New Zealand Rocker Mum Claudia Robin Gunn on Embracing Change and Finding Your Inner ‘Wild Child’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When singer-songwriter Claudia Robin Gunn became a mom — or “mum” as they say in New Zealand — she had 20 years of pop-rock chops under her belt, including multiple musical projects and nightclub gigs. Yet transitioning to a more folksy pop style came naturally. Of course, it helped that the songs she wrote could double as lullabies. 

“My songs definitely helped them sleep, and I think perhaps it helped me to relax and just slow down to their pace too,” says Gunn. 

Her latest album, a collection of pretty, vocally textured, nature-inspired tunes, is no less dreamy.

We recently caught up with Claudia to talk her latest record, released in late 2020, motherhood, crafting songs, playing music, and more. 

Rockmommy: Can you tell us about the inspiration for your record that came out recently, ‘Sing Through The Year – A Little Wild Childhood?’

Claudia Gunn: All these songs started off in life, and then my imagination took over.

When you’re a kid, I think it’s hard to judge the passing of time — isn’t that awesome how timeless it feels? — and I think it’s interesting how the changing weather day to day, and the natural signs of the different seasons progressing through the year is a tangible way for children to grasp the idea of time, and how the months and years turn.

My kids have always calmed down and become these magical, adventurous non-quarrelsome beings when they are in a garden, or out in the woods making branch forts. 

As a parent, time slows down and speeds up in weird ways as we go through the seasons of parenthood and our children grow, sometimes it’s so slow and sometimes a blink of an eye and they’ve changed before our eyes. So capturing some of the bright moments along the way is something that I love to try and do with songs.

Process wise, I have a lot of songbooks, some of them are digital, some are actual notebooks, or paper scraps, or cardboard from cereal packets, and basically as the years have gone by since [my children] Ella and Dylan were born, the songs kept on stacking up, like a diary of our adventures through the years. 

Last year during the Covid lockdowns there was suddenly a whole lot of time not rushing around the world, and I ended up performing loads of unpublished songs inside the kids treehouse (that they’d now grown out of) for a series of lockdown livestreams. I got the chance to press play on recording a stack of them and making the songbook thanks to a grant from our arts funding agency Creative New Zealand.

Rockmommy: How have you evolved, or changed as a musician, over time, from pre-parenthood to now? 

Claudia Gunn: I’d say I’m determined — I’ll never give up on a song, though I’ll give it space to breathe and some songs need time to mature or change before they are ready to meet the world! That said, I’ve been writing for nearly 30 years — showing my age — and some songs have had LONG arcs to find their time in the sun.

When I started playing in bands, I was always dedicated to a project as long as it lasted, to the point I wouldn’t take a job in another town or even take an O.E. since I was always sure we were about to break through (an O.E is what we kiwis call our overseas experience — a rite of passage most of my friends did in their early twenties, travelling and working for a few years overseas after finishing university).

My electronic band Substax has lasted the longest time, albeit with pretty much a 15 year break in between shows, as we all had kids and went into sort of hibernation with the project.

Now the kids are bigger, we are now at the point we have a bank of songs, have just re-released the original album on streaming for the first time, and have new songs lined up to release. I also just got Substax to remix one of my kindie tracks, and a couple years back I got the band together to play with me on a bunch of kids tunes for the Auckland Kiddie Limits festival, so it’s kind of fun getting my musical worlds to mesh sometimes! 

Rockmommy: How long have you been playing banjo and guitar?

Claudia Gunn: I play the banjolele, ukulele and the guitar — I’m self taught, starting to pick up my mum’s instruments at about 18. She wrote down 3 chords for me on a piece of paper, and then told me to go for it! 

Rockmommy: What, or who, are your musical inspirations? 

Claudia Gunn: I’m a 70’s baby, 80’s kid, 90’s teenager. My formative musical heroes were really all the female artists from my parent’s record collection, along with my mum herself, who sung in bands, often playing shows  3 or 4 nights a week when I was small. I grew up knowing songs by heart from artists like Tracy Chapman, Annie Lennox, Neneh Cherry, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Joan Armatrading, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Dolly Parton, Texas and Phoebe Snow. 

