Nashville Pop-Rock Dad Zach Vinson on New Record and Being a ‘Better Man’

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Anyone who’s spent more than a day in Nashville knows that a musician’s struggle to keep up with the scene is real. Nashville-based pop-rock singer, songwriter and dad Zach Vinson can relate. Finding new inspiration is tough, and his latest record And Yet doesn’t fit neatly into any of the more popular album themes (e.g., love, breakup, politics).

What it does cover, however, is far grittier and more interesting. Songs like “Better Man” address the challenge of stability, staying steady, embracing the mundane of day-to-day life and not throwing in the towel when life gets tough. It’s also a record influenced by parenting and life with his toddler son.

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Zach Vinson, Nashville pop-rocker, papa and husband

Rockmommy recently caught up with Vinson to talk about all of this (his album drops in April).

Rockmommy: I love the concept of your album — the idea of adjusting to life and staying in love. How did the idea to make this kind of record come about?

Zach Vinson: It wasn’t me sitting down and thinking, ‘Oh, I should write an album about this.’ It was just a matter of writing what I was living. My wife and I have been married almost 10 years now, and the last few have been a journey of realizing a lot of hard things — the baggage we’ve accumulated over our lifetime, the ways we don’t fit together well, the unhealthy rhythms we’ve fallen into over the years, etc. — and having to decide if we were up for the pain and mess and crazy hard work of moving forward together rather than throwing in the towel.

Rockmommy: Your son is adorable in the Instagram pics. When did you become a parent (not sure if you have other kids)? How did that change your outlook?

Zach Vinson: We just have one son, and he’s about two and a half. He’s something else. In terms of our marriage, it definitely provided great motivation for us to work things out. But it’s also easy to fall into a trap of ‘oh, we have a kid, so we need to stay together for their sake.’ I don’t think that’s a helpful mindset. You have to actually do the work to make your home a healthy environment, which I think we’re very much still in the process of doing.

Rockmommy: How did that influence your music?

Zach Vinson: Hmm, that’s a good question. I think having a kid gives some urgency and accountability to my efforts as a musician. In other words, if I’m going to take time away from my family to pursue music, I better be as excellent as I can be. Full-ass, not half-ass (mom, if you’re reading this, sorry for the cussing!). This record is as “all-in” as I’ve been, and I’m really proud of how it turned out, so maybe I have him to thank for that in a roundabout way.

Rockmommy: Is it challenging to balance a creative profession with the rigors of parenthood?

Zach Vinson: Yes and no. The hard parts are traveling, having a less-steady paycheck, and never feeling like I’m “done” with work. And those things add some extra weight to my wife’s shoulders, too, which I don’t take lightly. But on the other hand, my flexible schedule has allowed me to be present for my family in ways that other people with more traditional jobs aren’t able to be, and I love that. As with all of life, there are trade-offs, and I just try to be intentional with the trade-offs I’m choosing.

Rockmommy: What are your favorite kinds of songs to play?

Zach Vinson: It’s so dependent on the audience and the venue. There are songs I love playing in certain contexts that are completely lousy in other situations. But I don’t think you can beat playing a good slow song for a pin-drop-quiet room.

Rockmommy: What advice do you have to other rocker dads/piano dads like yourself who may be struggling with the business of their personal lives in an ever-changing, ever challenging world?

Zach Vinson: It’s a lot to juggle, for sure. You can’t get so focused on music that you take the stability of your family for granted. But I also think it’s important for my son to see me taking my passions seriously and making time/space for things that are life-giving to me.

Rockmommy: I see just three tour dates — any shows this summer in the books?

Zach Vinson: There are a few things in the work. Some festival dates I can’t announce yet, a week in Germany where I’ll be playing keys for another artist, a month-long residency at a camp, and probably a few more solo and full band dates as well. But I realized a few years ago that I didn’t want to be on a trajectory of playing 150 to 200 dates a year with having a family, so I pick and choose my spots to tour a little more carefully.

