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

By Rew Starr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Merrill and daughter Laura Merrill

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

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

Laura Merrill (Photo: LauraMerrillImages.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Merrill (Photo Credit: Laura Merrill)

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

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

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

K. Britz on Jamming, Being ‘Kind,’ and Raising Girls

Q&A by Rew Starr

While we can’t always control the crazy, we can control how we treat other people. This month, Rockmommy connected with folksy-punk, indie-rock artist K. Britz to talk about her new single ‘Kind,’ motherhood, and having compassion for others as we navigate the day-to-day experience of pandemic life.

Musician K. Britz. Photo Credit: Mass Crush

Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?

K. Britz: It’s going alright. I used to hate when people answered that question with “Can’t complain” and yet, “Can’t complain” is probably the best answer today. Or I could be a jackass and say, “Actually kind of great.” Who says that now? There’s been many periods of my life that were a whole lot worse, and I was a lot lonelier because everybody else seemed to be having a better time. Now everyone has a certain level of compassion for each other in day-to-day interactions. If you can’t get it together people understand. For someone like me, who is naturally always a day late and a dollar short, this is the best of times. 

I’ve been working on a couple creative projects and doing a lot of waiting around. 

Rew Starr: You’re a mom. How’s school going? 

K. Britz: I have 3 daughters. My youngest is 10 and she is in school. For now she is on a hybrid and goes every other day. 

Rew Starr: So tell readers a little bit about your music. How many bands have you been in? Is it more than boys you have been with or less?

K. Britz: I’ve been in about 5 or 6 and they were all boys except when we were in the Dirty Mothers. The non-classical music world is still pretty heavy on male participation. I used to think it was because women weren’t welcome, and that may have been true in the past, but at this point in time I think it’s more benign than that. A lot of being a musician is waiting around and hanging out, and I think women are inclined to find something else to do in the meantime. 

Rew Starr: We met in ‘the Dirty Mothers’, and that was so much fun, we had incredible opportunities in a short time, would you consider a revival one day?

K. Britz: Sure I would!

Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?

K. Britz: I put a single out during quarantine, a duet with Jamaican singer Mystic Bowie (of the Tom Tom Club). It’s called “Kind” and it’s started to get some radio play so we’ll see.

Rew Starr: I know you are very popular in the yoga and spiritual community. How does this influence your music?

K. Britz: Well, with yoga I learned that its easy to get people to chant with you if you make the melodies easy and even grown-ups like sing alongs. I stopped trying so hard as a singer. It’s easier to get people to sing a long with you if you make it accessible, and really, that’s the best. When the audience is singing too.

Rew Starr: What about playing out? Have there been opportunities?

K. Britz: Not really. I sang a song outdoors at a friend’s memorial this fall, but that’s it. 

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

K. Britz: I had my own sourdough starter before it was cool. 

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

K. Britz: Writing songs about my girls. 

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

“Kind” on Soundcloud

Lucy Kalantari: On Motherhood, Music and Feeling Thankful

Lucy Kalantari — a smoky-voiced New York singer who writes adorable, jazzy cabaret tunes for kids and grown-ups — has been busy cooking up new music. The #rockmommy of musical son Darius, 7, is also the subject of this month’s interview with our correspondent Rew Starr. 

See what she’s been up to, and take a minute to check out her musical videos, one of which features her little man on cello. 

Lucy Kalantari

Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?

Lucy Kalantari: Hi ReW! I’ve been alright, all things considered – hanging in and cherishing all the good and beautiful things. Besides helping my son with remote learning, wiping groceries down (I still do that!), I’ve been teaching, mentoring and writing.

http://smarturl.it/4yh4vl

Rew Starr: So when did you know your amazing son was a musical protégé?

Lucy Kalantari: HAHA I try to avoid the “p” word. 😉 He’s been so very musical since he was in my belly. The first time I felt him move was during a live show in NYC. It was the most beautiful flutter I had ever felt! As a baby he’d hum and sing, musicking his way through his days. When he chose the cello as his instrument at 2.5 years old was when I realized how immensely connected he is to music, and I also realized how much trouble I was in!

