It’s been quite a year, and if you’re a mom, dad, or kid, you’ve likely experienced a level of family bonding you never thought possible. Frances England, mom of two teenage sons, gets it. Her latest tune, ‘Glue,’ out today is inspired by the intimacy of living in a coronavirus pod, for better and worse.
But the song is also a welcome respite from the severity of the pandemic in our everyday lives.
We recently caught up with her to talk about the new tune, the first single off her forthcoming album, ‘Honey,’ out November 16.
Rockmommy: What inspired the song, “Glue?”
Frances England: The idea for “Glue” came from the CoronaCoaster we’ve all been riding since March of this year. I was just thinking about how our worlds got so small when we were suddenly only allowed to be with a very limited group of people — our immediate families, our partners, our pets. “Glue” is a song about appreciating the people you’ve been stuck with 🙂
Rockmommy: What messages do you hope to impart in your music?
Frances England: For kids, I try and subtly weave in messages about being compassionate, empathetic, a curious observer, animal protectors, good stewards of the earth. For parents, I try to create songs that speak to how wondrous and magical the ordinary is when you have young children. My kids are older now, but I remember how stressful and exhausting it can be to parent young kids. It’s also the most special space in time and I hope my songs capture a little bit of that.
Rockmommy: What are you most looking forward to, over the next few weeks, during these crazy times?
Frances England: COVID + the California fires + our country’s political reality have made for a hyper stressful time, and to be honest, I have been feeling anxious about pretty much everything. During the next few weeks I’m hoping to balance all those externals with some quiet things that calm me down and fill me up: songwriting, family bike rides, experimenting with a new camera. I also manage a community park in my neighborhood so that keeps me busy in all sorts of interesting ways.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor in chief of Rockmommy.
The BeatBuds — a couple of hilarious, LA.-based musician dads who write and perform fun, relatable rockin’ family tunes — have gone through a lifetime of highs and lows since meeting in grade school.
But nothing prepared #rockdaddies Jonny Jingles (guitar) and Matty Maracas (drums) for life after Covid: balancing work, music and raising kids ages 2 through 9, while trying to channel a positive attitude into the homes (and screens) of Americans everywhere.
The duo’s YouTube livestream series is full of delightful nonsense, random songs and engaging content (on a rainy day, I recommend binge-watching them with your kids).
This summer, they’re elevating their musical and virtual game, with the first-ever virtual BeatBASH onSunday, July 12at1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT): The free event is billed as a 360-degree, immersive and interactive tropical island experience, which will feature an abundance of digital touchpoints, virtual instruments for kids to play, trivia games, and rockin sing-alongs. Tickets are available here
We recently caught up with The BeatBuds’ Matty Maracas (Shapiro) over email to learn more about the upcoming gig, family life, and music’s ability to improve creativity, lift moods and boost self-expression.
Rockmommy: You’re musicians and dads and have a really cool backstory. Can you recall how you felt in March when the world changed (due to Covid) and it became essential for music to shapeshift (from live settings to virtual streams)?
Matty Maracas: Thank you so much for the kind words! Obviously, our first concern was for the safety of our families. But after we took a moment and processed what was really happening, we could clearly see that things for The BeatBuds were not going back to normal anytime soon. Jonny came up with the idea to do a YouTube live stream simply as a way to maintain a sense of normalcy for the kids that we previously saw day to day during our many in-home classes, birthday parties, and special events. To be honest, not only did it help the kids and parents in that initial period of chaos, but it also helped us stay positive as we watched our thriving live event business come to a halt. After diving headfirst into the daily livestream we quickly started to learn how to be most effective for the kids in this new digital format that seemed here to stay.
Rockmommy: How old are your kids?
Matty Maracas: My girls are 9 and 6 going on 18. Yikes! They dance like crazy. Jonny’s son is 2.5, taller than most kids his age, and rocks the drums harder than I do!
Rockmommy: I’ve seen the livestream — it’s hilarious. How do you come up with such funny material that’s kid-appropriate (and on the fly)?
