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

Anna Wilson and Monty Powell, on Connecting in Love and Music

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Anna Wilson and her husband Monty Powell — who’ve been writing music together practically since the day they met — make collaboration look easy. But the longtime lovebirds, married 20 years, admit there are moments of disharmony. 

Anna Wilson and Monty Powell

“The creative tension is real, and we do bicker about creative vision,” Anna admits to Rockmommy. “But when the work phase passes it’s all about the love and we just go have a nice dinner together.” 

Their chemistry is obvious onstage too. The couple, longtime Nashville dwellers who relocated to Utah a few years ago, are the driving force behind the musical duo Troubadour 77, which infuses gorgeous rock vocal harmonies with Monty’s layered, often intricate, guitar playing and Anna’s piano melodies. As American Songwriter noted, Troubadour 77 came together as a sort of “tribute to the legendary Troubadour club in LA,” where artists of the ’60s and ’70s like Carole King and The Eagles made a name for themselves. 

It’s a beautiful transition from their former life, as a songwriter-and-producer team behind some of the greatest songs performed by stars like Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, and Lady Antebellum.

And while the pandemic put touring on hold, Troubadour 77 still managed to pull together weekly 15-minute Facebook Live-streamed “T77 Squared” concerts. When I asked Monty about them in mid-April — at the tail end of a conversation about which home-recording gear I should buy — he told me the shorter duration of these sets was intentional. A couple could enjoy a glass of wine, listen to a few songs, relax, and then move on to the rest of their night. No strings attached.

We recently caught up with Anna and Monty to learn more about timing, parenthood (they’ve got two daughters), and what’s next in the post-quarantine world. 

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

Anna Wilson: I’d say our ‘sound’ captures the spirit of the SoCal Laurel Canyon era of the 70s. Folks like Carole King, Jackson Browne, CSNY and others who graced the stage of Doug Weston’s Troubadour club in West Hollywood. I am continually trying to keep the flame alive of what that community represented musically, lyrically and artistically.

Monty Powell: Organic, classic singer songwriter — pop/rock with an Americana palette. 

Rockmommy: Can you tell us a little but about how you met? 

Anna Wilson: We met backstage at a Diamond Rio concert in Nashville in September 1993. Monty was the band’s producer and I was the band’s publicist. I was trying to sound all cool and deep and told Monty I wanted to make a concept album about the “Seasons”. It’s amazing he continued to talk to me. I swear this was not drug induced!

Rockmommy: Let’s talk about the challenges of 2020 for musicians. What was that like for you two?

Monty Powell: Learning how to entertain over virtual platforms with no audience was hard. 

Anna Wilson: I’d also say learning how to keep our fan base engaged in a meaningful way via social media since we could not tour and interact with them like we normally always have. The reinvention of how to bring quality virtual concerts and content to our followers, and the technical aspects that go along with that pursuit, was a definite learning curve. 

Anna Wilson (Photo credit: Juan Pont Lezica)

Rockmommy: The Facebook Live series was brilliant. How did that come about? 

Anna Wilson: The virtual two-song session that we called “T77 Squared Concerts” was born out of the pandemic and not being able to be out on the road and performing live. With everyone online and screen weary we thought the short format would be welcome. After 6 months of that series, lots of folks mentioned they wanted longer sets so we moved to an hour long, once a month concert that we call The 777 Show that featured 7 songs on the 7th of the month at 7pm EST. Both series have been great but in some ways the virtual concert is starting to feel like it’s run its course. Everyone is fatigued by the online virtual experience from just all content in general. In light of this observation, we are doing our last episode on March 7, 2021, and that will complete a one-year cycle of virtual concerts for us. We will still do some special episodes of virtual concerts but just not a regular series and we hope to get back to live performing and touring by Fall 2021.

Rockmommy: How did the past year’s challenges influence your music and creative process? 

Anna Wilson: We definitely wrote and released songs that matched the moments we were in and the experiences we were all collectively going through. Troubadour 77 wound up adding two bonus tracks, The Love Forward Project, to our existing album Revolution & Redemption to create a Deluxe release. These songs were my artistic and creative reaction to the virus, social justice conversation, the political climate and other issues that were swirling throughout 2020.

Monty Powell: It definitely pushed our writing into a more socially active space with more commentary on current events.

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

Anna Wilson: Monty and I are writing a play similar in format of what Bruce Springsteen did with his “Springsteen on Broadway.” It will weave in songs spanning our careers along with a unique and compelling narrative that ties it all together. We hope to have it written by the end of this winter, rehearse it in the spring, record it over the summer and find a way to begin touring it in 2022.  