Listen to Zach Vinson’s singles “Better Man” & “Hold My Son” on Spotify.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Jessie Baylin Talks Music, Making New Record ‘Strawberry Wind’ and Baby No. 2

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Jessie Baylin’s smoky voice, whimsical spirit and adorable songs have made Strawberry Wind — an Amazon Original album available for digital download through Prime Music — one of my family’s favorite summertime jams. 

Rockmommy recently caught up with Nashville-based Baylin, who in April welcomed son Oliver Francis Followill with husband Nathan Followill (of Kings of Leon), and big sister Violet. 

Here, Jessie shares her inspiration for the new album, dishes on her love of great food and tells us why the struggle for balance is real. 

Rockmommy: Tell me about Strawberry Wind (loved “Supermoon” video). What inspired this record? Is it true you were pregnant during the recording?

Jessie Baylin: This record was something I wanted to explore for a long time. Amazon gave me the opportunity to make it and it was inspired by my daughter and also the dreamer and the child within all of us. I was pregnant when we recorded Strawberry Wind! I didn’t know I was until about a week after we finished the album that there was indeed a strawberry boy in my belly. haha.

Rockmommy: How is motherhood influencing your creative process?

Jessie Baylin: It’s taken over my creative process a bit, ha! Though I have found that being a parent can be incredibly inspiring and filled with moments that are worth more than anything in this life, I still try and carve out time for when I can be creative. I am still in the newborn phase with my son so I am not quite there yet.

Strawberry-Wind-Cover-web-largeRockmommy: How’s the work-life balancing thing going? I hear you had a second child recently!

Jessie Baylin: Life at home is my priority, trying to figure out how to do this with two children. It is a lot but I’m rolling with it, and now that my son is sleep trained and on a schedule I think ill be able to see the light now.

[RELATED: Cheri Magill’s Tour Guide Chronicles Day-to-Day Adventures in Motherhood]

Rockmommy: In your spare time, what else do you like to do?

Jessie Baylin: I love to cook at home and connect with my friends. We have a lot of big dinners at the house on the weekends, and that brings me a lot of joy.

Rockmommy: Do you and your husband [Nathan Followill] try to carve out time to make music together? Or are you mainly doing your own creative things these days?

Jessie Baylin: Typically we don’t make music together though we love listening to albums together and discovering new records to listen to at the house. There’s always music playing around here.

Violet and Oliver courtesy of Jessie Baylin

Jessie Baylin’s little baby and his big sis.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

5 Heavy Metal Artists I Wish would Make a Children’s Record

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

In 2016, I interviewed a ton of rock mamas who made children’s music — from big name rockers like Amy Lee of Evanescence and Priscilla Ahn to kid-music-genre mainstays like Laurie Berkner.

But I couldn’t help but wonder, as my kids and I jammed out to each of these ladies’ records, what would an Axl Rose children’s album sound like? Or one by Ozzy Osborne?

And so I arrive at this list: The five heavy metal artists whom I wish would make a children’s record:

1. Alice Cooper. The shock rocker and “Trash” talker in eyeliner (and dad) would definitely have my attention if he wrote an alternate version of “Poison” with lyrics that touched on the dangers of drinking tonics in the medicine cabinet (or breaking into Dad’s pillbox and downing his cholesterol medication).

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Rockmommy Lita Ford

2. Slash. The lead guitar virtuoso with the killer black hair would bring legions of toddlers to the Hair Metal Nation station if he recorded an electric-guitar version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and planted a face-melting spider-solo (whereupon his fingers crawled down the neck of the guitar) at the end of the song. No doubt his sons would be jamming out to this tune, too.

3. Lita Ford. The mother of metal (and two grown boys) shreds with the best of them, and sings with the best of them, too. Who wouldn’t love to hear “Kiss me Deadly” reimagined with PG-rated lyrics that 4-year-olds could enjoy? Let’s see … “I went to the play date last Saturday Night … didn’t get to play, got in a fight. Oh no! It ain’t no big thing!” 

4. Glenn Danzig. Deep down, Mr. D. is definitely a mama’s boy (I mean, c’mon, he has a song called “Mother,” right?). I’d love him to turn that “Mother” song into a kid-friendly version so 5th graders everywhere could sing, “mama? Do you wanna bang heads with me?” Or maybe he could try rewriting the lyrics to Lucifuge’s “Long way Back from Hell” so kids would hear his big voice atop a cool, dive-bomb guitar tune?

5. Sepultura. We need more gravelly death metal vocals in children’s music, because they pay homage to Cookie Monster. And they help children who aren’t aspiring to be Adele have more realistic goals (e.g., to sound like Cookie Monster). Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura, who wrote one of my favorite records (Chaos A.D.) and has another tour coming up (how they’ve managed to survive with all those lineup changes is beyond me) is well positioned for this kind of project.

Did I miss any good ones? I’d love to hear any other ideas for a heavy metal children’s album, so please post in the comments and thoughts below.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Does Garbage Still Got it, 20 Years Later? 5 Thoughts on ‘Strange Little Birds’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When I first heard that Garbage was putting out a new album that evoked the band’s 1995 self-titled debut, I was stoked. Few albums take me back to a specific time and place like that record, a masterpiece overflowing with so many sexy, fun, cool tracks that I became an instant fan the first time I heard it.

This past July, more than 20 years later, I downloaded “Strange Little Birds,” Garbage’s sixth studio album, hoping to recreate some of those euphoric feelings. Of course, the context of my listening experience couldn’t be more different: these days, I’m a mom, not a college student. I don’t go clubbing save for a special occasion, and I’m married.

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Garbage’s sixth studio album, “Strange Little Birds”

Given all of these things, it’s difficult to give a Rolling Stone-worthy (or Pitchfork-worthy) review, where the focus is purely on the music, and how it compares to other music. But if you’re a longtime Garbage fan who’s thinking about downloading this album, I’ll share my thoughts:

#1: Shirley is ageless. Lead singer Shirley Manson’s voice, not to mention her goth-punk appearance, has barely changed since the late 1990s. She’s still as breathy and seductive as ever, with one of the most underrated voices in the music industry.

#2: Butch Vig & Co. hold their own: After nearly two decades of making music, can Manson’s bandmates (Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, Steve Marker) keep up with younger, bolder contemporaries? In a word, yes! “Strange Little Birds” encompasses a broad soundscape, filled with a smattering of noises and pretty instruments that come together like a well-blended artisan coffee drink (or, as Rolling Stone puts it, “sheer guitar buzz and moody industrial texture”).

#3: ‘Strange Little Birds’ is less like ‘Garbage’ than ‘Version 2.0’: This record is angry, with aggressive songs like “Empty” that evoke pretty much everything Nine Inch Nails (post “Pretty Hate Machine,” naturally). I’d love for the modern-day equivalent of “Only Happy When it Rains” — a goth-in-disguise pop track with a fun, peppy beat — but alas, there are none here.

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Garbage, circa 2016

#4: There is no epic “#1 Crush.” If you’re dying for Shirley to seduce you with “I would die for you”-like lyrics, dream on. You won’t find anything that would fit a “Romeo & Juliet” soundtrack on this record.

#5: But there are still still a couple of drop-everything-and-listen tracks. One listen to the epic “Even Though Our Love is Doomed,” and I immediately felt redeemed for spending $12.99 on this album.

Overall, “Strange Little Birds” leaves me wanting more. It makes me nostalgic for old Garbage, and the days of “Queer” or “Stupid Girl.” All in all, it’s a great record, even though I won’t be playing it enough for any of the tracks to slide into my “Top 25 Most Played” playlist.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.