Making the Parent Band Work

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Since becoming a homeowner, I’ve fallen in love with my guitar all over again. My favorite nights are those where I’m sitting on my back porch in the summertime, strumming my guitar underneath the stars.

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Me, playing solo in Brooklyn 

But over the last year or two, I’ve also felt a little lonely, sitting on the porch by myself. I missed the camaraderie of playing music in a band — the collaborative songwriting process, the laughter, and the sonic thrill of electric guitar, drums and bass rattling a rehearsal space.

[RELATED: Playing a Rock Gig While Pregnant: Advice From Mamas Who’ve Done it]

In September, I decided I needed to do something about these feelings. I needed to start a new band. Not just to play covers — Connecticut has enough cover bands — but originals too. And I wanted other adults who understood exactly how I felt, balancing work, personal commitments, family and free time. 

I wanted a parent band. 

The problem was, I didn’t have a network of friends ready to jam — those friends lived in the city. In Connecticut, most of the parents I’m friends with aren’t in bands and don’t play instruments. There isn’t a bassist or a drummer around every corner.

Still, I stayed focused on my goal. I’m too old to settle for something that doesn’t make me happy, especially when time is involved. Everything I do, from updating Rockmommy to working to working out takes time away from my precious kids.

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Me and my Gibson SG, rocking out at rehearsal

So I put an ad on Craigslist, which led me to meet Doug, a bassist and guitarist who happened to be a dad of two young boys — close in age to mine. And then I posted a call for a drummer on Facebook. Little did I know that my college bestie Jason’s brother Nick, a dad of four, played drums. I recruited my guitarist friend Anna, whom I’d jammed with a bit in 2017 and 2018. 

Two months later, we’re a band with a name (unveiled soon) and a set list of 11 or 12 songs (a combination of originals and covers). I don’t know what’s going to happen next week, or whether we’ll still be playing this time next year. But I’m grateful I made the decision to follow my heart and not settle. 

It’s not always easy. Yesterday morning, schools closed because of the snow, which, coupled with my insomnia, made me cranky and exhausted. When I remembered I had band practice that night, I thought about calling in sick. I also didn’t want to part with $20/hour for a babysitter. 

But I’m so glad I persevered. 

While so many things are harder when you’re a parent — from brushing your teeth in the morning to making a band work — it’s important to follow your heart. While I still love playing solo, having a parent band is amazing. I’m so grateful for this moment in time, and everyone —from my sitters to my husband — who has helped me make it work. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Finding Bandmates, Post Parenthood: Why it’s a Real Challenge

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’ve been in bands easily half my life. Much of the time, they’re formed out of friendships, work/school connections or circumstance, plus being in the right place at the right time.

That’s how Grandma’s Mini, my longest-running Washington, D.C., rock band with my bestie Ann, came together. I met her at a new job, we clicked, I had her over to “jam,” and before the night was over, we’d written five or six songs. The same thing happened when I formed Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties with my friend Morgan. I started working at the New York City Guitar School, met Morgan, clicked with Morgan, and bam — she joined my namesake band. From there, we started other bands through the NYC Guitar School Connection.

IMG_1717A few other times, I’ve used personals — like when I met my friend Debbie, a drummer and singer, who wanted to launch her own musical project. Or, I’ve met musicians through open mics and the music “scene” — rock shows at bars, mainly. And I met one of my guitarists while he was working at Guitar Center in Brooklyn.

But as a parent, I don’t have time to work the scene, to make friends and connections by going to lots of shows or open-mic nights. I barely have time to go to Guitar Center, or any music stores. I’m lucky if I see one band a month. Much of this has to do with the reality that I live in a suburb, a beach town in Southeast Connecticut. Were I still living in New York City, I’d find musicians left and right.

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At the moment, I’m at the mercy of Craigslist — which weirds out some people — and whoever finds my Bandbox profile, in trying to find a bassist and drummer. Craigslist has given me a few good leads — a bassist who’s also a dad, and a drummer who lives 40 minutes away. But the drummer bowed out at the last minute after deciding my musical interests didn’t match hers, and I have yet to meet the bassist.

Another challenge is that SO many people in my neck of the woods want to start cover bands! Don’t get me wrong — I love playing a good cover or two, and at one point, started my own all-girl cover band. But I want to write, sing and play originals. I want to create, not recreate, a song.

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From my band Grandma’s Mini’s DC gig at The Pinch in September 2017

So I’m hopeful, and I’m open to suggestions. Is there some untapped band-finder resource out there for suburban moms? An online directory of bored drummers who live in New England? Please share in the comments if you have any good tips.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

 

 

Timing Yourself: A Helpful ‘Push’ to Practice When Life Gets Hectic

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Music is all about timing. Quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and so on. But so is pretty much everything else. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about timing lately, as I always feel like I’m running out of time, between working, mothering, sleeping, breathing, and slipping in workouts and volunteer commitments. It’s impossible to do everything I’d like to do perfectly — or at least as well as I did pre-kids — because I have so many things competing for my time. 

However, I’ve found that lately, timing myself, as in literally setting a timer when I need to get something done, can be extraordinarily motivating. 

[RELATED: Finding Time to Practice in the Midst of a Busy Life]

Say I need to clean the kitchen. That’s boring. But when I set the timer on my microwave for 7 minutes, suddenly I’m moving faster than a Jimi Hendrix solo. If I didn’t time myself, I’d just drag condiments from the floor where my kids spilled them my kitchen counter to the refrigerator. 

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Jimi Hendrix, master of timing (and guitar solos)

Timing yourself comes in handy in the musical sense, too. Two days this week, I had only 15 minutes to spare before I had to pick up my kids from school. My first thought was “nah, I’ll just fold laundry.” But my second thought was, “wait, that’s 15 minutes to play guitar with no distractions.” And I set my timer and plugged my Gibson SG into my  50-watt amp and BAM! It was time for a mini set. I jammed away happily, feeling like I had all the time in the world. I didn’t worry, knowing that the little timer would go “beep beep beep” when it was time to put the guitar down. And sure enough, it did. But not before I got through three songs. 

Of course, music should be spontaneous and fun. Relaxed. There should be no time-induced pressure to write a song, jam on a Friday night with friends and a bottle of wine, or practice a drum solo. But when you just need to practice when life gets busy, a timer could be your secret weapon, a gamechanger in your hectic day.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.