Rew Starr: What was it like GOING TO THE GRAMMYS???

Lucy Kalantari: I woke up and did yoga that morning before the makeup and hair artist came to prim me up. I loved watching my husband and son getting ready too. Walking the red carpet and doing interviews was really sweet to do with my son. One of my favorite parts was running into Linda Perry on the elevator!!!!

Rew Starr: What was it like WINNING????

Lucy Kalantari: UNREAL! It’s still hard to believe, even when I look at the statuette! I gave a good heartfelt scream when the presenter, my good friend Kalani Pe’a, announced my band. Then my focus was making sure I said the things I wanted to say in my speech, and the rest … is a total blur.

Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?

Lucy Kalantari: Yes! In early October, I released a song for the Halloween season, called “Haunting Days of Halloween”. It was so much fun to do! It really fed my Halloween spirit during these strange times. I wrote and arranged the song, recorded my parts in my home studio, then my musicians recorded their parts remotely and sent them to me. I edited everything together and my mixing engineer did her stuff. I’m super happy with how it came out!

Rew Starr: What about playing out? Have there been opportunities?

Lucy Kalantari: I’ve been performing live-stream shows from home here and there. It’s been really great to stay connected this way. The most exciting show was for Kennedy Center!! THE Kennedy Center! We had been scheduled to do a live show in person, and due to COVID-19, everything was canceled. Until they contacted me again at the beginning of the fall saying it’s back on––as a pre-recorded remote show! I really wanted to bring the same performance to viewers that we would’ve brought in person. I had a set designer create the stage, my jazz cats in costume, as well as a string section with my son and a 17-year-old exceptional violinist, and we recorded a fun, socially distant, backyard Halloween concert!

[SEE RELATED: Rockmommy Joanie Leeds’ New Record and Message of Empowerment Celebrates ‘All the Ladies’]

Rew Starr: Are there any other projects you’d like to share?

Lucy Kalantari: Just before the pandemic hit in the US, I had finished producing an album for artist Joanie Leeds. It’s her 9th children’s album and the first time I produced someone else! It’s been a gift that keeps giving, even during these times. Joanie is a great songwriter, and she wanted to create an album that empowers young girls and ladies, singing about breaking glass ceilings and about gender equality. I arranged, engineered and played a few things on it. The whole project is performed by and (mostly) made by women, and has been getting really wonderful attention in all the best ways.

Rew Starr: What’s something we don’t know about you?

Lucy Kalantari: Random, I learned how to swim as an adult! Before I became pregnant with my son, I was determined to learn to swim and joined a gym. I’d spend time watching close-up videos of Michael Phelps to see his breast stroke technique. My husband says I’m a “slow-motion Michael Phelps.” I still need to master treading water though…

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

Lucy Kalantari: Thank you Rew! I love being a mom and I love music – I absolutely adore that I get to make music with my son.

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

D.C. Indie Rocker Erin Frisby on Ecdysis — and Navigating the Uncharted Territories of Love and Inspiration

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

It’s a struggle to think of a single word that captures the essence of Washington, D.C.-based musician and activist Erin Frisby. 

She’s brave, and refuses to let her life be defined by heteronormative standards. She’s passionate, as evidenced by her round-the-clock efforts in promoting equal opportunities for female musicians through her grassroots non-profit This Could Go Boom! (TCGB!). And she’s curious. Every new guitar pedal is an opportunity for exploration, a path to a new riff.

Yet while it is seemingly impossible for me to think of the perfect word to describe a musician I’ve known half my life, Erin already has one. 

Ecdysis. 

The term, which rolls beautifully off the tongue, refers to the process of shedding old skin, like a reptile. It’s also, metaphorically speaking, the most fitting description of Erin’s current state of existence.

To that end, it is the most fitting title for her debut full-length solo record —an intimate collection of eight songs, which highlight the artist’s poignant songwriting, storytelling, and stunning, sunny vocals. 

