I am an MOB — a mother of two boys, 8 and 6 years old. They know mama is a singer and a songwriter, and that she gets dressed “fancy” from time to time to go out and make music in the world.
Before that, I was a supple, younger woman who sang in a coffee shop for tips on Larchmont Blvd. with a three-piece jazz band and then later, workshopped my own songs in that same coffee shop. I was a woman who traveled the world singing in the finest of music lounges in far off, distant places including New Delhi and Beijing.
And before any of that, I was a mixed-race girl (African American/ Irish American) growing up in the city of angels, who rollerskated in her backyard to her favorite albums — and her dad’s record collection — Donna Summer, the O’Jay’s, the ET soundtrack and OMD.
She dreamed as she skated, that she would one day be famous.Known. Seen. Important.
I have been insecure about my place in the world for a long time. As a parent, that is a quality I’m hoping skips my kid’s generation. But I know that outcome requires conscious effort on my part and even then, there are no guarantees.
I write music that uplifts, inspires and encourages me. It is my safe place. I write music that speaks a truth I am desperate to put into the world as my default tendency is to keep it locked inside so that I don’t make other people uncomfortable.
In writing my song “Rally Call,” I consciously chose to do the opposite.
I wrote it because I was at a point where I no longer wanted to compartmentalize myself due to the color of my skin. I was done with erasing myself for someone else’s comfort and I was done with buying into the false belief that I needed to wait for someone else’s permission to live my life.
When I think about parenting my kids, I want to get it “right.” That means making sure they never feel rejected, hurt or disempowered, that they’re always invited to every birthday party (pre-covid) and that they feel like anything is possible at all times. I know, I know — a parent’s perfect formula for disappointment and self-judgment.
I want my boys to be compassionate people. I want them to be proud of all their heritage — being black, being mixed, being part Irish, being part English, being part Jewish. I want my boys to be confident enough to stand up when someone is working from a closed heart and to know the truth of who they are.
Rally Call is a small part of the recipe for making all this possible. Watching their mom put out a song about ‘getting rid of those papers’ — a reference to a time when Black Americans had to actually carry papers to show they had a right to be out without a white person — and no longer waiting for permission from someone outside herself to fully be herself is inspiring.
It normalizes doing challenging things. It normalizes loving oneself. It normalizes speaking out when injustice is present.
We as parents have an opportunity to instill self-love, growth mindset, compassion and courage in the souls we’ve been asked to shepherd. We get to do that in a plethora of creative ways.
My goal in sharing this music is for us all to keep getting into ‘good trouble’ when we feel like slinking back onto our couch and scrolling our phone or watching shows to distract ourselves.
My boys love the song. They love the guitar riffs, the drums. They know some of the lyrics. And truth be told, there are some days when I’m grateful they don’t fully know what the song is about: I’m still trying to get right with god, the universe, or whatever it is that pulls the strings of life, about my needing to have a conversation about black lives matter at all.
It’s a delicate, complex melody to be a conscious parent, to be an advocate for kids loving and accepting themselves in a world that doesn’t support ALL kids in this endeavor. It is a delicate, complex rhythm change to move out of stereotypical thinking into radical love.
And I can only imagine the nuance and tension of being a parent of non kids of color — there is the temptation to overlook or turn away from the truth of people of color’s experiences.
Rally Call is my love letter to America — reminding us all that until we’re willing to own all the parts of ourselves, our country’s entire history, only then will we truly have a chance at being free…and isn’t that what we want for our kids?
Summer 2020 will go down as the most unexpected one of my life, between navigating the cancellation of camps to surviving a tornado. And I know many moms — even those who didn’t survive tornados — are on the same page as me. Who knew vacations would only work if our kids would willingly #maskup, or that we’d be preparing for a school year where most student-teacher interaction will take place in the virtual realm?
