About rockmommyct

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

Should I Stay or Should I Go (Out)?

After a year of being shuttered mostly indoors with my family, I’m feeling a mad kind of spring fever. I want to go out in a big way. Not outdoors, to the beach, or the fire pit, but out out — like I did in 2019. I want my band to play in a bar. I want to sip drinks idly, as I watch live music.

Who doesn’t want all the things?

The author, mulling whether to go out

The problem is, I’m not vaccinated. Not yet.

A few weeks ago, I was informed of a fun, relatively “safe” event — a lip-sync mask “battle” at the Cellar, a cool, indie music bar in Hamden, Connecticut. My fellow musician friend (and parent) Dustin posted a flier and invited everyone to compete safely. Masks are required (except when you’re eating). Performers will wear a clear one. Sanitizer and precautions will abound from every corner of the indoor space.

[RELATED: Is it safe to sing in front of an audience?]

I was “in” the moment I saw the announcement, and began crafting my burlesque-without-the-stripping lip-sync choreography for “Wrecking Ball” in earnest — it’s taking shape, and after weeks of rehearsal, it’s awesome. I’m stoked to perform it later. I’m stoked to be out, with creative people, doing creative things. I feel alive just thinking about it.

But the venue’s event is in its indoor space. My partner is not OK with that.

It’s an indoor bar, Marisa, he reminds me. People at their tables won’t be wearing masks. Once people start drinking, they’ll be mingling. If one person in that room has Covid, you’e f*cked.

coffeehouse vibes

See, as I’m writing this I’m sitting in an indoor space — Candlewood Market in Fairfield. It’s a beautiful, ample coffeehouse with an industrial warehouse vibe, succulents and weathered wooden signage. Photography and botany and sunshine. I love it here. I go once a week, while my sons are in ninja class next door (masked up, of course). The guy at the table next to mine isn’t wearing his mask, so I only pull mine down when I need a sip of coffee.

I always need coffee.

But anyways, it’s hard to be excited about a fun night that really isn’t any more risky than my time at this coffeehouse (sitting exactly six feet away from the unmasked patron, only because I moved my chair) when my partner thinks that I’m taking a gigantic risk.

Which brings me to the dilemma: I’m one week away from my first vaccine. I’ve spent a year working hard to avoid Covid. Is it really worth it for me to go out now and take any risk? Like The Clash sings in its infamous song, ‘if I go there will be trouble, but if I stay there will be double.” (Double, because I’ll regret not doing something really fun that I’ve been excited about, while disappointing my friends who want to come out with me).

Decisions, decisions! What would you do?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Richard Demko on Challenges, Changes and Keeping Connecticut’s Live Music Scene Thriving

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

If anyone my local music scene in Southern Connecticut is deserving of the ‘jack of all trades’ designation, it’s Richard Demko, longtime multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, promoter and more. He has an ear for talent and a knack for making things happen. He’s a dad, too, which is awesome. 

I had the honor of meeting Demko — a.k.a., ‘Rick’ — in early 2020 at Café Nine in New Haven, through a mutual friend who invited him to see my band Trashing Violet play its third-ever gig. But although his reputation as a superstar engineer and founder of independent label NeuroTronix Records made me feel a little intimidated, his easygoing, engaged personality immediately put me at ease. 

For Demko, a man who is still busy juggling family life, with pressures to create, support and promote in spite of Covid-related restrictions, a pandemic silver lining was a surge of creativity. In early March 2021, Demko released his first orchestral single “Through Time and Space” (available on iTunesSpotify and Amazon), and is organizing as many outdoor shows as possible so his musician peers can play again. 

We recently caught up with Demko to chat about new music, summer plans, parenting and more. 

Richard Demko, of NeuroTronix Records, hard at work at Horizon Studio.


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

Richard Demko: My biggest challenges in the past 12 months have been juggling writing, producing, promoting and all the label obligations I have with my whole household being home due to distance learning and working. 

It’s also been a challenge promoting albums because live music is a big part of getting music out there. With no live music, I’ve had to be creative on how we promote releases and singles. There is no script to what has had to occur to try and keep everyone out there and moving. 

I have a lot of sympathy for working musicians and venue owners who have been hit very hard this year. I’ve been lucky because I’m blessed to have great clients who have sent me lots of remote mixing work, writing and session work, and some decent album promotional campaigns. Because if that, I make it a point to try and give back to organizations and places that are supporting local working musicians and various venue relief efforts as much as I can. 