Matty Maracas: We are glad you dig it! Jonny and I have been best friends since the age of 6. We’ve experienced nearly everything together as young kids, as grade school pals before we played music, and of course later on in our teens and all through adulthood as musical partners. With so many shared life experiences over a 35-year span, we know a thing or two about each other and how to riff off the other to create material that is not pre-planned. Because Jonny and I have a best friendship since super early childhood, a career in the ‘kid’ world, and are both dads, we have a unique ability to channel the dynamic we had as children and as best buds when we are together. It just happens naturally. Although we are adults and have the same responsibilities as other dads, husbands, and career driven people, our history and career allows us the ability to go to that innocent ‘place’ where we can come up with things that maybe an adult with a different history and background cannot. Long story short, we know exactly what the other is thinking and gonna do in performance situations, and we use that intuition to help us create honest, kid-friendly material on the fly.
Rockmommy: Why is music so important right now, especially for kids? What do you hope to give them if they’re in quarantine, or even post-quarantine?
Matty Maracas: As we go back to life’s basics and keep exposure to a minimum, music continues to be the perfect vehicle to help equalize the children. Music has always been a source of comfort that encourages creativity, a mood controller, and a vehicle for self-expression. Kids can sing, dance, and perform in the privacy of their own home and can exercise that creative muscle without limitation. As always, and especially during this quarantine period, we aim to maximize the power of music and use it to inspire the kids. Amongst an interactive, ‘hands on’ music experience, our live stream and virtual programming also exposes children to a wide range of general education topics, crafting, voting, and sharing to name a few. Our mission is always to give the kids a fun, lighthearted, educational music experience that they can learn from and will inspire their creativity.
Rockmommy: What’s been the coolest “silver lining” of the new world? Making home videos?
Matty Maracas: The coolest “silver lining” of the past few months, although things are really ramping back up now, was the quality time we spent with our families. While, yes, it’s been scary, and certainly not optimum as we feel for those families that have not been so lucky, we have done our best to make it a time of positivity. As far as ‘silver lining’ for The BeatBuds, our livestream gave rise to a new set of skills that allowed us to pivot our business, offer virtual programming to our customers, and think in a new way. Not only do we now offer virtual services for customers who desire that format, but we can now offer our fun musical approach to customers all around the world. We’re global!
Rockmommy: What are you guys doing this summer, with life and the show? How will you keep the kids entertained?
Matty Maracas: This summer we plan to keep on rockin’ the YouTube live stream, re-enter the live event space safely, and maximize engagement through the digital realm. Over the past few months we have entered a new normal and instead of looking toward a time that resembles the ‘old days,’ we plan to take our most recent experiences as performers and organize the first ever Virtual BeatBASH! Yep! Imagine entering a 360 immersive and interactive world via your computer where you, your friends, and your family are in control of experiencing a live BeatBuds concert together in the comfort and safety of your own home. On Sunday, July 12th at 10:00am PST you will be able to jam with us, sing along, play virtual instruments, and navigate BeatBuds Island customizing it along the way through interactive ‘hot spots.’ It’s wild! We want the kids of the world to experience it, so get your tickets now at www.TheBeatBash.com and help us make this a summer to remember. See you at the Virtual BeatBASH!
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
Was it really two weeks ago that my band played a packed club — with barely enough room to move, let alone dance? On the night of February 29, which feels like years ago, my band Trashing Violet played its third show in a string of weekly gigs, and we felt unstoppable. Sure, we’d heard about the “novel coronavirus,” aka COVID-19, but it seemed like a distant thing. A potential threat, health authorities had said, but not a big one for us in Connecticut. We’d be fine.
I wasn’t prepared for the current pandemic, and the economic fallout that would ensue. The cancellation of conferences. The closure of my kids’ school, which would force me into a homeschooling role I’d never wanted nor prepared for. Guitar lessons getting dropped, because of the need for “social distancing,” a term I’d never before utilized. Now it crosses my lips every day.
Me (Marisa Mini) preparing for a solo acoustic gig on 3/25 that will now happen in a Facebook Livestream.
Throughout the world, the coronavirus started spreading. And spreading. People stopped shaking hands and hugging. Everything shut down. And we keep getting more and more isolated from each other. One week since “elbow rubbing” became the new handshake, the elbow rub seems like a distant memory.