“With ecdysis, you’re retaining your shape, but at some point the space you’re living in has become cramped and unrecognizable,” says Erin, recalling the moment she discovered the term. “Over the course of creating this album over the last couple of years, I discovered that I was gay. But I was married to a man.”

Striking a Chord

The first time I met Erin Frisby, many moons ago at a party in College Park, Maryland, I was told I’d dig her. “She’s a singer, and she’s into punk and stuff,” my friend Greg told me beforehand.

Of course, he was right. The moment I met Erin I dug her, though admittedly I was a little intimidated by her angelic beauty and perky demeanor. We chatted like two old pals for at least an hour, beers in hand, as songs from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication record played in the background.  

We ended up becoming roommates for a brief snap of time in a punk-rock group house at the tail end of our University of Maryland days. The house was a messy haven of artists and musicians nestled in the heart of Hyattsville, Maryland. But it was also a little clique-ish. I wasn’t turned away from the thriving vegan-tattooed-hardcore-hipster scene that bubbled up in our basement for house shows. But I wasn’t welcomed into it, either.

The silver lining of that brief experience was my growing friendship with Erin. She was the only one of my four roommates who took the time to get to know me, and ask me questions about my family and musical experiences. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t tattooed, or that I hadn’t heard of so-and-so’s band from Philly. I didn’t need to be part of some underground scene to impress her. Instead, we spent hours jamming — singing and playing guitar — when I wasn’t busy with my other bands. 

Of course, it was a huge treat to have her sing harmonies with me on anything. 

To this day, the only time I’ve ever won any kind of musical competition was at the Sunday open mic night in Adam’s Morgan (at Madam’s Organ), when Erin joined me onstage to belt out backing vocals for my song “I Left my Heart in New Orleans.” 

After a standing ovation, the $50 bar tab prize was ours. We drank it in about 20 minutes. 

Musical Road Trip

Born in Arkansas, and but mostly raised on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Erin Frisby is a gypsy among artists, a journey woman whose music ebbs and flows as freely as her travels, from folksy to aggressive, East to West and back again. She’s as influenced by opera and classic Appalachian hymns as she is by hard rock n’ roll. 

Erin Frisby (Photo Credit: Anthony Swartz)

I’ve always known this about Erin, yet I could never have predicted the profound metamorphosis that would transpire not too long after the last time we played together, almost four years ago to this day. 

In early November, 2016, I invited Erin to travel to Connecticut, and perform a paid gig with me at the now-defunct Georgetown Saloon, just outside of Redding. She brought her four-piece, garage-rock band Fuzzqueen, which she’d formed with her former spouse, after the two of them relocated to D.C. Before that, they’d spent nearly a decade in California, frequently hitting the road, and racking up hundreds of gigs under the musical moniker Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray. 

“My former partner and I had been touring together and writing together for many, many years … and we actually kind of ended up moving back to D.C. because of that project,” she recalls. “We loved the music scene there and, with what was going on politically, wanted to have an impact.” 

Fuzzqueen’s eclectic brand of folksy indie-rock was filled with trippy, melodic riffs and searing guitar solos, and an enticing balance of masculine and feminine energies. 

After the show, I fell out of touch with Erin for a while, and was surprised when I learned, sometime in 2018, that Fuzzqueen had fizzled out.

Yet the painful and cathartic process of letting go of that project was essential for Erin make space for her new one: her “all-womxn” band The OSYX.

Shortly after the “election” of the 45th president of the United States, Erin was craving something new — a new musical endeavor, and a community that would elevate women and under-represented artists. During an anti-inauguration gathering in January 2017, Erin felt inspired as she watched the Baltimore hard-core feminist punk band War On Women play an acoustic set. At some point she struck up a conversation with a couple of musicians she’d kind of knew, who also played guitar: Ara Casey and Selena Benally. They decided to get together to jam.

“Sometimes you meet people, and you play with them but nothing more than that comes of it… but every once in a while it just clicks and it falls into place,” Erin recalls. “We ended up getting a bass player (Maya Renfro) and a drummer (Robzie Trulove) … and we started playing a lot and from there it grew into a sisterhood.” 