Rockmommy: I love that you wrote children’s music to put your babies to sleep. Did they go to sleep? How old are they now (and do they play music with you)?  

Claudia Gunn: Yes it definitely helped them sleep, and I think perhaps it helped me to relax and just slow down to their pace too. When they got older, the lullabies were more just to help them calm down. Even now I’ll get asked for a song occasionally. One of the songs called “Goodnight Moon” on Little Wild Lullabies was composed for Dylan when we would go say goodnight to the moon by either walking the block in his pram in summer or driving the block in the car in winter (desperate times). 

My kids are now 11 and 14, and the youngest Ella learns guitar and singing, and she wrote a few songs with me when she was 8 or 9, we put them on a Christmas EP in 2019. Dylan learns the drums and plays the tenor drum in a pipe band — he was always more about rhythm, from kitchen pots and pans when very small to bashing sticks on trees (sorry trees!) to make music on bush walks.

Rockmommy: Any advice on balancing motherhood and musician life? 

Claudia Gunn: I’ve had times when I just put music kind of on the shelf for a bit as there was so much going on to try and get used to being a mum, and then other times when I had a clear goal and just stayed up really, really late to steal time to make it happen. For years I’d keep on writing songs, because you can do that in your head when you’re feeding babies, doing laundry, buying groceries, commuting to work, making dinner (I write lots of songs in the kitchen), but not getting them recorded or performing live because either I didn’t have physical space to have gear set up, or mental headspace to plan and book shows.

Finding other musician mums is key I think, as you can share coping strategies, experiences, ways of doing things to keep your musical life happening alongside your mum life.

And also being persistent, using downtime to listen to podcasts or blogs so you can upskill when you’re on the side lines of a soccer game for example. Being a mum has made me more fearless too, and decisive with songwriting and production, as my time is limited so I just get to work, and don’t let myself sit on the fence indecisively like I probably used to do when I was younger, and had all the time in the world!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Rissi Palmer’s Revival: Motherhood, ‘Color Me Country’ and Raising Girls

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Rissi Palmer’s song “Seeds” — the first track off her album “Revival” — grips the listener in the first 20 seconds, coming on with whisper of a plea, “don’t believe what you’ve been sold,” over muted acoustic guitar riffs as her voice builds toward momentous, soaring chorus.  

The song on its own is nothing short of profound. But in the context of its music video, produced by Emil Gallardo and Ed Massey, experiencing “Seeds” is life changing. 

As Rissi sings, “they can bury your body, but never touch your soul,” the young, Black man walking causally down a dusty road is stopped and threatened by a policeman pointing a shotgun at his face, before the footage cuts to Rissi, strumming her guitar in a more traditional front-porch country montage.

Because I watched this video in early 2021, on the heels of 2020’s racial reckoning in the United States, and the global, and pivotal, push for social justice, I assumed the song was new. It captured this moment in history, through music, in such a compelling, and urgent way. It made me want to take the streets (again) and protest for change.

Rissi Palmer — Seeds

Yet the sad irony is that the song wasn’t new.

“Seeds” was actually penned nearly six years before the murder of George Floyd, on the heels of another eerily similar tragedy in Ferguson, Mo., the Aug. 9, 2014, shooting and killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. 

And as I pushed “play” again, letting the lyrics, music, and visuals soak in, I knew I needed to hear more from the artist who has spent the better part of 20 years navigating the ups and downs of an industry traditionally associated with white men in pickup trucks. Whether it’s her cheeky (but serious) breakout hit “Country Girl” or the intimate, string-heavy “Soul Message,” Rissi Palmer’s music tugs at the heart and inspires change. 

We recently sat down with the mom (of two young daughters) to talk about her second full-length record, “Revival,” and her new radio show Color Me Country Radio with Rissi Palmer, which debuted on Apple Music in August 2020. 

Rockmommy: Hi Rissi! For those who are not familiar, can you tell us a little bit about your music career?