Musician, yoga therapist and mama Suzanne Jamieson can relate. Carving out time for creativity is difficult enough with two young children, but with 2020 layered on top, it can feel downright impossible. Yet it is this struggle within such this crazy year that makes her new family album Bounce so refreshing.
Released on July 17, Bounce is an 11-track, pop/New Wave record cowritten with children’s band The Pop Ups. The common thread: Every song is infused with joy and positivity: The single “Lemonade” is all about making the best of a situation while “Luna” recognizes the scary feelings that can come at night.
We recently caught up with Jamieson to talk about her music, motherhood, and how she’s finding joy this summer.
Rockmommy: Can you tell us about your new record? Was it created in reaction to recent events?
Suzanne Jamieson: While I hope that this album brings some positivity in this trying COVID situation, it was not born in quarantine. I actually came up with the concept of this album five years ago, when I was in a bit of a postpartum funk after the birth of my second child. I noticed that my thinking patterns had been swaying toward the negative, which is not like me at all. I said to myself, “Whenever I notice this kind of thinking, I’m just going to say ‘Om.’ Then, I thought of a song…. ‘I’m just gonna say Om. I’m just gonna say Om Om Om Shanti Om…” and I thought, “Hey! That’s a kids’ song!” The idea was born… .I would take all of my knowledge of yoga philosophy and positive psychology and write an album of songs for my kids. That’s what we’ve done with Bounce…and ‘Om Shanti’ is on the album.
Ultimately, my kids love it and have taken away some really positive lessons from it, but I really benefitted the most, I think. It gave me a positive focus and the creative process is so healing. I collaborated with some amazing artists. I co-wrote the album with The Pop Ups, and had guests artists Patti Murin and the Alphabet Rockers lend their talents to it as well. It’s been an incredibly satisfying and inspiring journey and I am super proud of what we created in the end.
Rockmommy: I’m digging the vibe. It’s refreshing to hear great new wave children’s music. Why isn’t there more of it?
Suzanne Jamieson: Thank you!! It’s the best to hear that. It was my number one goal when I started recording children’s music, that I was recording music that the grown-ups would like as much as their kids. That’s why I sought out The Pop Ups…I would sometimes leave their music on even after I dropped my kids off at school. The Pop Ups and I write in a way that really tries to respect that kids are just small human beings. They have full depth of emotions, awareness of their surroundings, and capacity for humor as much as anyone else. That coupled with Jason Rabinowitz’s musical sensibilities with the 80’s vibes and the sort of retro-meets-modern feel of the tunes, and you end up with what I think is a really relevant, fun album.
Rockmommy: I really like “Grateful” — how did the collaboration with the Alphabet Rockers happen?
Suzanne Jamieson: So glad to hear it! I agree, it’s one of my favorites on the album. I met the Alphabet Rockers a couple years ago at the Childrens’ Music Luncheon that happens in Los Angeles Grammy weekend every year….actually I met the Pop Ups that day too! (I basically had to sing “Brave” to myself to walk in to that luncheon alone and go up to all these strangers to introduce myself!!) Then when the Pop Ups and I saw them again at the 2019 luncheon (as they were nominated for another Grammy), I mentioned to Tommy how much I admire what they’re doing with their music. They’ve been singing about social justice all along…teaching kids about about anti-racism, teaching about gender and inclusivity….etc…and we asked if they might like to collaborate on this album. “Grateful” is what came of that chat…and they really added so much to the song. Their lyrics and voices add depth and profundity…and ultimately that is what we are teaching….we can be grateful for everything….from the small things like “that narwhals are a thing!” to the deep, “Gratified, By the things that you say, Telling me I’m perfect, Letting me find a way.”
Rockmommy: What do you hope that young listeners will get out of this record?
Suzanne Jamieson: Well, my hope is that they’ll take away all these positive life skills without even knowing they’re learning them. These songs teach about optimism, resilience, grit, bravery, thought-stopping, making the best of things, gratitude, community, and friendship. Research says if we focus on “being happy,” we are actually less happy. But if we get really good at these life skills, the result is a happier, more satisfying life.
Rockmommy: You recently turned 40. Is there something awesome, and celebratory, about the fact that so many women are making music well past their 20s?
Suzanne Jamieson: I was just thinking about this idea of 40 being considered ‘old’ to do something….that’s just crazy! Literally it’s only like 2 decades into being an adult! I sure hope I have a lot of years left, and I sure plan to make the most of them by creating and growing more and more every year. It doesn’t surprise me at all, though, that women in their 30’s and 40’s are getting attention for their work. Women are doing so much nowadays, and have so much to offer. Every mom I know is a freaking powerhouse—literally all of my friends are doing amazing, interesting things and are also great, present moms. I also think there is just this general sea change in a woman’s late 30’s/40’s when it’s like, “OK. I am done trying to be what anyone else wants me to be. Here’s me….” and that is incredibly powerful.
Rockmommy: You became a mom in 2012 (me too!) What’s it like balancing parenthood and music/creative life? What challenges did you not anticipate?
Suzanne Jamieson: Eight years ago… what a trip! Time flies. I think the reason it took me so long to write and record this album from start to finish is that I really needed hours alone with no distractions to write music… and when do moms get that?! I would do it in airplanes, or when I got a solo night in a hotel here and there over the years. I think it can be more challenging to carve out time to work when the work is creative… there is the challenge of it not being My Boss Assigns Thing + I Do Said Thing= $$$ that can make creative types undervalue the necessity for their time and work. But I will say that when I make it very clear to my family that Mommy is taking a voice lesson or Mommy is practicing or writing or whatever, that I felt fulfilled. And as I did that more often, this album really took off.
Rockmommy: Any advice for other rockmommies like yourself, who are trying to carve out a little time to make music?
Suzanne Jamieson: Yeah, write it in the calendar. Invite your husband or get a caretaker (obviously if that’s safe…it’s a weird time…) or get the iPads and let the kids know that you are unavailable during this time. What would the world be without music??? There is great value in art, and never ever forget that or devalue your own contribution.
Rockmommy: School is upon us, and most of the country is virtual or remote. Kids are scared. What is your greatest hope for your kids and humanity right now?
Suzanne Jamieson: Great question. The answer that comes up for me is “Reprioritization.” I think COVID has taught many of us about what is—and isn’t— important. Our relationships are important. Our health is important. Our making this country safe for everyone is important. I hope that we all can tap into those lessons and—even after things re-open—and remember what we’ve been taught by 2020. Tell each other how we feel. Breathe. Stand up for what’s right. Spend time together as families or friends. My hope is we don’t forget, and that this can be a sort of spiritual catapult to a better world for us all. Oh, and keep making sourdough. 🙂
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
I have a pretty vast amount of useless talents. I can throw food high up into the air and catch it in my mouth, like a seal. I can whip up a stunning batch of luxurious, golden pancakes from scratch. But not all of my useless talents are food-related. I can also play any instrument you can think of, with a passable skill level, even if I’ve never played it before. Though I’ve done every kind of performance from busking in the subway to playing my original comedic novelty jams on international television, it hasn’t amounted to what I might consider a useful life skill. Fun? Yep! Necessary in the event of an emergency? Perhaps more so than I had thought, prior to March 2020, but still, not so much.
A sad, but well-loved guitar and a beat up, yet, used daily baby grand piano were some of my first toys, in an era when there weren’t a bajillion toy manufacturers on the market. I had some little plastic people, and the crusty acoustic six-stringed dreadnaught. I’m certain the thing was missing an E string. The little people lived in and on the guitar, and over time, I learned to pluck the strings and make music. At 14, I was playing “Old Man” by Neil Young and “Crazy on You” by Heart and by the time I was 23, I was writing and performing comedic dirty folk rock songs on stages up and down the East Coast and sometimes even on TV and the radio (mostly in the UK, because America hates women’s’ bodies). Today, I still perform, write and lately teach music from time to time. I’ve branched out from piano and guitar, and I can additionally play ukulele, sax, autoharp, singing saw, electric autoharp, banjo, dulcimer, the glockenspiel, a flute, a pan flute, heck, a skin flute. I am music’s annoying cousin who always wants to be all up in its business.