Erin Frisby (blonde in back) with her band The OSYX (Photo credit: Farrah Skeiky)

The OSYX have been described as “raucous … with melodic tensions and chemistries,” which is fitting in more ways than one: Erin shares lead vocals with Ara and Selena, who is now her girlfriend. All three women play guitar, and Erin also plays keys, organ and other instruments. While each member’s sonic stylings are as distinct as their pedal preferences, the fusion of sound culminates in a high-energy, rock n’ roll experience.

Songs like the buoyant “Dog Fight,” make me want to jump and dance, while the darker, harder tunes like “Carry it With Me” make me want to crank of the volume and drown myself in the heavy intensity.

Forming The OSYX dovetailed nicely into Erin’s other endeavor: the creation of This Could Go Boom!, a nonprofit organization focused on helping women/womxn artists thrive in the competitive indie music scene, which — even in D.C. — is heavily male-dominated. 

But while the two years pre-COVID were a time of joyful self-discovery and collaboration, what the promo photos don’t show is the pain Erin endured as she let go of the marriage that was no longer working. 

“Creating this project helped me to navigate that and discover who I am,” says Erin. “I had to confront a lot of internal biases inside myself. All my life, when I’ve heard of people who had committed relationships and came out [as gay], I wasn’t particularly sympathetic to that. I had some resistance to that narrative. But as the truth unfolded and became clear to me, I realized I had choices to make.” 

New Skin

Since putting band life on hold, Erin’s channeled her creative energy into recording and mastering Ecdysis with help from a generous grant from the Prince George’s County Arts and Humanities Council (PGCAHC).

The result is a sonic slideshow of Erin’s life — an eight-track record that seems to leverage instrumentation — keys, guitars, bass, drums, and dulcimer — gently, so not to overpower the outpouring of confessional lyrics and coloratura-soprano vocals.

Ecdysis (Erin Frisby)

Ecdysis offers a glimpse into Erin’s earliest musical memories (“You are my Sunshine”), experiences in longing (“Waiting for my Love to Wake”) and the process of self-actualization (“Theia and Gaia”). As an added bonus, Erin simultaneously released a sister album, Second Skin, featuring covers of Ecdysis tracks performed by friends, as well as originals inspired the record (like Selena Benally’s “Punk-dysis”).

“Selena is a shredder,” says Erin of jamming with her girlfriend. “I’ve been learning a lot from her during quarantine as far as guitar technique. She’s pretty amazing — and she’s invested in a lot of different styles beyond rock like flat picking and blues. Selena also programmed the drums and played the bass on Ecdysis.”

For Selena Benally, the admiration is mutual.

“Erin’s performances and songwriting are heartfelt and genuine — sacred not saccharine,” Selena tells Rockmommy. “She employs a lifetime of dedication and hard work to her craft as she explores the seemingly boundless depths of who she is and it shows in every song and live set.”

As fall continues, Erin’s trying to play out play out whenever she can, albeit in limited and modified capacity due to safety concerns. So far, she’s played one drive-in performance and a few outdoor music jams. When she’s not doing that, she’s busy teaching virtual piano, guitar and vocal lessons, and planning other ways to help her community. 

“I’ve been reflecting a lot on the power of art in the way that exposure to different views and immersion in different disciplines and voices really helps people to explore their own voice as well as empathy,” says Erin tells me over email, when I ask her what’s next for 2021. “Learning to think through what someone else’s vision was and think about their approach to creatively addressing a problem leads to a flexible and curious and intelligent approach to the world in general. With that in mind, I’m thinking more and more about how important it is that representation in the arts is diverse.

Selena Benally and Erin Frisby of The OSYX (Photo credit: Farrah Skeiky)

“It’s important for people to see themselves or hear themselves in a piece and it’s important for them to see or hear what it’s like to be a real human with deep emotions and beliefs who is different from them,” she continues. “That’s brought me back to the mission of This Could Go Boom!, which is that lesser heard narratives and underrepresented voices are potent. We are going to be putting out new music by the end of the year and I couldn’t be more excited!”

