Ben Rudnick’s New Song ‘Monster NO!’ Helps Kids Embrace Handwashing & Sing Away Coronavirus Anxiety

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Singer-songwriter Ben Rudnick has had to cope with the same annoyances — from cancelled performances to the closure of live-entertainment venues — as the rest of us. But instead of moping, the rockdaddy is staying busy, and recently penned a clever little tune that encapsulates this strange moment in history and parenthood. His latest single, “Monster NO!” — a folksy tune that’s perfect for kids who are experiencing serious coronavirus anxiety.

 In the song, Ben sings of washing your hands with soap, doing a silly dance, jumping up and down, or even talking like a frog — “Ribbet ribbet croak and keep the monster away!” (Download “Monster NO!” on his Soundcloud page here).

[SEE RELATED: Ben Rudnick: How My Daughter Inspired My Favorite and Best-Known, Musical Project]

We recently caught up with Ben to talk about parenting, music and staying safe this summer.

Ben Rudnick guitar

Ben Rudnick

Rockmommy: What’s been going on lately, music and otherwise?

Ben Rudnick: Well… The band had a busy summer planned. Lots of shows; big, small and in between. That’s clearly compromised but we have been asked to do some virtual shows. The loose plan is to set up on my front porch and play for the neighborhood while a neighbor pal handles the streaming end. I hope it works! We can be safe and still get to play a bit. How fun will that be!? At this point, LOTS!

Otherwise, musically, a few years back I visited Jorma Kaukonen’s (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio and have been taking workshops with Jorma ever since. Besides learning how to fingerpick Jorma tunes, there’s a whole community around the place that has been wonderfully supportive. I got proficient enough at it to a) start a band called Don’t Tell Jack which plays those tunes I’ve learned and b) know that I’ve got a long way to go to really be good at it. All that said…. I’ve been fingerpicking like crazy these days and will be taking an online workshop with Jorma in a week or so. Fingerpicking is something of a meditation for me and it certainly keeps me busy.

Otherwise, not musically, lots and lots of gardening and cooking. I also hike with my beautiful golden retriever Lucy around five miles in the early morning. Every morning. Sun, rain, snow… you name it. There’s a wonderful wooded park close to where I live which at this point in history, might be one of my favorite places of all time.

I’m close to home and busy. That’s the deal.

Rockmommy: How did you come up with the song, “Monster NO!?

Ben Rudnick: Monster NO! came about from an acquaintance who was looking to connect with me on Facebook and found someone else who happened to be a doctor with the same name. The doctor, a fan of ours, asked if when she found me, would she ask me if I could write a song about the current situation for kids. At first I thought, “nahhhhh…” but then it seemed like a pretty good idea. It’s surely not as epic as some other songs I’ve written but hey, it doesn’t have to be! Plus, I wrote it so that I could use my new mad, fingerpicking skills!

Rockmommy: Are you generally finding new creative inspiration during this challenging time?

Ben Rudnick: You know, I’d love to say “yes” but I’m gravitating more toward sharpening up some skills and filling in some blanks. For me, that has always paid off with new music further on up the road. It’s part of my process so we’ll see what comes out of it.

I did take a few ZOOM lessons with an amazingly talented guy named Joe Craven. I’m familiar with Joe as he played in David Grisman’s band for 15 years, which encompassed the Grisman/Garcia work. Joe got me to write a tune that is way more jazzy than I would have written otherwise. I can’t wait to set the band loose on it when we can finally reconvene on a regular basis.

Rockmommy: What are your best coping tips for pandemic parenting?

Ben Rudnick: I’m not sure I’m the best guy to ask about this but I’d say to parents, ‘remember to take care of yourselves.’ A calm — okay, a mostly calm — parent who can get some alone time and come back even slightly fresher to the kids and family really is good for all.

The other tip is, of course, listen to a band’s music. There is a lot of it! Each album is a world unto itself that you can get happily lost in. Speaking for my own music, me and my band put a lot of time into all of our songs and it can pay off for you and the family. Our discs have always been a happy glue that can make your family life better and now is a good time to let them work for you. Really! Let Ben Rudnick and Friends help you get through the pandemic.

Rockmommy: What’s your advice for making time for yourself?

Ben Rudnick: I only know what’s worked for me and that is, it always felt important for me to model ‘do stuff I’m passionate about’ behavior for my daughter. I thought if she saw me making time for things that were important to me, she may end up having the same ability. I hoped it might make her more independent. It worked out. She’s a self-starter and I’m proud of her. So, I would say, give yourself permission to make some time for something you want to do that’s important to you. That’s easy to say of course, but if it can be done, it’s worthwhile for the parent and in my experience beneficial for the kids in the long run.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Why Musician Randy Kaplan’s Version of ‘Hugs for My Family’ is the Virtual Embrace We All Need

By Randy Kaplan

Hello there! I just released a digital single: “Hugs for My Family (Coronavirus Version).” My pal Marisa — a fellow rocker parent and the editor of this blog — invited me to share the song with you and tell you a bit about its inception. So here goes.

[SEE RELATED: Randy Kaplan and 4-Year-Old Son Record Love Song to Wife/Mommy . . . About Candy, Protein, and Crime]

In 2018, I participated in Steve Denyes‘s 20-Songs-in-20-Days challenge, in which Kindie Music fans created titles and Steve (and a different one of his colleagues each day) wrote songs with those titles, one per day for 20 days. On the morning of February 4 (Super Bowl Sunday), I was given the title “Hugs for My Family, High Fives for My Friends.” I cooked up a song about that season’s flu epidemic. It became a SiriusXM Radio Kids Place Live hit, and I donated a portion of the royalties to Happy Star Melodies, a charity that brought musical instruments and musical experiences to kids facing long hospital stays. (The charity has since closed its doors.)