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


Richard Demko: 2020 has had a big influence on my solo writing, as I’ve written a few pandemic-themed songs, including a Christmas tune released exclusively for the 2020 holiday season called “Merry Christmas From a Distance.” I’ve also written a few songs for sync licensing that pertain to certain aspects of the pandemic. 

Richard Demko “Through Time And Space”


Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 


Richard Demko: I am hopeful that the pandemic will come to an end and we can return to live music! I am also hopeful from a label perspective that Connecticut will gain some serious attention in the mainstream music scene, as we have so many great artists and bands in our area! 

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

Richard Demko: As a solo writer, I plan on releasing of a few singles early in 2021, maybe a new Demkovic single will drop too. Passing Strange has a new album that we will be starting to track, which I’m really excited about. 

[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 can you tell us about your new song? How did it come about? 

Richard Demko: This song was started 7 years ago. I never finished it and it just sat on the storage drive and I kinda forgot about it. About two months ago, I was going through some of the stuff on my storage drive and I came across this and decided to take a listen. One thing led to the next and I ended up finishing it. Normally a song like this I would submit to one of the music libraries I work with for sync licensing, but I really was digging this one and wanted to keep it for myself so I decided to release it to the world under my name. 

Rockmommy: You’re also a big supporter and promoter of indie rock– both independently and through NeuroTronix Records. What can artists hope for in Connecticut this summer? How are you navigating some of the new rules and challenges to bring live music back? 

Richard Demko: I think this summer is going to be pretty good for outdoor music. I’ve got a few places I’m working with to promote live outdoor shows, one being 10selden where I have exclusive access to the bookings calendar. During the spring and summer months, I tend to enjoy outdoor music under normal circumstances, so I think regardless of the changes in the indoor venue guidelines, I’m going to stick with promoting mainly outdoor shows — at least at 10selden. I wouldn’t say I’m just a supporter of indie rock, I support indie artists of all genres, and hopefully once things start to go back to normal, the label will be actively scouting again to expand its roster. I’ve got a few artists I’m keeping an eye on, but that’s all I will say about that for the moment. 

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

Richard Demko: The best advice I can give to creative parents would be to just do the best you can with the time you have. Modify your creative schedule so that your family has the attention they need. When you get stressed, put that energy into writing or creating when you get the time, and it will not only come out more emotional, it will mean so much more in the end. I love being able to spend all this time with my kids and wife with everyone being home, however making the time to create is a very important part of having a balanced life.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Sonia De Los Santos on Welcoming Hope – and ‘Esperanza’ – This Spring

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Sonia De Los Santos creates music for children and families inspired by the Latin American folk music traditions. And although her songs are primarily in Spanish, the music is universally triumphant, filled with guitar, trumpet, violin, accordion, drums, but also other traditional instruments like the Mexican jaranaleona and the Colombian native flute: gaita.

Sonia De Los Santos

We recently caught up with Sonia find out what’s next, as the cooler weather starts to taper off.

Rockmommy: It’s been one year since the pandemic became our daily reality. What are the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months? 

Sonia De Los Santos: One of the biggest challenges has been learning to perform without a physical audience in sight. To me, singing and playing for the camera feels very different from doing it in a theater. It might seem easy to turn the camera on and start playing but putting on a virtual show seamlessly takes a lot of energy and test runs! On the upside, I’ve learned a couple of tech tricks that have hopefully taught me how to make better videos!

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

Sonia De Los Santos: My creative process got turned upside down in 2020. Inspiration as I knew it, had a different face this year and it was hard to recognize what the “right” moment was to sit down and write. In past years, I would return from a tour or rehearsal with an idea to develop, and sometimes that idea would be fleshed out with words, rhythm and melody within hours! I’ve been writing songs during the pandemic, but at some point I felt like I was going in circles! So, yes, I struggled a lot more to be in a particular creative space all the time, so I tricked myself to get there. On the other hand, I wrote some songs that I would’ve never written had I been living my past life, so it’s all good! 

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Sonia De Los Santos: I’m hopeful that we will find a way to go back to our lives in a better fashion. Having learned about what’s truly essential will hopefully present other ways of living, being aware of the impact we have on the planet, in our communities, and in what we choose to fight for. 