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Nashville Singer-Songwriter Elliott Park Spent Quarantine Making an Album with his 3 Teenage Daughters — And it’s Perfect

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

The first few months of pandemic life and quarantine may have been the most difficult in many ways, as we grappled with the unknown.

Yet this period of uncertainty spurred creativity among musicians, who found themselves writing new material for the first time in months. 

Nashville singer-songwriter Elliott Park is among them. Over the spring, Park and his three teen daughters Anna, 18, Autumn, 16, and April, 14, created an acoustic, 12-song collection —  Songs With My Daughters  — that is beautiful and compassionate, with the daughters’ gorgeous harmonies intertwined with jazzy pop-rock tunes, like “To the Moon and Back,” and nostalgic tributes (like “Blue Skies Over the Rainbow” — my favorite).

It’s like hearing Jack Johnson but better, because daughters make everything that much more awesome.

Elliott Park “Songs with my Daughters”

We caught up with Elliott in one of his rare free moments to talk about the new record, and life in this crazy new world. 

Rockmommy: Talk to me about this album! When and how did the idea to do a quarantine album with your three daughters come about? 

Elliott Park: Well it wasn’t really intended to be a quarantine album. I had been planning a new family album for several months but midway through recording process the pandemic hit and I started feeling like the songs I was producing didn’t quite fit the mood of the times. So I put my nose back on the grindstone and reworked it with a little different vibe. Still quirky but with a little more intimacy and organic feel.

Rockmommy: Who wrote the songs? Was there any teenage angst about lyrics (kidding, kind of) or musical direction? 

Elliott Park: I wrote all the songs except one, Blue Skies Over the Rainbow… which is a mashup of two of my favorite classics; Blue Skies and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The girls and I collaborated on that one. It was a ton of fun coming up with the parts. There was not TOO much angst haha, but at times it was a little difficult to pull them away from what they were doing. I’m proud at how hard they worked.

Rockmommy: How long have you been playing music? How has that influenced your girls? 

Elliott Park: I was raised in a musical family but never learned an instrument. I was always too shy to sing. But when I went to college something clicked. Almost every evening after basketball practice I would sneak over to the music department and tinker on the piano. That went on into my twenties and then I started singing and writing music at around age 30. I found I had a knack for songwriting and it sort of developed into a career. My girls have grown up with it as well. We have an old Magnivox record player we call Maggie. She’s sung us all to sleep a few thousand times and still does to this day. I’d like to think they’ve developed their musical interests from listening to all those old records. Sweet Maggie.

Rockmommy: These songs are so sweet — do your daughters and you have similar music tastes? 

Elliott Park: Thanks! Well I think we have overlapping sets of musical interests. But I really dig a lot of the stuff they listen to. I think it surprised them one day when I was singing along to a Billie Eilish… It kind of crossed their wires there for a few seconds haha!. Likewise they REALLY love the old classics, and I don’t just mean rock. If you look at their personal playlists you’ll see Sinatra, Billie Holliday, The Carpenters, some Gershwin tunes… a lot of different genres. I think those overlapping interests shape this album and I love it to pieces. They can mimic the elevator voices on a Percy Faith track or knock off the Andrews sisters like nobody’s business. 

Rockmommy: What was the recording process like? Did you do this DIY with a good DAW, or with an engineer? 

Elliott Park: I had a lot of it remotely recorded, but it all came together in my bedroom using Logic Pro X on my old iMac. Towards the end of the project it would crash about three times an hour no lie. We did all the vocals in my bedroom. I had to yell through the walls for silence many, many, times.

Rockmommy: Obviously the pandemic sucks. But is there some level of gratitude for the time with your daughters that you had BECAUSE of the pandemic? 

Elliott Par: Definitely! We made the best of it. I’m proud of us all for staying at it all the way through. 

