On Taking Chances and Embarking on New Adventures Post-Kids

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

From the moment I set foot on my first airplane at age 4, I’ve always loved traveling — from exploring Disney World as a little girl to setting foot in Amsterdam, Rome, London, Paris, Belize and countless other places as an adult.img_3850

I’ve slept on floors of friends’ ramshackle houses, exhausted from playing back-to-back rock shows. I’ve enjoyed plush hotel beds in foreign cities and quaint countrysides with my family — especially my grandmother Mary, who would take me wherever she wanted to go, regardless of my age. One of my fondest memories is of the time she took me to a casino on Paradise Island (the Bahamas) and insisted that I was 18 (I was 12, maybe 13 at the time).

These days, I spend more time envying my friends’ travel pics on Instagram — especially my parent friends — than I do actually traveling. I’m not a touring musician by any stretch of the word, and taking kids anywhere is expensive. As a result, I’m grounded most of the time. I have a bucket list, of course — it includes Greece, Hawaii, Croatia, among other destinations — but it’s not something I’m actively checking off.

So when my husband surprised me on our anniversary with a trip to Jamaica, I was ecstatic — but a little less enthusiastic than I would have been 10 years ago. My adventure “muscle” is out of shape. Could I really bring myself to go to another country for a few days? Sure, we’d gone to Nashville for two nights in 2015, and a honeymoon in 2010 in Belize, but times have changed. We’re in the middle of a government shutdown and the current political climate is anxiety-inducing.

I need only look at photos from my youth to realize that I miss my old, whimsical self. The one who wasn’t afraid of plane flights or long security lines. The one who favored grit, not glamour. The one who could be wowed by a flock of dirty pigeons in Venice, Italy, or muscled Gods in Venice, California. This girl is still inside me, I just need to dig her out. Yeah, the one who tried Haggis in Scotland while her distressed parents looked on. I want that girl back! img_3851

I guess my message is this: Try not to let life and parenthood make you forget who you are. Sure, you’re older and wiser (and likely more considerate and careful), but you don’t need to forget how to be curious, and embrace the unknown. I write this to myself as much as anyone else, hoping the words will sink in if I push hard enough on the computer keys. Maybe they will.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Camp Crush’s Jennifer Deale Gets Real About Politics and Relationships with ‘Run’ EP

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Camp Crush, the Portland, Ore.-based wife-husband duo of Jennifer Deale (synths, keys, vocals) and Chris Spicer (drums, vocals), is known for embedding important social messages into sonically luscious New Wave pop.

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Camp Crush: Parents and partners Chris Spicer and Jennifer Deale.

Onstage and on screen, Camp Crush aims to stimulate conversation, as evidenced by band’s deeply moving May 2018 EP She’s Got It, or the single “Take Me Back.” 

[RELATED: Camp Crush’s Jennifer Deale on Parenthood, Music, Feminism and Carving Out a New Sound]

In their downtime, they’re just regular parents, trying to give their two young children the best, most balanced life possible in a progressive-leaning town. But over the past two years, under the eye of a Conservative-leaning legislative and executive branch, new and unexpected challenges have arisen. Specifically, the political divisiveness has wielded significant impact on interpersonal relationships, and challenged the deepest of friendships.  

Camp Crush’s new EP Run, out Feb. 1, is the culmination of these challenges, a set of songs about the divisiveness that dealt huge personal blows. It’s an album about human connection, but also the tragedy of human disconnection. But Deale also wants it to be a record about hope. 

Rockmommy caught up with Deale to talk about parenting her son and daughter, making music with her partner (and coparent) Spicer, and navigating political differences in the quest for a peaceful world. 

Rockmommy: What’s the backstory for this record? How did it come about? 

Jennifer Deale: With this whole new societal landscape we’re all living in, all of a sudden everything is divisive, and every single issue is incredibly important to everyone you know. It’s true the stakes are very high for everyone involved. And one thing I didn’t expect when this happened was the fallout between my family, my friends, my neighbors. I think the world is experiencing this wariness of human connection, they’re afraid of being attacked, saying the wrong thing. As musicians, we’ve seen that people aren’t going out as much. Or if you know you’re on a different side than someone, there’s distancing that happens. But a huge part of being a musician is building community — with your fans, with venues … and from a musician standpoint, we’ve seen the impact of [this distancing]. It really led to us writing these songs. Human connection is the answer. If we can get face to face with people, we can see them as human. 

Rockmommy: Is your music community political? 

