Most days, I wake up way too early, work out, rush to get my kids off to school/camp, and before I have three minutes to meditate, have to rush off again to do something again (like dishes, writing or some other paid freelance assignment). I’m super lucky, being able to make money as a creative person, while balancing motherhood and wifedom.
But until recently, I started losing track of my real #lifegoals — to play guitar like a goddess, play shows at clubs and write original music (I also want to write and publish my science fiction novel in progress, but that’s a different blog for a different day!).
Needless to say, it’s easy to get too busy one day and neglect your art, and before you know it, the days add up. I’m super close to saying f*ck it — why bother trying to make a rock video (a big life goal), play a show with a full band (like the one I left behind in NYC), or record an album? I’m too busy mothering/working/playing covers with the only female musician I know who lives two blocks from my house.
But about a month ago, I started feeling that spark again. I don’t know how, or why, but it hit me: I live to play music, and to create.
So I’ve decided to try something new: Three or four times a week, I have been spending 40 minutes to one hour in the morning working on music. And I’ve clocked in two hours a week working on this blog and my novel. Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated, which is why I’m doing most of my creative stuff in the mornings (unlike lots of sexy rockstar artists, I’m a morning person, not a night owl like rockmommy Jennifer Deale of Camp Crush). And I must say, while I feel like a dork for doing creative stuff at the crack of dawn when most of the good rockstars are sleeping, it feels phenomenal and fulfilling to create again.
I’d love to hear from you gals (and guys) out there. How do you carve out time to be creative? Are you a night owl, or do you force yourself to wake up early/skip other stuff like cleaning to make it happen?
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.
Evanescencesinger Amy Leeis famous for her fiery, impassioned vocals on songs like “Bring Me to Life” and her powerful presence as a front woman for a goth-metal band.
But for an adorable two-year-old named Jack, she’s just “mama.”
This month, as Lee and her band get ready to embark on another national tour, parents everywhere get to enjoy her first children’s album “Dream Too Much” (Amazon Music).
Recently, the Rockmommy sat down to chat with me about her new record, balancing Jack and family life with a full-time music career (who knew watching your wee one on the baby monitor could inspire a song?!), and how other creative moms can keep their musical muse alive.
Rockmommy: When I first read you had made a children’s album, I couldn’t help but think it would be a hard rock album! Did you ever in your life think you would make a pretty, melodic children’s album with your family?
Amy Lee: It definitely is different than anything I’ve put out publicly before, but it really is a true part of who I am and who I’ve always been! This is me connecting my childhood with Jack’s. There is music in here that has been part of our family since as far back as I can remember, and I’ve always loved good, catchy melodies.
Rockmommy: In your recent Rolling Stone interview, you mentioned that the album started as a family project. When did it occur to you to make something bigger that could be enjoyed by the masses?
Amy Lee: Well … I did my first recording session with my dad and uncle in February of this year, and in that same month my manager asked if I’d be interested in doing a children’s album, because there was an opportunity with Amazon. It was kind of bizarre — just meant to be I guess. I not only really enjoyed recording this music for Jack with my family, but I loved the way it was sounding. So we just had to keep going!
Amy Lee: We recorded in Ft. Worth Texas at Spaceway Productions with my good friend and collaborator/producer Will Hunt. I would write and make demos from my home until we had four or five that I wanted to record, then we would figure out what the line-up would be for that session and book a week or so. We did that three times. So for the first batch, it was my dad, my uncle and me doing mainly songs from my childhood like “Rubber Duckie” and “Goodnight my Love.” Then for the second batch I started getting into the Andrews Sisters-style three part harmony stuff and made the focus about my sisters and I. My sister Lori, my dad, and my husband Josh all got in on the writing process, which was really fun! Plenty of hilarious emails and voice memos back and forth.
Rockmommy: How did you decide on the songs you would include? What was the creative process like?
Rockmommy: Can you tell us about how your son Jack inspired some of the songs on this record?
Amy Lee: The lyrics for “Dream Too Much” came right out of his mouth! I was just sitting on the couch with an acoustic guitar, and Jack was running around the room in a circle saying hilarious nonsense (not unusual!). So when he yelled out “monkey in the band,” I sang it back to him. Then, “the muffins are sleeping!” and I sang that too. After a few lines I thought, ‘hey, that could be really cool, to make the verses just crazy imaginative stuff he’s thinking about.’ I’m keeping it that way! Another one— “I’m not Tired” — started as I was watching him on the baby monitor while sitting at my keyboard trying to write. Total rebellion against sleep. ANYTHING but that! I put myself in his mind and sang what I thought he would say if he could, and that became a fun game.
Rockmommy: You are going back on tour with Evanescence in just a couple of months! What are you most excited and concerned about, considering your new life as a mom with a toddler? (And are you bringing him on tour?!)
Amy Lee: I’m excited because it’s a side of myself that I don’t use that much lately. Most of the time I’m Jack’s mom, hanging out at the neighborhood sandbox or watching Curious George while making him dinner. Many days I don’t put on makeup, and if I wear a necklace it’s getting ripped off. I get to strap the boots on, pour glitter all over myself and thrash around onstage with my badass rock band. YES! I’m ready! The hard part is leaving him. It’s insanely painful. We will see each other but with long stretches in between, this will be the longest we’ve been apart and it’s killing me just thinking about it.
Rockmommy: What are some of the biggest challenges you have when it comes to balancing it all — the children’s album, Evanescence, marriage, time with your son — and how have you made it all work?