Now I have a 3-year-old son, and I’d love nothing more than to teach him to play ukulele and record a pandemic-inspired family band kid’s album. The ability to play an instrument is touted as being, essentially, a miracle drug. It develops young brains and fine motor skills, pushes back the progress of Alzheimer’s, improves math skills, memory, creativity and dexterity, benefits movement-related issues such as hand injuries, and it even lowers anxiety. Call my instruments my Xanax, massage therapist and meditation apps, all in one. Especially during this pandemic, more than anything else, my guitar and my ukulele, especially, have been what I reach for when I feel tense, bored or sad. Playing songs I know passes time.
Figuring out or writing new songs keeps my brain engaged. Trying to teach my son to play ukulele; well, that’s a lesson in patience and letting go. He wants to run his trains over the pretend rails of the neck of the thing, he wants to smash his fingers over the strings with the showmanship of Pete Townsend, he wants to put stickers on it or lay it down altogether and turn it into a home for little plastic people. His lack of interest allows days to slip by where I forget to encourage him to pick up the little four-stringed thing.
“The cobbler’s son wears no shoes” often comes to mind when I think about my inabilities to teach my own son to play an instrument. I scowl and fume as a universe of YouTube’s countless two-year-old’s pluck Bach out on their Lanakais. Then I am ashamed of myself. What do I care what these other kids can do? My kid is my kid, and I have everything — and nothing — to do with that.
But I did witness a magic moment and hope for his musical potential when I broke out my harmonica one night. As annoying as it is easy to play, my son was immediately drawn to it. He ran his little face up and down the harp, making all kinds of weird and wonderful sounds that I didn’t even know a harmonica could make. He was pleased with himself, and I felt like the mother of the year.
Maybe there’s hope for us as a future family band, after all.
Jessica Delfino is a comedian, musician, writer and mom who lives in NYC. Follow @JessicaDelfino on Twitter and Instagram.
It’s been quite a year — from my oldest son’s learning to do flips (and learning to read) to my baby boy entering kindergarten, we’ve hit so many parenting milestones. And personal milestones too. My husband sold his company and stepped up his baseball coaching game, while I stepped up my musical endeavors: I played the longest springtime “mommy and me” show at my kid’s preschool, started a rock band with two other parents (and one cool cat mama), and made good on my commitment to play guitar ten minutes a day (except when I was traveling — haven’t figured out how to do that yet!).
I learned to say “no” to having too many goals, and say “yes” to joy.
This is the most important thing I learned.
The world is a crazy place, and in many ways more terrifying than it was in my own childhood. Between the acceleration of global warming to the tensions in the Middle East exacerbated by our current Administration (sorry to get political, but it’s true), we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I find myself fraught with worry on many mornings like these, wondering if gun violence or terrorism will have a direct impact on those I love.
But while I can’t control tomorrow, I can try to make the most of today. Enjoying my sons and niece while they are young. Spending meaningful time with my husband. Enjoying my parents and in-laws. Appreciating my friendships.
On New Year’s Eve, we had kids ages 1 to 14 hanging out all over my house. Our basement is full of musical instruments, as I always hoped it would be — my husband’s drum kit, a keyboard, lots of shakers and percussion and several of my guitars. Sometime around 9 or 10 (I wasn’t looking), a band of highly sugared-up little ones hit the basement and started jamming out on all the gear. The cacophony of their playing was so perfect — and so right. It made my heart melt a bit.
So while we can’t always predict the outcomes of any year, or any action we take, we can change our attitude. We can accept wonderful things when they enter our lives. We can be present for the spontaneous moments that offer so much joy.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.