Rissi Palmer: I came up in the 80s and 90s, so I listened to artists like Trish Yearwood and Faith Hill. I loved Dolly Parton. We listened to a lot of country, a lot of R&B and a lot of pop growing up so my influences are pretty diverse. And I love stories. I was a big storyteller when I was a kid, and I used to tell these long crazy stories that would make my friends laugh. What I love about country music is the songs, the storytelling.

Rissi Palmer (Photo Credit: Chris Charles)

Rockmommy: Which musical storytellers are you drawn to?

Rissi Palmer: Wynonna Judd is one of my favorites. I loved her song choices — she didn’t always write all of her songs but I loved her song choices — and I loved her strong, strong voice. Especially what she did with The Judds, with her mom. Also, she’s a vocal beast … she can pretty much sing anything and it would sound amazing. 

Rockmommy: Fast forward to the early 2000s… pre-2007. What was it like getting into the country music industry? 

Rissi Palmer: Here’s how the story went. I grew up in St Louis, and I went to college in Chicago and while I was in Chicago I started working on my demo. Midway through my freshman year of college, my managers were like, ‘we want to shop you for record deals but we need you to be available for meetings.’ So that means you’re going to have to leave school. So I sat down my parents and said, ‘if you let me do this now, when I’m young, if it doesn’t work out in two years, I’ll go back to school.’ And their philosophy was, ‘you’re only 18 once.’ They knew this is what I always wanted to do.

Rockmommy: So what happened next? 

Rissi Palmer: Then when I turned 19 I got my first publishing deal in Nashville, so I started spending way more time there, although I didn’t move officially to Nashville until I was 26, seven years later. My publishers would treat me awesome. I would stay with them, and I would stay for, like, a couple weeks at a time.

I’ll say this: Those that were in the trenches with me … my publishers and the other writers, they were wonderful. But because I was the only person of color — I didn’t know of any other people of color doing country music — I felt this self-imposed need to fit in. I didn’t want to stick out for any reason, I didn’t want my songs to stick out. 

Then, when I started taking meetings, I realized, it wasn’t going to be, ‘oh you’re Black, you’re cool.’ One of the meetings I took before I had a publishing deal… the producer played my demo, while I’m in the hallway, listening to their reaction. They’re like, ‘OK, nice … what’s the catch?’ So then I walked in, it was like, ‘oh my God, oh my God.’ And then it turned into, ‘well, we have to find songs for Black girls, for someone like you.

Rockmommy: I can’t believe they would say that! 

Rissi Palmer: They would get stuck on ‘how do we make her relatable?’ and ‘how do we present her to our listeners in a way that’s palatable to them?’ I learned early on there obviously must be an issue. It was hard not to take it personal. And for a long time I did. It felt like it was me, like I was the problem. It’s taxing on you mentally on ways you don’t really think about.

Once I was signed, we started doing the radio tour and that sort thing. Radio tour is not fun. It can be at times, but for the most part it’s not. You’re sitting in this room and the radio people are judging you and deciding whether they want to play you, and sometimes it has nothing to do with the song, but how they feel about you personally. I had some great people in radio but then I had some horrible people, people who said to my radio promoter, ‘don’t even bother bringing her in because we’re never going to play her.’ It was a lot.

Rissi Palmer (Photo: Chris Charles)

Rockmommy: Just wow. Are there still assumptions about what country music fans want among record producers today? 

Rissi Palmer: In the industry at large, I still think it’s a pretty pervasive thought. I think there are innovative people and people that want to try to do different things as evidenced by the fact that Darius Rucker has a career … one of each of those people signed to a major label for every 15 blonde girls or 20 guys in baseball caps. You can’t have 20 Mickey Guytons.

Rockmommy: Because of this dynamic, are Black, indigenous, and/or Latinx artists afraid to try to make it in country? 

Rissi Palmer: There are tons of artists of color, and the moment I started the show (Color me Country), my inbox flooded. In the very beginning, artists of color are the same as white artists. When they decide to go into a career in music, they do it because they love it. They’re not thinking about the odds against them.