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

Sonia De Los Santos: I’m currently recording our next studio album Esperanza (Hope) that will be released in 2021, so we’ll have more hopeful songs to share with you in the months to come! Although the writing and production process has been a little bit different with this one, we’ve made it work. It draws inspiration from these challenging times and offers a message of hope and resilience for what’s coming next.

Last October, we put out the first single called ¡Fiesta, Fiesta! and it’s available in my website and all digital platforms. If you haven’t listened, go check it out and let me know what you think!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

NYC’s DonBlackCat, Rockdaddy and Longtime Guitarist, Plays on

interview by Rew Starr, Rockmommy contributor

It’s been a rough year for so many of us, including NYC-area musician DonBlackCat ( Donald Sztabnik), who lost his brother from the disease. But the guitarist, a frequent guest on the Pandemic Party/Rew & Who Show and the #rockdaddy of on-air personality/Z100 host Erica America, is still playing virtually and looking forward to a better 2021. 

DonBlackCat playing guitar

Rew: What have you been doing these days?

DonBlackCat: We all are suffering and trying to navigate through the challenges of the Covid-19 maelstrom … I lost my brother from this terrifying disease. I know many people who felt this pain up close and personal. But somehow we keep going and the music is always our friend, sometimes our only friend. To me the Guitar is like a Rubic’s Cube … simple yet a mystery that gets more Byzantine each time I pick one up. I have many laying around all over my house whispering to me ‘I dare you to try and play me !’ I continue to take bait… like Sirens wailing in the storm tempting me into frustration… I need to put wax into my ears to get some peace of mind. 

Rew Starr: Can you tell us about your kids?

DonBlackCat: My daughter Erica ( aka Erica America ) and my son Brian both look like me and for that I apologize to them both! I could not have asked for better kids who are now adults… ( Rew, are we adults yet… please let me know?). They like different music than me, but I do like what they listen to…

Rew Starr: How many major concerts and backstages have you been to thanks to her?

DonBlackCat: Erica is an on air personality for Z-100 so I have been to all the Z-100 Jingle Ball Concerts since she joined the on air roster a decade ago… so many great pop artists have graced the Madison Square Garden Stage. Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Pitbull, the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Camilla Cabello, Justin Bieber, Bebe Rexa, Ed Sheeran, among many others. My new favorite is Dua Lipa, with a sultry voice and great dance songs… one year backstage at MSG I got to meet the very special Christy Turlington who was gracious, funny and very down to earth… and she laughed at my jokes!

DonBlackCat and his daughter Erica America (of Z-100)

Rew Starr: How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a Rockstar? 

DonBlackCat: I was just 13 when I heard the Beatles on the radio for the first time on Thanksgiving night in 1963. It was on a small radio in the office of a local gas station. The WABC disc jockey said these lads from Liverpool had long hair and wore leather jackets and were called … The Beatles. 

I was struck by lightning, frozen in place staring at a tiny radio with a single speaker hearing ‘I wan to hold your hand’… that was the moment of moments for me. From then on it was the Beatles and all that followed, The Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Who, along with my folk and blues favorites like Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzey.  

To me, the guitar was a magical instrument. How could so many artists playing guitar sound so different and so good? I borrowed an older acoustic guitar and struggled to learn a few chords. I have never stopped since and my guitars are my friends… they frustrate me one day and bring me immense joy the next! … ha!… just like kids!

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

[RELATED: Rockdaddy Johnny Clay discusses music and fatherhood]

DonBlackCat: The greatest thing about being a rockdaddy is having two kids that gained me entry into this esteemed club. They are my greatest songs and they keep me younger every day. I give sincere thanks that I have remained active in music and that the thrill is not gone. I’m blessed and I appreciate every note!

Rew Starr is a musician, actor and mom who lives in New York City.

Monique DeBose, on Creating New, Purposeful Art on the Heels of 2020’s Urgent ‘Rally Call’

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Monique DeBoses song ‘Rally Call’ was one of the most impactful pieces of art to emerge from the most tumultuous year in recent history — but creating the song, and other music in 2020, was a process wrought with challenges.

With two young sons at home all the time amid the pandemic and the broader fight against racial injustice, finding the quiet moments for art sometimes felt impossible, according to the musician mama.