In my personal life, the biggest casualty of this catastrophe is in my musical life: My band had momentum. But it’s no longer safe to rehearse. There won’t be any new gigs.
So at the end of last week, two days after my birthday, I cried a lot. My husband had to console me. I had a lot to be thankful for — a nice house, kids who are healthy, work I can do from home and get paid to do. But the life I knew and loved — a perfect life, by all accounts — is now on hold. My new reality gives me only little slivers of time to pursue the things I love: fitness, music, and writing this blog. Forget the dystopian novel I’d been working on. All of the realities I’d imagined for 2200 now seem dated. The future has never been more uncertain.
The loss of my music community has hit me the hardest. I love my bands — up here in the NYC tristate area and in Washington, D.C., I love my friends’ bands. I love the people I rehearse with, the musicians I open for, the drummers, bassists, singers, keyboardists, and guitarists galore I’m friends with — in real life and on social media channels. Many of these friends have supported me when I had little support from other channels. And now, many of them are struggling.
Musicians who are super rich, like Gwen Stefani, will probably be fine. No gigging for a month is no big deal, financially. But if you’re a singer in a cover band who depends on bringing home $1,000 to $2,000 a month for club gigs — or you’re a deejay who runs karaoke nights — you’re hurting and/or super stressed right now. I’m sure those of us with “work at home” income will also feel the forthcoming recession soon, but to feel it now and not know where your next paycheck, let alone your next gig, will come from is an especially tough blow.
Yesterday I decided I’d use technology to play Facebook Live shows, and ask for donations via PayPal or Venmo, which I’d transfer to the musicians who are hurting the most. Mark your calendars for March 25, 2020. 🙂
I encouraged my musician friends in the NYC area to do the same. We need to try and spread the wealth we have so the entertainers we love and need don’t lose hope.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
Five years ago, having a few moments to myself to strum my guitar — without getting interrupted by a toddler — was a bit of a miracle.
Fast forward to 2020 and my two young sons are no longer toddlers. They’re 6- and 7-year-olds with their own interests who need me less and less. This is bittersweet: While I don’t want to repeat the baby years — the diapers! the sleepless nights! the 2-hour nursing sessions! — I miss our constant time together. I miss reading to them big chair, snuggling on the couch, pushing the double stroller to the park while clutching a mug of coffee. The whole bit.
Baby Nathan, sometime in 2013, and my guitar.
One positive development that’s come out of their independence is my ability to nurture interests of my own again — namely music.
After Nathan was born in 2012, I pretty much put #bandlife on a shelf, save for teaching guitar and the playing occasional solo gig or reunion show with my longtime D.C. pop-punk band Grandma’s Mini. But in 2018, I was ready to fire up the old Fender Stratocaster — and the new Gibson SG — and play out again. The only thing I was missing was bandmates. So I asked the universe to help me find them.
The universe granted my wish. In November of that year, my guitarist pal Anna and I met with rock daddy bassist (and guitarist) Doug E. through Craigslist, scored rehearsal space in a studio, and soon after, brought my friend Jason’s brother Nick D. into the group to play drums. Several rehearsals after that, our band Trashing Violet became a living, breathing, gigging machine.
Me, rocking out with my band Trashing Violet at Cafe 9.
Yet amid the sheer joy of playing songs every week in our rehearsal space, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would actually play shows — not just occasionally, but ALL THE TIME. About a month ago, we were asked to play so often that I started getting that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I’d have to ask my husband, yet again, if he minded that I got booked for yet another show.
As I explain in this interview (below), filmed over the weekend at our gig at Sage Sound Studios, the fact that my bandmates and I found each other in a similar time in our lives was nothing short of pure serendipity. That I could find bandmates with intense day jobs and parental responsibilities who understood that I’m a #mommy first and a #rockmommy second was amazing.
But of course, as we rehearse weekly and gig weekly, my sons are undoubtedly seeing less of me. I’m not there 2 nights a week to tuck them in. My older son, who is especially independent, is OK with this; my younger son gets a little clingy each time I leave (he’s been known to shout “band practice is dumb,” according to dada). It was a bit of a wakeup call when I realized this morning, while scanning photos on my phone, that I have taken more pics of my bandmates than Nathan in the last two months. As I gazed into his dark-chocolate brown eyes, my heart swelled, and I felt a tinge of guilt: Am I playing out too much, and missing out too much on the little things?