Then once you get in, you see the hurdles behind the scenes. A lot people think that racism is a white hood and torches and a cross, that things are blatant. When you don’t see it blatantly, you think everything’s fine. It’s only when you add up little things, the little micro-aggressions, the little oblivious things people do, it starts to weigh on you. I think that after trying to climb the mountain for so long, and seeing no return on investment, that’s when you see people quitting, and changing their trajectory.

Rockmommy: How did you decide to start your show, Color me Country

Rissi Palmer: I started doing interviews with artists in [Spring 2020], when quarantine started, with plans to start a podcast. I wanted to talk about my experience in country music… and talk to others about their experiences in being ‘the other’ — a [forum] where people could tell me things they might not necessarily tell a journalist because they know that I’ve been there.

I didn’t know George Floyd was gonna happen, that we were going to go through this reckoning. Suddenly this little thing I had planned to start, this podcast, was included in The New York Times. Then another friend of mine introduced me to Apple Music, literally the week before I was supposed to launch the podcast on my own. They offered me a deal to do a radio show, which meant I would be able to include full songs. 

Still, mission is exactly the same, to make stories public to raise awareness. I hear people discovering the show, saying, ’I didn’t know Black people sang country music!’ I’m trying to normalize this, because we’ve been a part of this since the beginning. This whole story that country music is white man’s music is patently false.

Rockmommy: Can you tell me about the song ‘Seeds’ came about? 

Rissi Palmer: ‘Seeds’ was actually written in 2014: I grew up in St. Louis, watching how everything unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri, after the murder of Michael Brown. I felt powerless, because I wasn’t there. I was in North Carolina. But I saw this quote, ‘they try to cut us down, but they don’t know that we were seeds.” So I thought, ‘OK, this is the great place to start for the song.’ 

Rockmommy: Can we talk about ‘Revival?’ Is that a revival … of you?

Rissi Palmer: Yeah! This is a revival of me. I did a project in 2014, of back porch sessions, and this is the first full-length album I’ve done since my debut. I’m older … I was the same age my mom was when she died, right when the template [for being a mom] was about to become obsolete. When we started recording the album, I was pregnant with Nova. Every song of that album is a snapshot of my marriage, where I was as a mother, where I was as a Black woman.

Rockmommy: How has being a mom influenced your work, or challenged it?

Rissi Palmer: It’s really funny to approach this now, and see just how my perspective is different. When I started out, everything was very focused on me. Everything is very ‘me, me, me’ when you’re an artist. You’re very much into your look your sound. Now that I have the girls, I have to prioritize, of course, [their needs]. I approach motherhood a lot different then some people do because I lost my mother when I was very young. My mom passed away when I was 7. She was sick for the last two years of her life, in a hospital in another state. So I knew that if I ever had children, they would be my first priority, and make sure that whatever I did would revolve around them, rather than them revolving around me. 

I’ve tried to find ways that my music and my art can be something that we can all do together, that they can do with me. That’s why I did a children’s album in 2013, because I wanted to do something to commemorate my daughter’s birth and do something we could enjoy together. All my music I do with, in my mind, ‘my girls are going to hear this.’ It doesn’t necessarily stop me from saying things, but it means I am very truthful.

They’ve made me, in turn, become a more intentional artist, and make smarter decisions, in regards to my time and what I can do and what I can’t do. They make me mindful. I suddenly went from being this very self-focused artist to thinking, ’how can I change this corner of the world that we’re all in together?’

In every way they make me better. It’s hard. It’s hard to juggle and I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of time that I used to devote to my art.’ My time is very valuable. I can’t be all over the place that I used to be. I’ve had to become really resourceful with my time.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

 

Tracy Bonham’s New Children’s Record, ‘Young Maestros Vol. 1’ Explores Music, Movement and More

by Marisa Torrieri 

Singer-songwriter Tracy Bonham gained international fame for her iconic ’90s rock song “Mother Mother” — the post-grunge-era anthem for so many young adults getting their first taste of the real world. Fast forward to 2021, and Bonham’s now a mother herself (of a 10-year-old son), navigating the daily struggle of work-life balance and channeling her expansive musical talent into new projects. 