Jennifer Deale: Obviously Portland [Oregon] is a very progressive city, but even within that there are these sub-genres that divide. Maybe you’re progressive, but you’re not progressive enough. Or it’s Bernie bros verses Clinton voters. And then you start subdividing. And we’re just like, ‘hey, let’s find some humanity. Let’s do the good that inspires you.’ If we can focus less on some differences, the world would be so much better. 

Rockmommy: With so many divisive issues, how is that possible to come together? 

Jennifer Deale: If you listen to our music, you know we don’t back down from our stances. There are some base issues we care about — like our safety and about equal rights. But at Thanksgiving, do you not attend because you’ll be around family who feels different? I’m not about meeting in the middle, but I can show a decent amount of respect.

Rockmommy: So let’s talk about the album. 

Jennifer Deale: ‘Run,’ the first song we released, is featured with an animated music video that Chris made. That song is about that human connection. I say, ‘I want to run away’ … I don’t want to deal with the complications of society the way it is.’ But instead of running away, we should run to each other. Find community. ‘Vicious Life’ I wrote about losing friendships after this political divide happened.

Rockmommy: Why is this music important to your children, the next generation?

Jennifer Deale: It’s important to show we can still learn and grow. We want to show our kids that we’re not making blanket decisions. It’s important that we teach our kids to have an open mind.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

An Ode to my 2009 Pre-Rockmommy Self

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Have you done the #10yearchallenge yet? I know it’s a Facebook gimmick, and more than one of my loved ones believed the whole thing is designed to snag personal data that helps Facebook. But it’s fun! And with today’s hostile political climate, fun is much-needed. So I’ve participated (hopefully I won’t come to regret this decision).

As such, note the difference between 2008/2009 rockstar me and me today (well, in 2018, so close enough).

There’s an unexpected upside to posting these pics, though. It makes me think about who I was in my pre-kiddo days, when I had hours to twiddle away, playing guitar and writing. Who am I kidding? I was a freelance writer and guitar teacher, just like I am today. Only I spent more time engaging in income-generating work, volunteering for rock n’ roll camps, and actually being on tour — twice — with Girls Rock Girls Rule.

One night, Zack and I went out to a punk show in Brooklyn to see my lead guitarist Bryant Furey’s other band. There was a cool photo booth and I got some random pics taken.

Just to show everyone how cool I was, I present you my Yeah Yeah Yeahs-inspired, glove and pink camisole photo. I had cool hair too, thanks to my friend Paris.

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What are some of your best memories from the pre-parent days?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

New Year’s Guitar Goals: 10 Minutes Per Day

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I do start off every January 1 with the intention to be a better person and a better parent and spouse. But I’m also feeling a little bummed that most nights, I’m too exhausted to practice music, and most days, I’m too busy parenting or working to make like Nita Strauss and bust out solos left and right.

And so goes the life of the busy parent!


I wouldn’t have it any other way — I love my kids and they are everything to me. But I needed to do something to motivate myself just a little more on the nights I don’t have band practice, because unless I have a show coming up, it’s sometimes hard to motivate myself to play.

A wise person once told me, “pick up your guitar every single day, even if it’s only for five minutes.” That got me thinking, “if I can pick up my guitar for five minutes, then why not 10 minutes?” Sure, it would be nice to play guitar for three hours per day (outside of teaching), but the way my life is right now, that’s impossible. But 10 minutes? I can handle that!

With my busy life, 10 minutes every single day is harder than I thought it would be. Still, I’m happy to say that on Day 7, I’ve managed to fit in 10 minutes every single day — even when it means I have to sneak off into another room and play quietly while my kids are watching Ninjago. Even when it means I’m going to bed super late because it takes 10 minutes to motivate myself not to skip a day.

And as a result, I feel much better about life. I’m doing something small every day to nurture my skills and bring music into my life.

So now, I’m going to throw this question to the readers: What can you do for 10 minutes every day that feeds your soul? Post in the comments below.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Looking Back: Our Favorite Rockmommy Interviews of 2018

From monster boogies to mommy love songs and loud concerts galore, 2018 brought us lots of great rockin’ fun. And plenty of wisdom.  

Here, we share the best advice from rockmommies and rockdaddies featured over the last 12 months on this blog. 

“Don’t lose yourself in being a parent. If you want to be in a band, go for it. Because you need to have some sort of outlet for yourself. If you can have time for yourself, that makes you a better parent.”

Jodi Jeffers, mom of 3 and lead singer of The Ramoms

“As parents and musicians, we like to think we’re really cool, but kids are kids and have their own taste. Don’t force them to listen to Velvet Underground. Let them listen to Disney.” 