7. Are you planning a social distance concert or parking lot shows?

Not at this time. I’m not huge on performing and honestly I’ve used this pandemic as an excuse not to perform. It’s awful and I need to change that about myself. That’s some bare bones honesty right there haha.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

NYC’s Val Kinzler Reflects and Rocks On

Playing rock n’ roll requires a lot of stamina. So does motherhood. This month, Rockmommy correspondent Rew Starr talks to NYC rocker mom Val Kinzler — a self-described cross between “Janis Joplin & Karen O” — about life, music and finding balance in a crazy world. 

Rew Starr: Hows it going? What have you been doing these days?

Val Kinzler: I’m still adjusting to the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown. Living on the Lower East Side in NYC with my son and two pugs. I’ve been teaching music virtually — which still feels kind of strange — and hosting songwriting webinars. I work with an LBGTQ non-profit record label. 

Val Kinzler (Photo: Donna Malech, Parkside Lounge, NYC) 

I also participated in a successful livestream fundraising effort to help save The Bitter End venue on Bleecker Street, which was produced by Room Full Of Music and Off Stage Tunes,  and another livestream benefit for the NAACP via Tune Hatch.

Beyond that, I’ve been cooking, cleaning, eating, taking 8- to 10-mile walks with my son to avoid public transportation and trying to squeeze back into my skinny jeans!

RS: How is this different than pre-pandemic life? 

VK: Prior to the pandemic, I co-curated a week long NYC Women Who Rock Fest in conjunction with Mike McHugh and New Century Booking that featured some awesome, 

power house women artists including you! I’m amazed that we were able to complete all of the fest dates just before the lockdown!

RS: What about the kids? What does going back to school look like?

VK: Jesse is thirteen and actually did great with Google Classroom, and is still participating in online distance learning. Recently he informed me that after taking a “mental age calculation test” he is actually 27! So, I kind of feel like I have a “QuaranTEEN” and an adult child rolled into one!

RS: So tell us about your life. So how many bands have you been in? Is it more than boys you have been with or less? (laughs)

VK: This is a loaded question. I dissected and re-assembled the trajectory of my varied band experiences and realized there’s got to be a book penned by me eventually called “Road Kill!”

My earliest girl band was The Sirens, which played classic rock and Grateful Dead covers at Long Island colleges and bars, with a born-gain Christian manager who desperately wanted to “get to know us better,” and I went from there to my excuse for dropping out of college: a punk-pop all girl band called The Technical Virgins (i just received newly rendered live and studio tracks and a pending script/screen play for the “TV’s” that the singer/songwriter/bassist/flute player Susan Neuffer wrote). The TV’s played in the 1980’s at A7, with Marilyn and The Movie Stars and The Bad Brains, at Maxwells in Hoboken, CBGB’s on Valentine’s Day (we opened for the Sick F*cks) and at Queens College (on the bill with ISM) and other rock n roll joints that are long gone. 

Val Kinzler (photo by Alan Rand; The Red Lion, NYC)

We had interest from the Go Go’s producer and I met with Sid Bernstein several times. Sid wanted to change our name. The founding TV’s said no. I still miss him, though. 

After playing piano exclusively for years, I picked up the guitar because, I was moving from squat to squat on the Lower East Side, sometimes sleeping under a friend’s kitchen table.

I had to sell my piano and started writing a lot more on the guitar which proved to be a blessing because, with my limited chops, I was forced to keep my writing simple and more intuitive rather than getting sidetracked by riffing on the keys.

I joined open blues jams at places like Dan Lynch on Second Avenue between 13th and 14th Street where the Holmes Brothers, Joan Osborne, Jon Paris, Grant Green Jr., Harry Holt and others packed the joint. I also backed up some groups as a keyboard player — most notably, The Jive Five, which was really cool because, we’d play the oldies shows with Little Anthony, The Dixie Cups, Ronnie Spector and these singers and their tunes still remain timeless!

Valkyrie and The Vikabillys was my first all original band. But, I was still doing back-up gigs, singer-songwriter open mics and blues jams. 

I played The Lone Star, Bitter End, Village Gate, Kenny’s Castaways, and after recording two projects, one with Popa Chubby (I still love those tracks!) and my debut East Third Street record produced by Genya Raven who also sang backgrounds with me. 

