, his loving nature and the way he made everyone feel like they were family. I’d admire his kindness from afar and I hope to carry that on and share it in my life. 

Alan Merrill and Rew Starr (Photo credit: David Tanner)

Rew Starr: What do you think he wants to see you accomplish?

Laura Merrill: I think he just wants to see me be happy and successful. Make a mark with my artistry. He was always my biggest cheerleader. I’m sure he’d like me to keep his legacy going. I work hard every day to stay true to my artistry as did he. 

Rew Starr: ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ is an anthem for the entire world. How did that make him feel? How did that make you feel?

Laura Merrill: It made him feel amazing. He knew what he had accomplished and wanted the world to know he was the man behind the music. Unfortunately, he accomplished that more in his death than his life but *sigh*…isn’t that the life of a true artist? For me, it makes me so eternally proud of him.

Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?

Laura Merrill: I do write here and there but have turned my creativity towards photography and art. It’s helped me cope with the loss of my father. Songwriting is so personal and perhaps when things settle down I’ll return to it. He would’ve wanted that as he was my biggest supporter. 

My father really instilled such a love for music in my soul. I can’t breathe without it. It has the ability to shape my mood.  

Alan Merrill and Rew Starr (Photo Credit: Alan Rand)

Rew Starr: Tell me about your photography? Your ART….

Laura Merrill: My photography and art at the moment celebrate femininity and the female body. I’ve always thought the shapes — dark and light of female nudity — to be so beautiful. I photograph it along with many self portraits, and paint it as well. I think a lot of my art is my mother’s influence. She was a model in a time where people were free to express themselves. I want to embrace that freedom.

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

Laura Merrill: I am ambidextrous. I hate anything to do with math and still count on my fingers.  

Rew Starr: What’s the greatest part about being a rockdaughter?

Laura Merrill: The best thing — and I didn’t realize this until after my father passed — is that with his success and now that he’s gone…he is still all around. People and fans posting videos, songs and photos I’ve never seen online. It’s like he’s visiting and still here. I’m lucky in that way I guess. 

Every time I hear “I Love Rock and Roll” in a bar or on the radio it’s like him saying “I love you” from heaven.

Alan Merrill (Photo Credit: Laura Merrill)

Here’s a photo I took of him for his album just a few weeks before he died. It still feels like yesterday that he came over for the session. He brought several guitars and a ton of clothes. My brother was there as well and we just had such a great time. We were busting on my dad for some of his poses as kids usually do. He had a gig downtown just after the session and I went not knowing it would be the last time I’d see him play. He sounded amazing as always.

Days after the shoot he was rushing me to get the photos finished because he was so excited to get his album out. This is the photo he put on the inside of the CD and I really tried pushing him to make it the cover. The photo he chose pointing at the camera was a goof and I almost deleted it. It just goes to show what a silly character he is… always marching to his own beat.

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

We Need to Hear More Women Rock Out While We’re Working Out

A few weeks ago, I signed up for a 20-minute “classic rock” themed Peloton class. It was brutal. And by brutal, I mean awesome. I’m a former competitive high school athlete (turned mama) who works out 6 days a week, and I could barely keep up! 

The only problem? I didn’t hear any classic rock songs by women, except for a quick excerpt of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” at the end.

We heard Sting, that “Lola” song and even a Grateful Dead tune. But no Stevie Nicks. No Bangles. no Heart. No Pat Benetar. No Dusty Springfield. If these bands aren’t classic, I don’t know what is. 

I’d say I’m surprised, but I’m not. This happens nearly every time I hop on the damn bike, attend a bootcamp class or do anything other than running, when I listen to playlists I made myself. 

The problem isn’t that women aren’t making music! Ladies are racking up grammies, and proving they can play a guitar solo, drum solo or funky bass riff. 

The larger problem is that “women rock” is seen as an addendum to the default — songs written and performed by men or male-fronted acts. 

Consider this. 

When you turn on satellite radio, or attend a “festival,” if the event or station is not specifically dedicated to women, what do you hear? If you’re listening to Sirius Hits 1, you might hear Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa — but you won’t ever hear more than two songs by female artists in a row unless it’s some kind of countdown show based on airplay (the modern-day equivalent of “American Top 40”). Through most Sirius/Spotify/Tidal/radio streams, we’re fed a diet of mostly 80% male-led music acts. 

This trickles down to my workout. When cycling or Bootcamp instructors play “grunge,” I don’t hear Courtney Love or L7 nearly as much as I hear Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice in Chains. These all-male bands are the “default” acts associated with a grunge sound. The women and their bands of that era, by comparison, are not considered significant.

This needs to change. The majority of people who take fitness classes are women. Why shouldn’t the majority of songs played feature women?

At a minimum, female/female-fronted music should account for at least 50 percent of a workout mix, especially for genre-based workout mixes (e.g., 80s, grunge, classic rock, metal). 

Working out makes me a better performer and a better mom.

We also need to ask our fitness instructors to slip a few more singles by the likes of Pat Benetar or Tina Turner into their era-themed classes. 

But maybe things are looking up, even if progress is slow. On Wednesday, my husband directed me to Kendall’s 30-minute class featuring the hardest women rockers — Courtney Love, Pretty Reckless (Taylor Momsen), Orianthi, Lacuna Coil, and Evanescence. It was brutal, but blissful. And as I sung along to every song, I have never felt more grateful for a fitness instructor. I’ll be taking only her classes from here on out. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.