Tracy Bonham (photo by Shervin Lainez)

This month, the singer-slash-guitarist-slash-violin player debuts her very first children’s album, with Melodeon Music House: Young Maestros Vol. 1, an energetic 11-song record for kids of all ages. It’s available now on all media platforms (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc.), and CD. 

Bonham fans — including older millennials and Gen X’ers of all ages who fell for her soaring vocals and angst-ridden rock in the pre-aughts — will be delighted to share this set of super-fun, danceable songs that highlight musical concepts the whole family can appreciate. The first single, “Me Symphony,” is my favorite so far, with its fun animation, big band vibe, and rhymes that linger in the listener’s mind, hours later: “I lost my tuba in Aruba/I lost my piano in Indiana.” 

Tracy Bonham and Melodeon Music House ‘Me Symphony’

My kids love the joyful, silly ‘Let’s Take The Subway,’ which might be the only song I’ve heard that cheerfully name-drops the NYC C Train, B Train, and the elusive G train (which I’ve still never managed to catch). 

We recently caught up with Bonham to find out what’s next: 

Rockmommy: Hi Tracy! How did ‘Young Maestros’ record come about?

Tracy Bonham: Everyone was forced to stop during the pandemic. I don’t like being told what to do so I was pretty mad at the world. I would say F**k COVID to myself… often. During this time my bassist and collaborator, Rene, and I were figuring out how to create a business plan for my music education music curriculum and remote classes. I had been teaching my original curriculum at the Brooklyn Preschool of Science for a number of years, and little did I know it would become a laboratory for this new endeavor! 

In October, I had an incredibly uplifting conversation with my manager, Patrice Fehlen, where we decided that we would jump head-first into releasing an album of my music education songs.These songs had been laying around for years and thankfully they had already been recorded and mixed a few years prior with my dear friend and founder of Gowanus Music Club, Josh Margolis. Josh is a musician, a teacher, a business owner and another music enthusiast / music theory nerd. We recorded and mixed these songs over the course of six years knowing that someday it would become something really cool. However, my career as a singer-songwriter, and being a parent, would always kick the project to the back burner. Once Patrice and I put it out into the universe, that early October day, the whole thing started to take shape. Rene became my business partner and we started creating Melodeon Music House with the first album release, and accompanying music education program, called Young Maestros Vol. 1, slated for release on April 16, 2021.

Rockmommy: The video for ‘Me Symphony’ is so fun, and all the songs on this record are so great! Did you ever think you’d make a children’s album/family record in your pre-parenting days? Is it wild to think about that? 

Tracy Bonham: It is totally wild to think about. I have never been one to follow trends and I probably would balk if someone told me (pre-parenting) that I would follow the ranks of artists who make children’s albums after they become parents. When I started writing these songs, they were meant to be teaching tools.

Rockmommy: So my rock band Trashing Violet covers “Mother Mother.” It’s one of my favorites. Is it a blessing or a burden to have one iconic song because you have so much other great music?  

Tracy Bonham: I would rather have one iconic song than no iconic song! Thank you for saying that about my other songs, but if they didn’t have ‘Mother Mother’ as the beacon, they might not have reached so many people. That song was iconic because it touched a universal nerve. Pretty much everyone can relate to it in some way. I don’t think I nailed that kind of transparency and universality with any of my other songs. 

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Tracy Bonham: I am really hopeful the vaccine will give people their lives back. I hope the people of the world can heal and rise out of this pandemic in a more thoughtful and mindful way. I especially hope that in 2021, the United States and all of its inhabitants, from whatever political affiliation, can heal in a psychic way. The patriarchal system is being challenged and I am so excited to experience the age of femininity taking shape. 

Rockmommy: What is your advice on balancing parenting and creative life?

Tracy Bonham: My advice to any creatives out there who are new to parenting — do not freak out thinking you will get writers block or lose your creativity. First of all, you have just done the most creative thing there is to do in the history of creation! You have created a family. 