Monique DeBose

“Raising children through all the turmoil and racial reckoning required surgeon-like skills with how I shared information and life lessons with my 9-year-old and 7-year-old,” Monique tells Rockmommy. “I had a hard time carving out space for me to restore, meditate, be with my Self.”

[SEE RELATED: Monique DeBose: On Creating ‘Rally Call’ and Music That Inspires Change]

But with spring right around the corner, there is a renewed sense of hope in the air. We recently connected with Monique to talk about the re-release of her 2018 project (The Sovereign One), a new podcast (coming this spring!) and how she’s meeting the challenges of motherhood during the ongoing pandemic.  

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

Monique DeBose: Some would call my music jazzy pop infused with soul. I call it medicine. I create it to speak truth to power, to fear, to doubt. Everything I do is about owning all the parts of yourself. I believe that until we own all the parts of ourselves, only then can we truly be free. I am about creating more space in our nervous systems to be more loving to the things we’ve been ashamed of, embarrassed by and outright hated about ourselves. I do that through music, the written word and performance. 

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

Monique DeBose: The biggest challenge has been confronting the fact that many of my fellow Americans choose (consciously or unconsciously) to turn away from the injustices that are our country. It’s such a mindf*ck to know that everything we’ve built our lives on is so much more complex than the narrative that America was founded by the underdogs who worked hard and found prosperity. Having to accept that this bitter pill has colored every aspect of my life — raising my mixed/remixed boys, how I create art and what themes my works have, being married to a white, English, Jewish man, how I stand and support people who look like me- everything. 

That being said, raising children through all the turmoil and racial reckoning required surgeon-like skills with how I shared information and life lessons with my 9-year-old and 7-year-old. 

I had to face things with them that I didn’t think was fair to have to share with such young souls. Some people have the ‘privilege’ of not having to share the facts of life (as we presently know to be true) and I choose not to use that privilege. Using it only keeps the world in the state of denial that has brought all of what the summer of racial reckoning brought. 

Having kids at home 24/7 because of the global pandemic has also been ridiculous. There is no space to have the quiet moments I need as an artist. There is a constant piece of my consciousness with them — if they need homework help, emotional support, food — I begrudgingly made the choice to support them instead of keeping boundaries to be in my art/work. Each person who is blessed to be a parent must face this choice, pandemic or not- it’s a tough one. 

Also, regarding mental health, I had a hard time carving out space for me to restore, meditate, be with my Self. 

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Monique DeBose: I’m most hopeful that people will continue down the path of taking an honest look at our lives — looking at the limiting beliefs we are letting run us at the detriment of our fellow community members. I am most hopeful that our nervous systems will keep expanding to be able to hold seemingly diametrically opposed beliefs so that we can be more loving with each other. That’s the 30,000 foot hope. Here on the ground, in my own life, I am hopeful that my voice will reach thousands upon thousands of people who feel fed by the medicine I’m sharing through song, the written and spoken word- through all my creative projects. 

Monique DeBose (credit: JQ Williams)

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

Monique DeBose: I am working on the re-release of my 2018 project, the Sovereign One. It was such a beautiful accomplishment to put this project out. The collection of songs are all about integrating all the parts of ourselves that we often compartmentalize for survival’s sake. It debuted at #2 on the iTunes charts. I cried ugly tears as I watched that happen! I’ve teamed back up with my songwriting partners, Isaac and Thorald Koren of the Kin fame, and we’re adding to the story. After all that transpired this past summer and the need for us to come together — to integrate all of our history — there is more of this story to tell. That will be released later this summer 2021. 

I’m also in the midst of recording a podcast called ‘More with Monique.’ After the success of my song ‘More,’ which was released in October 2020, we saw there was a global movement where women were inspired to choose more for themselves. Women around the world participated by declaring what they wanted to choose more of in their lives and held up signs letting their community know to hold them accountable. We’ve got the first season mapped out with some extraordinary and extra ordinary women sharing stories of when they chose more for themselves. We will release the project late spring 2021. 

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

Monique DeBose: There is no balance in my life if I’m honest. I find I put my attention on one thing and the other may suffer. It’s just part of the game. What I do attempt to do is accept that this is part of life, do my best to be gentle with myself, and remember, that there is something much bigger at play here. Whether I’m being the best, or the ‘crap’ parent, it is my job to remember that these precious souls that AGREED to come in and be parented by me, are resilient. They have their own entelechy, their own internal intelligence that will unfold, independent of me putting them to bed seven nights a week or four.

