by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Like lots of creative moms in their pre-kiddo days, rock singer Krissy Dale didn’t have the luxury of pursuing her craft whenever the opportunity arose and motivation struck. Instead, she spent her 9-to-5 hours working an office job, which left only nights and weekends for getting her musical fix as a singer for several cover bands in Connecticut’s Gold Coast area.
And like every rockmommy, when Krissy had her first child — daughter Lyla, 6 — things got that much tougher.
Krissy Dale, with her portrait of Prince.
Still, in spite of the guilt from leaving her daughter to play shows at night, adjusting to her husband Bryan’s career in the entertainment industry (as a singer and head of a karaoke company, Kings of Karaoke), and trying to get ahead in her daytime career, she managed to make it work.
Until one day, it just didn’t.
Shortly after the Dales relocated to Atlanta in 2013, Krissy found herself working her day job nonstop, trying to help her now-preschool-age daughter adjust, and overwhelmed by all the changes in her life. Then she got pregnant with baby #2. After her son was born, Krissy found her life had gotten even more hectic than she’d imagined. The only chance she got to sing was when her daughter was playing with music toys or watching a musical — most of her artistic energies went to helping her kids with their own projects.
Fortunately, as 2016 neared the halfway point, she would discover, almost by accident, that her creative days were far from over.
It was just before June that Krissy picked up paintbrush on a lark— the first time in more than a decade, when she minored in art in college — in an attempt to paint the most perfect birthday present for her husband. In the process, she realized that the outlet of painting filled her with the same joy she felt as a singer, while helping to calm her frazzled nerves.
Eleven months later, she’s added to the Prince portrait, with stunning profiles of popular musicians and other figures — including haunting close-ups of Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Robin Williams. Her paintings are hypnotizing to look at, and, as anyone who’s seen them up close will tell you, evoke so many different emotions simultaneously (see her whole collection at KDaleartwork.com). And in doing so, they offer intimate glimpses at the most powerful, talented, creative and sometimes troubled individuals whose bodies of work continue to inspire so many.
Here, Krissy tells us about her journey from singing to painting, and offers advice on how to balance it all when you have so many balls in the air but can’t afford to drop any of them.
Rockmommy: When I first met you, you were a mama to be, and an aspiring singer! Could you tell us a little more about how you got started in music?
Krissy Dale: Growing up, I admired every musician on the radio in the ’80s and ’90s – Whitney Houston, Chicago, Mariah Carey, Shanice, Boys II Men, Groove Theory. Hearing their voices inspired me to find me own voice. As a natural introvert, it didn’t come easily! I would write lyrics on a piece of paper, seal them in a plastic Ziploc bag and practice over and over in the shower… until we ran out of hot water.
Krissy Dale at home in Atlanta
I took vocal lessons with Rose Coppola (RVP Studios), which built my confidence to immerse myself in musical theater in high school and land the lead role of Florence Vassey in “Chess.” I went to college at Fordham University in New York and met my Manager, TJ O’Sullivan, and producers Lou Bastian and Tony Detullio. We wrote a ton and recorded songs I’m still proud of. Post-college, I played Rusty in the regional musical theater production of “Footloose” – then transitioned into the cover band scene in Connecticut while finishing my Master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational psychology. By day, I worked full-time in human resources at Fairfield University. By night, I was singing all over Connecticut with crazy cover bands and loving every second.
Rockmommy: When you had your first baby, how did you stay connected to the music scene? What were some of the challenges?
I performed with my band FML until I was 8 months preggers with Lyla (baby #1), and hung up my cover band hat to adjust to motherhood. It didn’t take long for me to reacquire the itch to get back into the music scene to a high-energy band called Pulse. I limited performances to twice a month since I was working full time as well. Challenges included 1) being totally obsessed with my daughter and wanting to be with her 24/7, 2) quickly climbing the ladder in my daytime career, 3) dealing with the guilt of leaving my baby for shows at nigh, and 4) juggling my hubby’s schedule. He worked nights running his booming karaoke entertainment company – and was also the lead singer of his own band, Fake ID at the time.
Somewhere in there I slept. I nursed Lyla for a little over a year, so if I wasn’t sleeping, I literally was always attached to a boob pump. I look back now and have NO clue how I had the energy.
Rockmommy: Can you tell us about your move to art, or painting in particular?
Krissy Dale: In 2013, my career moved us to Georgia, which severed most of my cover band and studio recording ties due to distance. We added a second kiddo into the mix a year later in 2014 – and life went from busy to insane. I worked a lot, Bryan’s karaoke business in Georgia was flourishing, and I no longer had time to think straight, never mind invest time in my music… or myself. We had two babies, a house, new friends, new investments, much heavier responsibilities.
Like many mommies, I lost myself. Between 2015 to 2016, I was burning out at a rapid rate.
In May 2016 I painted a portrait of Prince for Bryan’s 40th birthday gift. While painting, a wave of calm washed over me — reminding me of life’s important lesson: enjoy the journey. It was less about the final product and more about the actual act of painting and carving out time for myself.
As a visual art minor at Fordham, I had taken classes at Lincoln Center and was taught by extremely talented and inspiring individuals. It was great to get back to this integral and creative part of who I was.
Rockmommy: Why do you love painting other musicians? What is it about certain personalities that inspires you?
Painting musicians helps connect my love for music and art together. The stories and lives of each artist are remarkable, inspiring and sometimes painful. Through art, I pay respect and express deep appreciation to these amazing individuals who have touched my life is some way.
Rockmommy: With your busy schedule, how — and when — do you find time to paint?
Krissy Dale: It is a juggling act! And takes some planning. During the work-week, after the kids are fast asleep, I plan one night to paint for two hours. The other four nights are dedicated to QT with the hubby, kiddos, friends, catching up on work, and going to bed early. Sometimes it happens according to plan, sometimes it doesn’t.
On the weekends, I paint when I can and wherever is most convenient – if my kids are playing outside, I take my canvas outside. If they are eating, I’m painting in the kitchen. If they are napping, I’m in the tranquility of my bedroom painting away. Some weekends it happens, some weekends it doesn’t.
I look forward to that time tremendously.
Rockmommy: What advice do you have to other moms, in terms of trying to balance everything?
Krissy Dale: It’s hard, and I don’t have it all figured it out. I have days I literally want to chug a bottle of wine when I walk through the door after work – or shamelessly shovel fruit snacks in my mouth while hiding in the pantry from my children.
Most days I’m living minute to minute, but when I can I bake time into the week to slow down. Sometimes it happens as planned, sometimes it doesn’t. As rock mommies, we naturally put others first, but carving out ‘you’ time is really cool for your kids to witness – even if it’s an hour here or there.
Lastly, I’d encourage you to spend that time creating a better version of yourself – read a book, volunteer, learn something, create something, inspire others.
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.