Rafael Atijas, dad and founder of Loog guitars

“I know that sometimes as mothers, we feel guilty and selfish when we take time out for ourselves. Making my music and self-care are musts for me. I have to do both in order to come back and parent more fully, more present, and fulfilled.”

Renee Stahl, mom, singer and songwriter

“I’m an extreme example of where singing silly songs with your offspring can go … the songs [my daughter and I] created came from everyday activities.”

Ben Rudnick, dad, singer and songwriter

“I think the best way to write a song for kids is to listen to what they are saying, watch what they’re doing, and think about what they enjoy. Then use those things as inspiration to develop songs that are relevant and interesting to them. And try singing the songs with them while you’re writing them! You’ll see right away what works and what doesn’t.”

Laurie Berkner, rockmommy extraordinaire

“How do I get through this all? I am into Buddhist meditation … I got the advice from a Buddhist perspective to bring as much humanity as I can into everything I do. People ask how do I do it all, the answer is by chanting and Buddhist meditation. You also need to take the time to refresh, take an occasional nap, get enough sleep, eat properly.” 

Sharissa Reichert, singer, washboard player and MILF of MILF & DILF

“I think having a schedule is important, a set time when you show up for writing, maybe in a specific place. It doesn’t have to be for a long time. Just something to keep you from getting rusty.” 

Shawn Colvin, mom and singer-songwriter 

“For a while I would try to squeeze [practice] in, but really nothing was happening. So I really had to say, ‘OK I’m going to get a sitter for a couple of hours a week. This is a real thing and important to me and I’m going to do it.’”

Cheri Magill, singer, pianist and mom 

“Every other year, starting in 2013, I write a song a week (so 2013, 2015, 2017 and next year 2019). This has really helped me to break out of the “only writing when I felt inspired” habit. It’s forced me to sit down and focus on being creative, which was alien to me. Now, regardless of how I am feeling, I can sit down and start the writing process and get myself into that creative space without having to wait for it to appear magically. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised. That has really helped with my musical and creative discipline.” 

Zach Parkman, singer, songwriter and dad

“If music is really your passion, find a way to do it. I say, ‘happy mommy happy child.’”

Dana Fuchs, mom and blues singer

“Obviously as a mom you want to spend as much time with your kids as you can. But motherhood is also about being someone your kid to look up to. It’s not just about the quantity of time, but about you giving an example of being a more authentic version of yourself.” 

Jennifer Deale, mom, singer & keyboardist

 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Inside the Loog Guitar: Not Your Typical Preschooler’s Instrument

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Most kids these days learn how to play “guitar” by playing their parents’ ukuleles, or strumming off-key notes on a cheap plastic instrument featuring animated characters. But while wielding these would-be guitars makes for cute Instagram videos, much of the time, kids playing with them aren’t actually learning how to play guitar.

I would know. I have two sons ages 4 and 6, and about one zillion videos of them aimlessly strumming my ukulele. And does either one of them know how to play guitar? Unfortunately, the answer is a big, fat “no.” They both think it’s too hard.

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Loog Guitar (shown here in red)

What I’m describing is actually a common scenario in the households of musician parents with the best intentions for their offspring, according to Rafael Atijas, founder and CEO of Loog Guitars. 

“There are ukuleles, and they’re great but they’re not guitars,” Atijas told Rockmommy. “And then there are other guitars that are cheaply made and come apart.” 

In creating Loog Guitars just three years ago, Atijas’ intention was to design something that would be fun, stimulating, simple to play and easy to learn. The result is a bold, cool-looking three-string guitar that’s easy to play. Strings are made of nylon, not metal, and are easy to push down. Designed for ages 3 and up, the Loog is the ideal, personalized “starter” axe. And it’s so fun to play that even adults like it. 

We recently caught up with Atijas, who is now a father of two, to talk about why the Loog line of guitars — which start at about $60 — are a solid investment for burgeoning rockers. 

Rockmommy: So how and why did Loog get started? 

Rafael Atijas: I saw the same gap that you saw. There are ukuleles, and they’re great but they’re not guitars. And then there are other guitars that are cheaply made and come apart. So I thought, you know, what if there were a guitar that was fun to play, easy and stimulating? So we made a guitar with three notes in its most basic form (GBE strings). At first [the guitar] had open tuning, with more of the lower strings. But then we decided that for [kids] to learn, it was good to have standard tuning. 

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Loog Guitar Founder & CEO Rafael Atijas

Rockmommy: Can you tell us about your background? 