I realized then that achieving absolute perfect balance in every area of my life would be impossible. At the same time, there are limits. I need to make sure I’m considering the feelings all of the people who need me before I overcommit myself. Time is more precious than ever. Every minute I spend away from my loved ones better be worth it because it’s a minute I’m missing out on being with them.
My younger son Logan, playing the keys at the local movie theater.
So, yes — I can play consecutive shows if the opportunity arises. I can practice once a week with my band because it makes me happy. I can go on tour for a weekend or even a few days … should the right opportunity arise. But I can’t rehearse every single night and play every Friday and Saturday — nor can (or should) I say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way.
When my kids are 14 and 15, I might find that I’m needed even less, and there’s more time to pursue music goals. Maybe I’ll go on a two-week tour. Maybe I’ll do a lot of things — travel to Greece, surf in Hawaii, learn how to play the drums.
But in the immediate future, I need to pause and reflect, and see things through the lens of motherhood: Is a gig I’m being asked to play good for me and my band? Is it worth taking time away from our families? Does it fill my heart with joy?
Putting my family’s needs first is important, even if it means saying “no” once in a while to creative endeavors. And it makes the stuff I say “yes” to all the more special.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.
It’s been quite a year — from my oldest son’s learning to do flips (and learning to read) to my baby boy entering kindergarten, we’ve hit so many parenting milestones. And personal milestones too. My husband sold his company and stepped up his baseball coaching game, while I stepped up my musical endeavors: I played the longest springtime “mommy and me” show at my kid’s preschool, started a rock band with two other parents (and one cool cat mama), and made good on my commitment to play guitar ten minutes a day (except when I was traveling — haven’t figured out how to do that yet!).
I learned to say “no” to having too many goals, and say “yes” to joy.
This is the most important thing I learned.
The world is a crazy place, and in many ways more terrifying than it was in my own childhood. Between the acceleration of global warming to the tensions in the Middle East exacerbated by our current Administration (sorry to get political, but it’s true), we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I find myself fraught with worry on many mornings like these, wondering if gun violence or terrorism will have a direct impact on those I love.
But while I can’t control tomorrow, I can try to make the most of today. Enjoying my sons and niece while they are young. Spending meaningful time with my husband. Enjoying my parents and in-laws. Appreciating my friendships.
On New Year’s Eve, we had kids ages 1 to 14 hanging out all over my house. Our basement is full of musical instruments, as I always hoped it would be — my husband’s drum kit, a keyboard, lots of shakers and percussion and several of my guitars. Sometime around 9 or 10 (I wasn’t looking), a band of highly sugared-up little ones hit the basement and started jamming out on all the gear. The cacophony of their playing was so perfect — and so right. It made my heart melt a bit.
So while we can’t always predict the outcomes of any year, or any action we take, we can change our attitude. We can accept wonderful things when they enter our lives. We can be present for the spontaneous moments that offer so much joy.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
Pop quiz: What’s the last thing you played in your car? If your answer is Kidz Bop, you’re definitely a parent who wants to make sure your kids aren’t listening profanity-laced tunes while you drive. And/or your name is Nick, and you’re a dad of four who plays the drums. 🙂
To be sure, Kidz Bop puts out some amazing renditions of songs like Cardi B’s “I like it.”
But I sense that what many parents really need more of is good playlists full of adult-friendly songs that you can listen to with the little ones in tow.
Whether you’re embarking on a family road trip, or are simply tired of hearing “Baby Shark” on repeat, here’s a summer playlist full of seasonal, (mostly) grownup tunes that your kids will love. I can say this with confidence because it’s an actual summer playlist I use for my two sons, both under 7.
My son Logan, listening to something on my computer
“Three Little Birds” — Bob Marley
Everything about this song makes me happy. If you’re not burned out on “Legend” from your college years, also download “No Woman No Cry.”
“Believer” — Imagine Dragons
My littlest one loves the thundering drums and been easily singing along with the chorus.