Hilly Crystal (CBGB’s) came in to the studio to lay down the voiceover of the sanitation worker in “Alleyways Of Love,” a song I wrote about a hooker and a garbage man who fall in love when he spots her as he’s picking up the trash. That record landed me some cool gigs, I opened  solo in California for Marty Balin and Chuck Negron at a show where Joe Walsh and Clapton were also booked.

After joining a heavy metal band called ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for a brief time, I then joined Blue Lagoon, a hard-hitting blues rock band, as their lead singer.

Eventually, my music evolved when I met Joe Vasta, who also became my romantic partner. Joe and I originally connected through Thommy Price, who I’d worked with in the 1990s.

My main band now is the Val Kinzler Band. David White whom I met and played with in King Bee and The Stingers, Joe Vasta, and Jon Ihle. We recorded our debut record “Nothing Sacred About Hatred” in Oklahoma for a Christian label. The label’s owner was busted for embezzlement but, we got a great record and two videos out of the deal! I refer to VKB as my grown-up band because we’ve all been there, and are done with “THAT!” I’ve also joined several other all-female groups.

Val Kinzler Band

RS: We met in the Dirty Mothers. You had a newborn. How were you so able to try anything even at that vulnerable state?

VK: Yes! I also remember Joey Zero years earlier when I was playing at Sun Mountain in the West Village insisting that I must meet his friend REW!

Joey booked us both at The Continental and after seeing you perform for the very first time, I totally understood why Joey wanted us to coordinate!  I was totally psyched to learn that Kelly Britton and you had teamed up! Jesse was under a year old. I was not yet healed after having a cesarean section. But, it sure was a blast and I loved playing all of our original songs.  We each had a slightly different style but the vibe was in sync. I had no immediate family to help me with Jesse when he was an infant. Also, took me two years to get back into shape physically because I gave birth at 46!

I used to take Jesse to rehearsals and wherever I needed to be. But, there were times when I had to pull out of gigs because I didn’t have a sitter or money to pay for child care and it became really strenuous carrying my guitar on my back and the diaper bag while having the baby harnessed to my chest using public transportation.

There were also rehearsals when Jesse was sleeping in the harness on my back and we’d turn down low to keep rehearsing. I literally couldn’t put him down at times or he’d fuss. I think he wanted to be close to the music! Luckily, certain musicians (like you and Kelly) were also parents and were cool with me having to bring my baby! 

RS: I love your twist words. When did this start? Ever think of making a Val dictionary?

VK: I think my “oops” with words comes from a learning disability known as dyscalculia and perhaps a touch of dyslexia. I used to write everything backwards in elementary school out of boredom I thought but, as the years progressed, I began to reverse how I saw numerical equations and it’s become such a part of me that I simply create new words automatically.

I read signs in reverse and it can really screw me up at times if I’m not concentrating.

Like, if the teacher gave an exercise with two rows of words, and instructed me to take one word from each column to fuse together sensibly, I’d write “road rail” and incorporate it into a sentence rather than “rail road.” 

Songwriting for me is challenging because it’s like inventing and solving a crossword puzzle simultaneously.

RS: Are you making any new music?

VK: My most recent single “Some Bitch” is on Spotify and desperately needs a video! 

It’s a quirky tune about cyber cheating. “Some Bitch is dancing topless on your lap top, I can smell her perfume from out here… etc.”  I also wrote a quartan-tune inspired song called “In the Rain” and am still catching up on half completed songs my band was working on for our forthcoming record.

RS: What about playing out? have there been opportunities?

The only live show I did recently was in Tompkins Square Park for the anniversary of the riots. 

It held meaning to me due to the history of The Lower East Side, the squatters, the musicians and artists and Monika Beerle, who became my muse in “Broken Ballerina.” Also, it is so important to join other musicians and artists right now as these are uncertain times and music is the universal language of healing and inspiration!