Rafael Atijas: I’m a musician – I was in a band when I was younger. I created Loog guitars when I was working on my master’s at NYU, because I wanted to do something related to music. It’s a business, but it’s inspired by the fact that I play guitar and am a musician. When I came up with the guitar idea, I didn’t have kids yet but I had a niece. It was up to me to teach her the basics. And I realized then, because she was 6 at the time, that you can’t teach kids on these [bad] guitars, or even 3/4 size guitars. The six strings is too overwhelming when they’re that young. 

Rockmommy: What was the response from music teachers and the parents? 

Rafael Atijas: Music teachers have been very responsive, which is great, because as you know, some guitarists can be music snobs … there are some kids that can play out of the box with a standard guitar, but 90 percent of kids can’t. In fact, 90 percent of people who learn to play guitar quit. So we are trying to solve that in a way that makes people want to graduate to a standard, six-string guitar. For a five-year-old, six-year-old, eight-year-old, [starting with a Loog guitar] makes it easier for them to learn guitar. We have many music schools using our guitars. Even smaller guitars, like ¾ guitars, are just more difficult – and it’s easier to grasp three fingers than six fingers. We even have some adults using our guitars. 

Rockmommy: What about the argument that it’s better to start with something harder?  

Rafael Atijas: I started with bass guitar – which was something harder – but we’ve found that when learning guitar it’s better to have some sense of accomplishment, or mastery [built in]. 

Rockmommy: What about your own children? 

Rafael Atijas: I have a three-year-old son and he loves it. My six-year-old girl likes it when I play, but I try not to push it on my children. If you push it on them, they will see it as something they are being forced to do. One of my kids is really into music, and the other is, just a normal amount. 

Rockmommy: What’s your advice for parents? 

Rafael Atijas: Be aware of the music they like. As parents and musicians, we like to think we’re really cool, but kids are kids and have their own taste. Don’t force them to listen to Velvet Underground. Let them listen to Disney. 

For a limited time, Rockmommy readers get a 10 percent discount off their Loog Guitar purchase [Use the code ROCKMOMMY at Checkout]. 

Rockmommy Renee Stahl Shares How She Balanced a Baby AND a Music Career (and How You Can Too)

By Renee Stahl

One question many women ask themselves is, “How can I have a career and a baby?” That was something going through my head almost 13 years ago.

I didn’t think I would be able to balance the two. I didn’t think it was possible. I was clearly wrong.Renee Stahl

I had just finished making an album entitled hopeful.romantic that was picked up by Barnes & Noble, and was asked to go on tour playing all over the country in their stores. My solo career was going well; the thought of interrupting that didn’t feel good to me.

As soon as I decided that it might be OK, and with a little help from my level-headed husband that I could indeed have both . . . POOF, I was pregnant.

My career opened up in a way I never imagined.

Before I became a mother, a friend had suggested that my voice would be a nice fit for singing lullabies, so I reached out to friends who had written a few originals. Jeremy Toback was one of them. He came over and played “Welcome to This World,” a love song he had written for his oldest son. I told him there was no way I could sing that as it was perfect the way it was.

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Renee Stahl with daughter Amelia

We decided to work on some songs, most of which ended up being written while I was on unexpected bedrest at 35 weeks with my daughter, Amelia.  When I was free to move around, we recorded them in her nursery two weeks before she was born. That was the album It’s a Big World, a collection of unconditional love songs to our children.

I know that sometimes as mothers, we feel guilty and selfish when we take time out for ourselves. Making my music and self-care are musts for me. I have to do both in order to come back and parent more fully, more present, and fulfilled.I hope to be an inspiration to my daughters, not only with the music, but also in how I approach it and my life. It’s not as easy for me to parent if my creative cup isn’t full. Like they say on a plane, “Make sure your oxygen mask is on first.”

As I was working on Kindred, my latest album for my Renee and Friends project, I pulled out some songs I had written a long time ago that I was considering“Superfragile World” was one of them. Amelia heard me singing this and began to sing along with me. It occurred to me that it would be better for her to sing this as a solo; the song started to take on a different meaning coming from the voice of her generation. Her voice and phrasing really amaze me on this song.

Along with this, she sings a duet with her sister, Isadora. They cover a song from our Renee and Jeremy album C’mon, called “Rely” with strings, and it’s one of the sweetest  things I have ever heard.

I am beyond excited to share their voices and talent along with other special guests we are featuring on the album. Kindred will be released in early 2019.

Renee Stahl’s next album, Kindred, will be released in early 2019. The record features guest artists Lisa Loeb, Elizabeth Mitchell, Chris Stills, and Ziggy Marley.