For both men and women, your creativity is on fire! It is what you do with it from this day forward that matters. Whether it is creating a loving environment and an inspiring relationship for the child to thrive in, or whether it is taking care of your individual muse by creating loving boundaries for your art to cultivate on it’s own, these things you CAN do and will do if you believe you can. Of course, it is incredibly hard to find the time and energy when you are a parent of a young child. But what I found was that creativity FOUND me as long as I stayed open to it. 

I would be changing a diaper, singing to my son, and a new melody would come out of my mouth. Of course, I would be singing the word “diaper, diaper baby, diaper, diaper baby” but I was creating a future melody for a future song. I always kept my iPhone nearby so that I could hit record on the voice memo app and save the fleeting but inspired moment for when I had a half hour to myself (yes, that is possible) to go back and listen and create something out of it. I guess what I am saying is, please don’t think creativity goes out the window just because you have a new focus. Remain open to possibility. It may come in different forms. But creativity will always be available for you if you are available for it. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

Laurie Berkner, Rockstar to Preschoolers Everywhere, Talks Live-streaming and New Tunes for 2021

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

So many parents have a Laurie Berkner memory that gives them the warm and fuzzies. I have several — the nights I’d play Bubbles and my then-toddler sons would gleefully splash along in their bath, or the time I played “Silly Brushing Song” to motivate my older kid to spend more than 15 seconds at the sink, brushing his teeth. My favorite two tunes, hands down, are “We are The Dinosaurs” and “Monster Boogie,” but my kids love Superhero the most.  

Laurie Berkner (Photo by Jayme Thornton)

And even as my kids grow older and discover grown-up music, they’ve still got a special place in their hearts (and on their playlists) for Laurie Berkner. It’s a good thing, too, since we really relied on artists like Laurie to livestream like crazy since March 2020, the month that things began to change. 

[SEE RELATED: Superhero Mom Laurie Berkner: 20 Years of Making Cool Tunes in the Ever-Evolving Kids Music Soundscape]

Laurie’s daily Facebook Live concert series, which featured singalongs and stories and a ton of cool virtual content, was a much-needed reprieve from “homeschool” with mom and dad for my 5-year-old son. And while things aren’t back to “normal” or “2019-ish” quite yet, Laurie’s cooking up some awesome new tunes. 

We recently caught up with the performer and mom to find out what’s next. 

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

Laurie Berkner: I know there are many people who have had many more devastating experiences than I have over the last year, but for me, being a parent during this pandemic has been very emotionally distressing. My teenage daughter has been trying to find ways to handle the difficulties of remote learning, being separated from her friends and teachers, and missing all of the hands-on aspects of school that made it fun and challenging, but as I witness her struggling, not being able to personally help her or do much about it, has been quite painful for me. 

As far as my career goes, all of my live performances since last March have, of course, been either canceled or postponed. Suddenly having to wear so many hats (videographer, photographer, recording engineer, set designer, administrative assistant, etc.) on top of running my business and being the performer and composer/musician, has been exhausting and quickly became unsustainable. Luckily, I have an incredible person as my COO who decided to buy an RV with her partner, and they moved into my driveway in July. This has meant that I actually have help now with a lot of what I was trying to do entirely by myself — and it has been amazing.

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

Laurie Berkner: In response to the fact that schools were closed in the spring, I started doing daily Facebook Live concerts for a couple of months. The interaction with people all over the country (and the world, actually) was really inspiring — and I wrote songs that I might not have otherwise. I also finished an album that I had started before the pandemic, doing the final recordings remotely. That was a harder process, and I found myself paring down some of the instrumentation of a few of the songs, as well as singing some of my own background vocals in order to simplify things. I went through intense periods of creativity and intense periods of feeling like I had nothing in me. It has been an exhausting, roller coaster of a year.

[SEE RELATED: Laurie Berkner’s Daily Livestream is Exactly What Kids and Homeschooling Parents Need Right Now

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Laurie Berkner: I am hoping that my daughter will be able to go back to school in a somewhat “normal” way. I hope that I’ll be able to hug the people I work with and that I will be able to make live music with the people in my band again!! And I hope that as a country we truly start to hold each other accountable for the racism that has been built into our culture and make meaningful, conscious, changes towards equity.