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

Monty Powell: Involve your kids in your creative process. Make them understand that it’s not a mystery, that is mostly just hard work ethic. 

Anna Wilson: Just because you are spending time helping your kids do homework or driving them in carpool doesn’t mean you aren’t feeding your creative soul. In fact, it may be the very portal that you draw inspiration from and where your next song idea or melody comes from. Creativity can exist in the midst of the chaos. In fact, it is often sparked in the midst of it. When it hits, grab it, write it down until you do get some quiet time to refocus on it. It will still be there for you to access when you do. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Catching up with Passing Strange’s Kate Mirabella

If new music is one of the silver linings of 2020, Passing Strange’s record The Water and the Woods is pure sterling – saturated with lush, keyboard-and-percussion soundscapes and stories that had me listening long into the summer. 

We recently connected with Kate Mirabella, lyricist, singer and keyboard for the Connecticut alt-rock duo (with Anthony Paolucci) to talk about what’s next.

Kate Mirabella

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

Kate Mirabella: The best way to describe my sound is an emo Fiona Apple. One track on an album can be dulcet and melodic and the next one is an angry jazzy revenge song. It’s definitely moody and lyric-focused. 

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

After losing family members to Covid, losing my job, and not being able to play shows, I was feeling pretty low and stuck. I usually write and play every day, but it was hard to be creative this year. One thing that got me through it was the phenomenal music that came out this year. Phoebe Bridger’s “Punisher” and the two Taylor Swift albums got me super inspired and writing again.

Not being able to practice as a band was difficult, but it also gave me some time to reflect on my sound. I actually wrote a few songs in quarantine that will be on the new album. The tone and lyrics have a heaviness and darkness to them, which I think shows where my head was at this year. 

[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 are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Kate Mirabella: The news of vaccines has been so wonderful to see. I feel there will be a huge creative renaissance coming up in response to the pandemic. I can’t wait to go out to museums, shows and be with friends again. It feels like we can plan on it looking like the roaring 20’s after the Spanish Flu. 

Kate Mirabella of Passing Strange (Photo Credit: DeFilippo Foto)

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

Passing Strange’s third studio album will be in the works this year! Some of these songs are a few years old, while others were written in quarantine. I can’t wait to get these songs out there and play them live. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor of Rockmommy.

Joy Rose, on Mamapalooza, Motherhood and Turning up the Volume

By Rew Starr

JOY ROSE is one of a kind. I knew I had a unique connection with her before we even met because my middle name is “Joy” and my Grandmother’s name was Rose!

After meeting at a MaMaPaLooZa gig on the waterfront on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I knew I was hooked. It was my first time joining this festival, I felt so honored to be counted as a mom that rocked! I found my new religion with Joy at the helm… she has continued to inspire, celebrate and give Moms all the glitter, respect and pizazz they deserve. 

I recently caught up with this mom of four — where Zena (26), Brody (31) and Blaze (29), are gathering in Florida to support their brother, Ali Marpet (27), Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive lineman, who is heading to the Super Bowl. 

Joy Rose and daughter Zena, 2003 (Joy is also mother to Ali, Brody, and Blaze)

Rockmommy: What have you been doing these days?

Joy Rose: I am greatly looking forward to a better and brighter 2021! I spent the summer farming a remote plot of land during the summer season, and then trying to survive the ‘vid’ as I circled back to New York, all while mentoring interns at the Museum of Motherhood, and cultivating personal creativity whenever possible.

Rockmommy: Meeting you for me was love at first sight with MAMAPALOOZA. How did you come up with this concept?

Joy Rose: The feeling is mutual. The concept for Mamapalooza was born out of multiple brainstorming sessions with friends about how to address the absent voices of women in the arts at the time. I write about this in my chapter in Motherhood and Music for Demeter Press (2018). One of the things that made Mamapalooza so amazing for me was that I was (and remain) an authentic fan of each of the women I promoted. 

Their courage, fortitude, creativity, and ability wowed me again and again. We all came together at a very special time in the world when our generation of women, born and raised out of the feminist movement of the 1970s, emerged into motherhood in the 80s and 90s believing Helen Reddy’s anthem “we are women, hear us roar.” 

We were all hungry to connect, poised to make noise, and ready for the challenges that came from both the personal and professional world. 

Joy Rose and Zena, 2019

Rockmommy: You have been a pioneer for moms in my eyes for Museum of Motherhood, can you elaborate on this endeavor?