I am scheduled to play at Porch Stomp, 2020 as part of Kat Minogue’s Stage on Governor’s Island on October 10th. Violizzy, Rigel Mary and Jesse will probably join me.

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

VK: All of my personal achievements can now be applied to reinforcing life skills in my own child and the students I teach. 

To me, being a rockmommy means dissecting and recycling stressful moments creatively by incorporating my love for music! Jesse and I always turn on the radio in the morning and wind up dancing to our favorite tunes. Pain in life is inevitable, remaining stagnant is no longer an option. 

I’m grateful that my son is tenacious and driven. We both use music, dance and exercise to keep a positive mental attitude. I love my close relationship with Jesse especially when we have opportunity to jam together. Taking him to rehearsals, gigs and not sheltering him from my artsy friends has lost me some people along the way. I was definitely mis-judged as being reckless at times.But, interestingly, those particular ex-friends never had children of their own. 

Rock n’ Roll is all encompassing and celebrates uniqueness and survival!

I’m definitely a survivor and passionate about inspiring hope in Jesse and others.

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

Mimsey Mack, Mom of 6, Proves that Making Music is the Best Antidote to Life’s Hard Turns

by Rew Starr & Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Mimsey Mack is one mysterious, guitar-wielding lady. Between the thousands of likes on her “Facebook” page, inspiring 80s-rocker fashion getups and bluesy tunes, you’d think she started playing music in her tween years. But not so. As it turns out, the self-described “indie-funk-punk rock” artist only picked up her first electric guitar in 2012, well after her kids passed middle school. 

Today, the mom of six — yes, six! — adult children is brimming with ideas and songs, proving once again that age is just a number (and sometimes an excuse). 

Mimsey Mack (Photo Credit: Chuck Thomas)

We asked the one-and-only NYC songstress (and fellow rockmommy) Rew Starr to sit down and chat with Mimsey about life post-COVID and navigating new opportunities in these challenging time. 

Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?

Mimsey Mack: Thanks so much for the interview, Rew! It’s been a challenging time for us musicians, but I’ve been keeping busy. I started massage therapy School right when Covid happened and will graduate in August. I’m excited about integrating that into my career. I also took an online music therapy course to better equip me to perform at psychiatric centers, domestic violence centers and other locations, specifically for individuals who have been struggling and need hope and a new direction in life. Other than that, I have been playing lots of drums, guitar and even a little bass guitar.

Rew: You making any new music?

Mimsey: Yes! After a long hiatus, I am thrilled to be producing music again. I started writing songs again during the first week of the pandemic. I write songs about my life so sometimes it’s a little weird to sing new songs to others, especially the first time. But I am quickly reminded that we are all songbirds with a special song to sing.

Rew: What about playing out? Have there been opportunities?

Mimsey: I have been performing livestream shows and also performing as a guest on your amazing Renegade Show as often as possible. I am currently living in Virginia, a state that has been a hotspot recently, so I have not been performing live yet.

[RELATED: NYC Rockmommy Rew Starr Proves it’s Never Too Late to Take on a Brave New Role]

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

Mimsey: I like to tattoo myself. I use a single needle. I have given myself over about 10 tattoos. I’m working on two new ones now.

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

Mimsey: The greatest part of being a rock mommy is sharing the love of the music and performing with my kids. All of my kids picked up music in their teen years. When they were younger, I was very conservative socially, homeschooled my kids and loved traditions. We listened to Classical and Christian music. After my divorce, things changed drastically. When I decided on a whim to take electric guitar lessons in 2012, and discovered I learned fast and could play, sing and perform, music brought a fresh new meaning to life. It’s funny when kids introduce me as their Rockstar Mom, because I think they are the rockstars.

Rew: Have you written anything new during the last six months?

Mimsey: One very exciting accomplishment during COVID was finishing the filming for my upcoming music video, “Redemption.” Thank you, Rew, for performing in it! It’s gonna be great! It’s a song I wrote a few years ago that expressed my transition from domestic violence survivor to overcomer. I am looking forward to writing songs about my new chapter in life, filled with hope and love. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

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