Please remember that we are all divine beings having a human experience and at this particular time, there is so much we are processing and integrating. And … we were built for this time — all of us, including our little ones. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

What’s Next for Natalie Schlabs

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Nashville singer-songwriter Natalie Schlabs made one of my favorite records in 2020, Don’t Look Too Close, a collection of intimate synth-pop and alt-country tunes infused with gorgeous, sublime vocals (I’ve listened to the soaring, melancholy “Eye of the Storm” on repeat this week). We caught up with the indie artist to find out what’s next for 2021, in motherhood and music and beyond. 

Natalie Schlabs (photo by Fairlight Hubbard)

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

Natalie Schlabs: I like to say that I’m a blend between singer-songwriter, Americana, and Indie. At the heart, I value the lyricism and story that is true to form for most singer-songwriters. I love the timelessness and deep roots and the wide umbrella of Americana music. And more recently, I have been inspired by the interesting sounds and quirks of indie music. 

[SEE RELATED: Getting Close with Natalie Schlabs: Nashville Singer-Songwriter Discusses Life, Music and Motherhood in Quarantine]

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

Natalie Schlabs: I am trying to stick to a schedule, but with the pandemic and limited childcare, it’s tough. Raising a child is such a ride. So much mystery and exploration every day. But finding time for self can be a huge challenge that I would like to find more time for.

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

Natalie Schlabs: I have learned a lot more about Pro Tools and producing my own music in 2020, which has been really interesting and fun. I didn’t think that was something I wanted to learn, but now I am fantasizing about producing someone else’s record one day. I think it has made me feel more capable and informed as an artist. Even if I don’t record my own record, I think I can take that knowledge with me into the studio. 

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

Natalie Schlabs: I’m hoping to get into the studio in the near year to record some singles or a small EP. I haven’t decided how I’ll release it, but I’m really looking forward to getting back into the studio. 2019 was the last time I was working on my own music in the studio! 

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

Natalie Schlabs: This is SO hard, but I think it’s been helpful to remember that I can make a decision now and then change it later. I can decide something for my music or family life and then change when it’s no longer working. This can keep me from freezing up or feeling stuck.  If something isn’t working, you can change it. Or, you can make a decision now, and then make a different decision later. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Pierce Freelon’s 2021 to-Do List: Music, Media, and Helping Others

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

The start of every new year is full of hope — I knew this the moment I watched creative renaissance dad Pierce Freelon’s ‘Daddy Daughter Day’ video (featuring J Gunn). We recently caught up with Freelon to talk about his biggest hopes for 2021, and what the perfect summer looks like.

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

Pierce Freelon: My sound is millennial Hip Hop head rapping at my home studio with two kids in my lap. Or electronic jazz and soul beats that sample voice memos from my iPhone. My sound is also family-friendly music about inspired by real situations that young Black parents have to deal with. 

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

Pierce Freelon: My biggest challenge in the last 12 months was adjusting my life so I can serve on Durham City Council. As a husband, father, musician and business person I already had my hands full. Taking on a new job virtually (during a Panny) was a heavy lift. But I’m still here!

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

Pierce Freelon: 2020 was the year of virtual collaboration. I’ve worked with so many artists that I never see in person. I’m not used to that. Usually, we get together and vibe out in the studio. These days, I’m emailing tracks, and getting WeTransfer links back full of magic. I kind of dig it. It’s like opening a birthday present. 

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Pierce Freelon: In 2021 I hope to get better every day. I hope to learn from the silence and solitude and slowness of 2020 and make that part of my everyday, intentional practice. 2021 is the year of affirmations and speaking things into existence. What affirmations do you say to yourself every day? 

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

Pierce Freelon: A perfect summer looks like no one running against me in my re-election bid for City Council! Let me go ahead and speak that into existence right quick 🙂 I was appointed back in August and I’ve been doing a great job (if I must say so myself, lol). Real talk, it would be nice to chill this summer after we approve the city budget and not be in full campaign mode. 

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

Pierce Freelon: One project I’m really excited about is an educational television show for K-3rd graders I’m producing with PBS North Carolina in 2021 called Classroom Connection. This show will be a crucial lifeline for kids, especially in the rural part of our state where schools have been closed and internet is limited. There will be lessons from real public school teachers, music, puppetry, animation and conversations with kids! 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy