Should you Changes Lyrics for a New Audience?

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

I’m a pretty wholesome mom, inside and out. Except when I write songs. When I sit down with my guitar at night and start strumming, the first lyrics that come to mind aren’t about dinosaurs and eating vegetables. I drift to another place — my mind drawn to more salacious topics, like sex and politics or even gay rights and gun ownership. I’ve been known to drop more F bombs than your average mom singer (is there an “average mom singer,” though?).  

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with songs about dinosaurs — kindie-rock performers like Laurie Berkner write some killer dinosaur tunes. But it’s not the way I’m wired. For this reason, I use a stage name that’s separate from my real identity so my guitar students will have a harder time finding my music online.

Here’s the problem: Unlike my contemporaries who are famous, I don’t have the luxury of playing whatever gig at whatever venue I want whenever I want. While I believe moms should be proud to be themselves — whether they want to write about dinosaurs or sexual fantasies — club promoters and bar managers don’t aways see it that way. So unless I’m playing a dive bar or indie-rock show in Brooklyn, I feel pressured to alter my lyrics considerably. Sometimes, I’ll have to completely gut a song, lyrically — which inevitably leaves me feeling a little empty. 

This happened at First Night Delaware about 15 years ago, with my D.C. band Grandma’s Mini. We were given $400 to play a New Year’s Eve gig for four hours, only to learn last minute that we would be playing four back-to-back sets in a library. Yes, a LIBRARY! Children would be coming to see us!! If you’ve ever heard Grandma’s Mini — whose most famous song, “Learn to Love Your Sh*t Job” was featured in the indie flick Washington Interns Gone Bad — you know that most of our songs aren’t meant for the ears of innocent children. So it was a mad, 20-minute scramble for me and Ann (my music partner) to come up with alternate lyrics.

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Playing “not so innocent” music with my band Grandma’s Mini

While I don’t mind playing cute songs like “Baby Shark” or “Shiny” when I’m playing a library gig or for my sons’ preschool, I hate watering down content like this. Sometimes I wonder if it’s better to turn down gigs altogether than change in the slightest, which can feel inauthentic. When money’s involved, the decision gets a little harder. Ann and I weren’t about to let go of $400 after we’d booked hotels and arrived on site. 

There are other considerations too. I’m a super-busy mom who rocks — but also works. I barely have time to market my band, or any musical project I’m involved in. I can’t be picky. If I get asked to play at any event, it’s an honor.

On the other hand, life is short: People shouldn’t have to compromise who they are in their hearts. Cardi B doesn’t!

What would you do if you were in my shoes? Take the gigs that require a change in lyrical content, or just be grateful for what you get and adapt as needed? 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor of Rockmommy.

Why This Rockmommy Endorses Hillary Clinton for President — But Thinks You Should Hit the Polls for the Other Candidates, Too

OK, OK, I realize I’m not the editor of Atlantic or TIME. And that my endorsement of either presidential candidate isn’t going to nudge anyone to change their mind.

With that, I cannot stress enough the importance of going to the polls — even if you’re not voting for the candidate whom I believe is the obvious best pick: Hillary Clinton.

I could use this time to cite the zillions of reasons why I am voting for Hillary over businessman Donald Trump, but so many other journalists and bloggers have already done this. So I’ll sum it up like this: If you’re a parent, rockmommy or otherwise, you undoubtedly care deeply about issues like education, school safety, gun control, national security and the economy. And while you might still be reeling from the primary elections/feeling the Bern, it’s important not to lose sight of the big-picture stuff in the Eleventh Hour.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is an undisputed champion of women’s rights and human rights. She believes that Black Lives Matter. She doesn’t think climate change is some sugar-puff theory. And she has experience in the national security arena too (as she’s noted, she was in the situation room with President Obama when a decision had to be made about Osama bin Laden. Donald Trump, meanwhile, was filming The Apprentice).

While she made some definite blunders (hello private-mail server!) and wasn’t an overwhelmingly outstanding Secretary of State by most accounts, her motives are good and her experience has shown she is willing to learn from her mistakes.

I’m not going to go into all the negatives about Donald Trump because so many journalists and bloggers have already done this. I don’t think he’s the scum of the Earth, but I do believe there are two things that make him particularly unfit for the Commander in Chief post: 1.) his lack of any kind of political experience; and 2.) his volatile temperament.

With that in mind, I’m with Her all the way!

If you’re still unsettled about casting your vote for HRC, I would suggest starting with the other local and state races.

Yesterday Cristin McCarthy Vahey became the first politician in my approximately 20 years of voting eligibility to knock on my front door. It was like being visited by a rockstar! She and I chatted in the chilly weather about everything from where she bought her jacket (she likes the ethics of the company that makes them), to education and the healthcare crisis, to her concern for the social and economic wellbeing of our shared community. Cristin is a mom of 3 and social worker who supports Democratic principles, and she’s also someone who cares about my day-to-day life (she really empathized when I told her about the challenges about being a freelance-writer mom with two young children).

Were I not paying attention to local politics, I’d know very little about Cristin McCarthy Vahey.

Lest you believe that I’m only supporting Democrats, let it be known that I absolutely give my support to good Republicans. One of these is State Senator Tony Hwang. Although I’m considering his opponent Phil Dwyer, I’m still leaning Hwang. I really really want to vote 100% Democrat — and I still might do this — but from what I can tell, Hwang is a solid and friendly GOP-er who cares about the issues all parents care about (like school safety and the environment). One day, I ran into him at my local Starbucks, and asked him about what he actually did over the last four years, and he explained ever so patiently how he introduced new legislation to increase the penalties for when a bomb threat involves a preschool, K-12 school, or an institution of higher education. The new law makes threats felonies that would result in a prison sentence.

Whoever you vote for, vote. You can’t complain about who wins if you don’t show up to voice your opinion!