“Rock Party” — Kids Imagine Nation
This fun song from the Orange California kind rock trio Kids Imagine Nation calls for some serious dancing.
The Backstreet Boys are all dads in their 30s and 40s — which proves you’re never too old to be a pop star, and churn out hits infused with killer vocal harmonies and choreographed dance moves.
And as the experience of founding member Howie D. proves, you’re never too old to try something completely different and unexpected.
The vocalist’s first family album ‘Which One am I?’ — which draws on his sometimes-awkward adolescence as the son of a Puerto Rican mom and Irish-American Dad — drops July 12. Judging by the catchy first single, “No Hablo Español” — a Santana-meets-Sesame-Street tune — the record will show us a side of Howie we’ve only glimpsed in interviews and news stories.
Backstreet Boys vocalist Howie D. will release first family album, Which One Am I?, on July 12.
In the video for “No Hablo Español” Howie’s real-life, 10-year-old son James plays a young boy trying to explain to kids and grown-ups in his community that he doesn’t speak Spanish, isn’t accustomed to spicy foods, and has had few cultural experiences that exemplify his presumed upbringing. It’s a powerful song that encapsulates the struggle experienced by many kids from mixed family backgrounds — especially today.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t taught Spanish at a young age,” Howie D. — whose full name is Howie Dorough — tells Rockmommy. “My response was always ‘No Hablo Español.’”
The album is also inspired by Howie’s perspective as a father of two, who — just like the rest of us — works hard to balance creative career endeavors with the demands of parenting, like shuttling kids to and from school every day (raise your hand if you can relate!).
So how does he do it all?
We caught up with Howie D., who is currently on the Backstreet Boys DNA World Tour, to find out more.
Rockmommy: I just finished watching the video for “No Hablo Español” — it’s like Sesame Street meets a Broadway musical! How did the song (and the album Which One Am I?) come about?
Howie D: Thank you, that’s such a compliment and exactly what I was looking to achieve. The idea for the song “No Hablo Español” came from my experiences as a child and people assuming I spoke Spanish by the way I look. Unfortunately, I wasn’t taught Spanish at a young age. My response was always: “No Hablo Español.” The album is based off different childhood experiences and challenges I faced.
Rockmommy: When did it occur to you that you wanted to create a family album? Was there a moment? Or did the idea sort of percolate over time?
Howie D: This idea started when my eldest was about 5 years old. I wanted to find a way to connect with him on a musical level. I had a hard time relating to music that was out there at the time. It made me wonder why there wasn’t more music that kids and parents could enjoy together. Also, as I looked into the audience at a Backstreet Boys show one day, I noticed a lot of kids coming to the shows with their BSB fan parents. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back… and I began working on what is now Which One Am I?
Rockmommy: You became a husband and then a dad after decades of musical success with the Backstreet Boys. How has parenthood changed you, personally?
Howie D.: Parenthood has taught me to be selfless. Having a family has really balanced me out in life. Now, I am able to truly understand the meaning of working hard, but also the meaning of being a family man too.
Rockmommy: How has parenthood influenced your music (or even your tour schedule)?
Howie D.: Parenthood has influenced my music by making me think about different subjects. I am inspired by different things nowadays. All 5 of us in the Backstreet Boys are now parents. We try to work together on a schedule that allows us to work hard and put in quality time with our families, even if it is on the road.
Rockmommy: Do your boys enjoy playing music or sing with you?
Howie D.: My kids LOVE singing with me. On the way to school — I am the bus driver when I am home — we are always singing along and rewriting songs we hear on the radio. James definitely has the entertainer bug! He loves singing and dancing. He even takes voice lessons from my sister, Pollyanna [Dorough].
Rockmommy: Do you go to “daddy and me” toddler music classes or anything like that? Or just jam at home?
Howie D.: When my kids were younger, I would go to Gymboree with them. This also inspired me to want to make something more entertaining for families!
Rockmommy: Having a busy work life and kids can be hard on marriage. How do you make it work?
Howie D.: I try to put in quality time for both. When me and my wife are back home, we have a date night once a week. It brings us back to a time when it was just the two of us! Marriage is something you always work on. As I mentioned, I am the bus driver when I’m at home. I love that quality time with the kids in the morning and afternoons.