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

Laurie Berkner: I have been doing Livestream Family Concerts every six weeks that will be continuing into 2021. The next one is on Valentine’s Day (tickets at live.laurieberkner.com). Also, the album I mentioned that I just completed is called Let’s Go! and it will be released on March 5th (pre-sale starts on February 5th).

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

Laurie Berkner: I’m basically still trying to figure this one out, but I do find that allowing myself to explore and enjoy my own creativity while I’m with my daughter, as well as when I find time to be alone, means that I almost end up having enough time to do both. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Six Rock Memoirs I Can’t Wait to Read This Winter

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

We don’t know what the future holds, but one thing’s clear: We’re not leaving the house much this winter.  

Personally, I’ll be digging into a lot of books. And it just so happens there are some killer rock n’ roll memoirs out there — like, hundreds of them. I don’t have time to read all of them, but are six highly rated, salacious ones I’m hoping to tackle this winter. 

Just a few of the rock n’ roll ladies I plan to read about in 2021. Lisa Robinson’s ‘Nobody Ever Asked Me About The Girls’ isn’t a memoir, but it is full of some great cultural insights and anecdotes by a highly renowned journalist.

Debbie Harry: ‘Face It’ (2019): I’ve never met Debbie Harry, but I feel like we’re cosmically connected, and not just because we’re blondes in bands drawn to New York’s East Village art-punk music scene. Nevertheless, I have a confession: After attending her book talk at NYC’s Town Hall in September 2019, I got super busy with life, and didn’t get to crack it open. This winter, I can’t wait to read some of the salacious tales of Debbie’s adventures with bandmate and bestie Chris Stein and others. 

Patti Smith: Just Kids (2020): Patti Smith inspired so many of my favorite artists, like Shirley Manson of Garbage. But only recently did I stream her 1975 debut album Horses for the first time. And girl, have I been missing out! This memoir, based on Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, is as real as it gets (fun fact: Mapplethorpe created the androgynous image of her in white shirt, black pants and black jacket for the Horses album cover).

Lenny Kravitz: Let Love Rule (2020): Lenny Kravitz was one coolest, most talented and eclectic musicians of the late 1990s and early 2000s — and in this memoir, he dives deep, taking the reader on his journey through the industry, marriage and fatherhood, and more.

Tegan and Sara: ‘High School’ (2019): I’m super excited to read this book about musician twins Tegan and Sara Quin because we’re about the same age, and it’s loaded with ’90s grunge references. Rolling Stone published an excerpt when the book was released — and it takes me right back to my teen angst years, and the moment I first discovered the guitar.  

Patty Schmel: Hits So Hard (2017): Everyone who knows me knows that Hole is my favorite band, and has been since 1994, when the band released ‘Live Through This.’ Hole’s incredibly talented drummer Patty Schmel has been through hell and back, like many in the heroin-infused ’90s Seattle grunge scene. Today she’s a wife and #rockmommy so when I got this book as a present from a writer friend, I knew it was meant for my nightstand.

Bobbie Brown: Dirty Rocker Boys (2013): She’s Warrant’s cherry pie, a sexy video muse that put the pop-metal band on the map. In this memoir, widow of Jani Layne (and the baby mama of his daughter Taylar), spills the secrets of being a rockstar wife. I’ve wanted to read this one for ages!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Stacey Peasley’s High-Energy Record Embraces Optimism

This month, Rockmommy talks to artists about their plans or the coming year. Up first: family pop-rock musician Stacey Peasley, whose upcoming record Make it Happen! drops February 12. If the buoyant title track is any indication, Peasley’s latest album will be the dose of joy we all need in an otherwise uncertain, chilly winter. 

Stacey Peasley (Credit: Katie Ring Photography)

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

Stacey Peasley: As a mom and business owner, I found that 2020 had its challenges. I have two teenagers and a second grader and we had a busy suburban life — soccer games, gymnastics meets, music lessons. Our activities came to a halt, and each child had to adjust to online learning. I am most concerned about my second grader, who was learning crucial reading, writing, and math skills. The lack of normal child and adolescent peer interaction was also a big challenge. Now they attend a hybrid model and are in person and remote every other week. Activities have started up again slowly. 