Joy Rose: Women have a sad history of being “disappeared”. We make advances, get written out of the books, and the patriarchy goes marching on. MOM is committed to putting Motherhood on the map by elucidating the art, science, and history of m/others. We’ve done a LOT to champion the art and the scholarship of motherhood in the last 20 years. By curating these knowledge(s), I aim to keep these advances and reflections available to those interested in the subject. It’s important for me to also state that I am as invested in championing the subject as I am in deconstructing persistent and damaging stereotypes. There is no one perfect mother. There is no perfect family. We are all on a journey of discovery.

Rockmommy: Are you making any new music?

Joy Rose: I’m writing songs for my new grandbaby, but that’s about it. I am still very interested in hearing other people’s music though, so send it to me!

Rockmommy: What about playing out? Do you see ever in the future?

Joy Rose: I am currently gestating on an art/music/performance project. It needs to be something visible and international and I’m starting to mentally gather people. However, let me also be honest that it is very difficult to do everything and the museum keeps me extremely busy.

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

Joy Rose: I’m very shy. It takes everything in my soul to step out into the public arena as I am extremely insecure. I also went back to graduate school in 2014 earning my Master’s in Mother Studies from the Women and Gender Studies Dept. at CUNY The Graduate Center in NY (2015). 

Rockmommy: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?

Joy Rose: Making noise. Raising your voice and speaking your truth is the most important thing! It’s the equivalent of shining your soul light. Don’t die with the music still inside you. I dragged myself onto the stage, trembling, doubting, and ultimately victorious by standing with my two feet on the ground and lifting my throat to the stars and then sharing those victories with others.

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

Genevieve Goings’ 2020 Indoor Time — with Son Kamari and Family — Inspires Upbeat Record in Early 2021

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

This month, Rockmommy talks to artists about their plans or the coming year. Up next: Genevieve Goings, whose upbeat engaging, soulful pop is the perfect energizer for a cold winter’s day. Here, she talks about getting creative, and balancing life as a working mom of a toddler. 

Genevieve Goings and son Kamari

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

Genevieve Goings: I describe myself as making ‘kids music with soul!’ My career began in Hip-hop & R&B in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is an urban influence in my sound, paired with soulful vocals. I truly sing to kids as people, not ‘kids’ – I make music that the whole family will love, with a pop and polished sound. 

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

Genevieve Goings: My son Kamari was born in December of 2019. I learned to navigate having a baby, being a working mom, and coronavirus all in the same year! We are a social family and in my mind I always imagined having the baby out at various places, events, and having some help from our “village” to help care for Kamari. Having to remain inside while working on producing music, editing, detailed things like that with a small infant was challenging to say the least! My husband and I (who also had detailed editing work to do) learned to section out our days and make sure to plan our calendars strategically. Some things though, only mommy can do

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

Genevieve Goings: I grew so much as a producer and engineer in 2020, because I had to take on a lot of work myself. I usually would outsource my mixing and a lot of my production on a music project, and this lockdown really made me dig down deep and learn more about the process of mixing sound. This year I wrote and produced 14 songs for the Disney Junior “Ready for Preschool” short-form music show, and I mixed most of the album as well as playing the instruments, and singing the songs. 

As women, often we have an ‘imposter syndrome’ complex, and I was guilty of this. I would say things like, ‘I produce a little bit,’ or ‘I can produce, with help.’ The truth of the matter is, I AM a producer. There, I said it!  

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Genevieve Goings: I hope that We as a nation can come together and forgive each other, have compassion, and can really get creative on how to navigate our new normal. We are amazing, and driven, and we can do it! We have learned so much about our flaws as a society, and I hope that we can move forward with a fresh look at the world and ourselves.

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

Genevieve Goings: YES!!! I recently released a single called “Grateful” off my upcoming EP Great Indoors. This is a collection of songs to be enjoyed while we shelter in place. “Shadow Puppets,” my next single, out January 15, is really fun and imaginative song about the endless possibilities of shadow puppetry. I also have a really fun video to accompany that. The full project will be released February 5 on the new label 8 Pound Gorilla Records, and you can pre-order now on iTunes! Disney will also be releasing Vol. 5 of “Ready for Preschool” in January and you can hear my newest work that was produced entirely from my home studio! 

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

Genevieve Goings: I am still learning this, but I am finding that really putting the electronics down at a certain time is pretty much a MUST for a balanced life. Just because technology allows us to be reached at any given moment, that doesn’t mean we have to be.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

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.