Hugs.for.My.Family

Randy Kaplan and family

Last week, during our quarantine and lockdown here in Michigan, I thought about that song and how that terrible flu season seemed like the good old days compared to this current scourge. I took a look at the lyrics and saw that some changes were necessary if I were going to sing the song again. In the original version, the narrator has hugs for his family but only high fives for his friends. Now it would be luxurious to high five a friend. So I had to change that lyric along with some of the other no-longer-relevant passages. The coronavirus version was thus formed.

I also changed some of the symptoms from those associated with flu to those associated with COVID-19. And I had to add lines about handwashing and hand-sanitizing and the dry knuckles that result from all of that abrasion. Some interesting rhymes resulted:

So now that I’ve donned these gloves I’ve got on

and rolled down my sleeves, I’m not quite as skeeved.

But it’d still be nightmareful if my hands touched a hairful

or a handful of germs from your palm or some derm-

atological surface; we gotta be careful

not to cough or sneeze droplets and not breath in airfuls

of air that are filled with this novel corona-

virus that’s high-risk, so I sit here alone. A

slick surface like metal can host this corona thing.

It’s really unsettling. I just want my phone to ring

‘cause sitting here reading online is too much for me:

percentages, ratios, CNN, CDC.

I also worked in some terms in the news, terms we’re all well-versed in by now: “social distancing,” “flattening the curve,” “asymptomatic transmission,” fomites … okay, nobody but me and the infectious disease doctors know that last one. But you’ll know it too as soon as you look it up. [Side note, for the kids: Hey, when I was your age, I had to use an actual dictionary with weight and volume. It was much more onerous!] Anyway, “fomite” rhymes with “poem might,” so I had to use it.Randy.Kaplan.Hugs.for.My.Family.(Coronavirus.Version)

I have gotten a lot of nice feedback on the song. It seems to make people feel better to hear someone express a range of emotions they feel but may not have expressed. There’s anxiety in the song, yes, but there’s also hope, humor, and solidarity. The overall message, seen most clearly right there in the last quatrain, is the same as it was two years ago:

For now, yes, it’s scary, but we’re in it together.

This ton-of-bricks heavy’s feeling light as a feather

‘cause talking to you keeps me safer for longer.

The long and the short of it’s that together we’re stronger.

I’m certainly looking forward to high-fiving you when this quarantine ends! Until then, see you in cyberspace!

Listen for free (for now) at SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/randykaplan/hugs-for-my-family-coronavirus-version

Coming soon to iTunes, Pandora, and all the rest!

Randy Kaplan is a father, musician, teacher and author.

Mourning the Loss of my Music Community While Trying to Stay Hopeful

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Was it really two weeks ago that my band played a packed club — with barely enough room to move, let alone dance? On the night of February 29, which feels like years ago, my band Trashing Violet played its third show in a string of weekly gigs, and we felt unstoppable. Sure, we’d heard about the “novel coronavirus,” aka COVID-19, but it seemed like a distant thing. A potential threat, health authorities had said, but not a big one for us in Connecticut. We’d be fine. 

I wasn’t prepared for the current pandemic, and the economic fallout that would ensue. The cancellation of conferences. The closure of my kids’ school, which would force me into a homeschooling role I’d never wanted nor prepared for. Guitar lessons getting dropped, because of the need for “social distancing,” a term I’d never before utilized. Now it crosses my lips every day.

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Me (Marisa Mini) preparing for a solo acoustic gig on 3/25 that will now happen in a Facebook Livestream.

Throughout the world, the coronavirus started spreading. And spreading. People stopped shaking hands and hugging. Everything shut down. And we keep getting more and more isolated from each other. One week since “elbow rubbing” became the new handshake, the elbow rub seems like a distant memory.

In my personal life, the biggest casualty of this catastrophe is in my musical life: My band had momentum. But it’s no longer safe to rehearse. There won’t be any new gigs. 

So at the end of last week, two days after my birthday, I cried a lot. My husband had to console me. I had a lot to be thankful for — a nice house, kids who are healthy, work I can do from home and get paid to do. But the life I knew and loved — a perfect life, by all accounts — is now on hold. My new reality gives me only little slivers of time to pursue the things I love: fitness, music, and writing this blog. Forget the dystopian novel I’d been working on. All of the realities I’d imagined for 2200 now seem dated. The future has never been more uncertain. 

The loss of my music community has hit me the hardest. I love my bands — up here in the NYC tristate area and in Washington, D.C., I love my friends’ bands. I love the people I rehearse with, the musicians I open for, the drummers, bassists, singers, keyboardists, and guitarists galore I’m friends with — in real life and on social media channels. Many of these friends have supported me when I had little support from other channels. And now, many of them are struggling. 

Musicians who are super rich, like Gwen Stefani, will probably be fine. No gigging for a month is no big deal, financially. But if you’re a singer in a cover band who depends on bringing home $1,000 to $2,000 a month for club gigs — or you’re a deejay who runs karaoke nights — you’re hurting and/or super stressed right now. I’m sure those of us with “work at home” income will also feel the forthcoming recession soon, but to feel it now and not know where your next paycheck, let alone your next gig, will come from is an especially tough blow. qypxwibBSt21l%3mz81EuA

Yesterday I decided I’d use technology to play Facebook Live shows, and ask for donations via PayPal or Venmo, which I’d transfer to the musicians who are hurting the most. Mark your calendars for March 25, 2020. 🙂

I encouraged my musician friends in the NYC area to do the same. We need to try and spread the wealth we have so the entertainers we love and need don’t lose hope. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.