Pre-Covid, I was working as a performer and music specialist in schools, libraries, and classes five days a week. I was also in the middle of recording my latest album. Suddenly, all of my work was  gone or had to transition immediately to virtual, and I had the bare minimum to work with — basically my iPhone and a laptop! I had to learn to record the vocal tracks on my album’s final two songs at home on my own. I wasn’t able to perform with my band, and that was really surreal.  It was also challenging knowing my income was going to be severely impacted.

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

Stacey Peasley: As a creative artist, educator, and business owner, my mind is always going — songs to write, lessons to plan, curriculum to learn, gigs to promote, music and classes to market and honestly, I love all of it! I started to try to take advantage of this new “down time” and focus more on writing. I wrote a song that will appear on my new album called “At the Parade” during Covid, after the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston got cancelled. This song would not exist had it not been for Covid. I also started to focus on my next project, which is a ballet concept album for children, and I’m continuing to write that. I also had to get creative with my virtual offerings and have now embraced having fun being creative with my very own green screen and backgrounds! Still trying to learn a few new things!

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Stacey Peasley: I am most hopeful musically, that we can all be together again, communally enjoying music. I am so blessed to usually be surrounded by kids and families, singing, dancing, and having fun with friends. I am usually having toddlers and preschoolers giving me lots and lots of hugs. I am most comfortable teaching and performing, and I really miss it. I love the feeling I have making music with other musicians, as well. I have been in bands since I was 18 years old, that’s over… gulp …25 years! My first gig was in 1992! I am also hopeful that our children and nation can heal from this catastrophic pandemic mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

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

Stacey Peasley: I would LOVE to share my new album called Make it Happen! that drops on Feb 12, 2021. It has 10 original songs that I really, really love. I worked on it with musicians and producers in Boston and New York, and I am really excited about it. I also think it shows my growth as a songwriter. 

Stacy Peasley (Photo Credit: Mandy MacCormack)

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

Stacey Peasley: One thing I realized these past few years is that when I wasn’t able to be creative due to the hecticness of life and as a mom, I got really angry and almost depressed. I had all these ideas festering inside of me that weren’t permitted to come out because I had no time to devote to them. As a parent of young children, there isn’t a lot of “me” time! I would suggest small steps to keep those ideas alive, whether it’s writing and singing a song into your phone to capture the idea, knowing you WILL get back to it, asking for help, and even having your kids get involved in the creative process with you. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short. I honestly cannot believe my first baby will be 16 this year! 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Rock n’ Goals for the New Year

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Resolutions, for me, are a thing of my pre-kid ’20s. I’d make sweeping declarations, like “I’m going to lose 10 pounds” or “I’m going to play piano” as if they were easy feats, only to find that the post-holiday afterglow waned within the first few days of January.

Today, having had two kids, I’ve learned that big, sweeping resolutions are super unrealistic.

What’s worked better: Small goals, like committing to playing 10 minutes of guitar per day, every day, except on vacations. I did this in 2019. In 2020, my goal was to play 12 shows in one year. This was a big goal, considering the last time I played regularly with a band was in 2011. But in spite of Covid, I did it!

[SEE REALATED: Why Goals Work Better than Resolutions!]

The secret? Setting a tiny, manageable goal.

I haven’t quite figured out what my rockin’ goal is this year, but I have a few candidates (I’ll pick one by week’s end, I promise). Here they are:

  1. Read 1-2 rock memoirs, cover to cover;
  2. Play music for 15 minutes per day;
  3. Record a solo EP (3-5 songs);
  4. Record an EP with my band by year’s end;
  5. Write one new song every month;
  6. Learn to play 12 hair metal songs, solos included;
  7. Play 6 in-person gigs;
  8. Record an album with my sons from my home studio.

Thoughts? Which one is best for me? Are any of these goals shared by you?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.