Amy Lee: The thing is, I want to be the best of myself — not just for me anymore, but for him. I want him to have a mom that spends every spare minute showering him with love and making him laugh, and I want him to have a mom that rocks (literally!). It would be easier in some ways, if I didn’t work at all, of course. There really aren’t enough hours in a day. But if I stopped making music, doing what I was born to do, or even just taking time to myself sometimes to think — I don’t think that’s good for anybody in the end. I want to show him that anything is possible, that life is a gift and we should live it. And balance — some days I feel like I can’t do that, I can’t balance it all out. But keeping perspective makes that OK. He comes first in my heart, so when something else is dragging a little bit, I just have to forgive myself. I’ll fix it/clean it/book it/write it later. Making this album, fueled by my love for him and my family, brought both worlds together and just felt right.
Rockmommy: Do you have any plans to play family shows (featuring songs from your children’s album) in the near future?
Amy Lee: My dad and I are going to do a little live performance on a Sirius show called “The Absolutely Mindy Show” at the end of the month. We’re looking forward to it!
Rockmommy: What advice do you have to other rocker moms who are trying to find time and inspiration to be creative (while exhausted from parenting young children!)?
Amy Lee: Keep it in perspective. Allow your mind to rest sometimes and just breathe and listen. Turn off the TV.
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.
Before we became moms and memorized the lyrics to nursery rhymes, many of us had other musical ambitions. But only a handful of us enjoyed rockstar-like experiences and a bit of commercial success.
Book of Love’s lead singer Susan Ottaviano is one of the lucky ones.
Susan Ottaviano of Book of Love
In 1986, the year that brought the world “Top Gun,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and the sexy-fun Robert Palmer hit “Addicted to Love,” Book of Love emerged from the underground NYC club scene with its self-titled album.
The band, which, in addition to Susan Ottaviano, includes co-founder Ted Ottaviano (songwriter/keyboards/vocals), Lauren Roselli (keyboards/vocals), and Jade Lee (keyboards/vocals), quickly gained a cult following in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
But for Susan Ottaviano, another type of creative endeavor eventually took center stage, when, in 2003, after nearly two decades of steadily making albums, and accumulating a string of hits like “Boy” and “I Touch Roses,” she became a mom to her own little boy. The period after that was, in many ways, a creative blur, as Susan tried to find balance between raising her son, engaging in her artistic and musical endeavors, and working as a freelance food stylist.
In early August, Susan took a break between sold-out Book of Love gigs to chat with Rockmommy about music, creativity, and motherhood. I found her to be warm, personable, and filled with an immense amount of wisdom — see for yourself, in the exchange that follows:
Rockmommy: You’ve been performing on and off with Book of Love for 30 years! How are things going?
Susan Ottaviano: “We’ve gotten back together a bit over the years. We did an album back together in 2000 … and different comebacks felt differently. Sometimes it felt like, ‘do we need to keep doing this?’ or ‘Is this what the world wants?’ or ‘Is this really moving forward?’ You always want your life to be going forward, whatever that means. During some of the ’80s revivals it didn’t feel as good for us. We might have just been lumped together with some of the bands from the time period and that didn’t feel good for us, so we had some stops and starts. This time around we were much more focused about what we wanted to do, and it’s the fans who really inspired us to get back and do this.
Rockmommy: Is it new material and old that you’re playing?
Susan Ottaviano: “We’re doing our classic songs and we’re updating them in the show, and doing a lot of songs we hadn’t performed for many years. In this new album that we have out, it’s a ‘Best of,’ but we have two new songs in it. And we have a new single called ‘All Girl Band,’ which is inspired by our roots and how we got started making music 30 years ago.”
Susan Ottaviano and her son.
Rockmommy: How has the crowd changed — or has it? — since the 1980s/1990s? Are you pretty much playing to fans in their 40s and 50s, or their kids?
Susan Ottaviano: “We have a very devoted cult following, and they’ve really come back. The fans are mostly over 40 — a lot of them are getting a babysitter and coming to a show. People are coming out and making a night of it. Clubs are interested in selling food and liquor — so it’s a little bit of a different concert than one a 19-year-old will go to. When we were young and didn’t have any money, the idea that I’d buy more than one drink was just impossible! A lot of these places are looking to turn the tables over.
Rockmommy: I read an interview with your bandmate Ted Ottaviano on writing new material. He said, ‘we ended up not really over-thinking it, we just went and flew our own freak flag.’ Would you agree?
Susan Ottaviano: “We basically just wanted to do the music that we wanted to make. As an artist, that’s what you have to contribute anyway. Do what you love, and hopefully others will love it as well. Just do the best that you can — your personal voice is what you have to offer.”
Rockmommy: When you had your son [in 2003], where you were in your music career?
Susan Ottaviano: “You can’t help but miss a beat during that time period. That’s what it’s for. Every working mother feels like they’re doing everything a little wrong. It’s very difficult to juggle a lot of things. Sometimes you have to lie and say, ‘yes, I’m on that’ when really, the baby’s crying or something’s going on. It’s kind of tough that way to compete. But what I think is that it continues to get easier. At the beginning I was sort of sucking up every bit of information about being a parent, about being a mom. Now, it seems as he’s getting older, I move away from that a little bit. I’m more interested in other things as well, now — I’m interested in adult conversation, or interested in people doing more interesting things. In the beginning, having a child really dominates your life.
Rockmommy: When you had your son, did you have to put music or other work on the back burner?
Susan Ottaviano: When my son was first born, I barely felt that I would be able to return to work. I remember crying on the phone to my sister saying, ‘Is it ok if I don’t want to be a rock star or a stylist, anymore?’ I just felt, right then, that I couldn’t handle it. I was so tired and it was all so new to me. But, things change very quickly, and it’s very important for new moms to know that they just need to hang in there. It gets better! You eventually get the life you used to have back. But, you also get so much more than you can possibly imagine!
Rockmommy: Do you relate to your bandmates who don’t have children?
Susan Ottaviano: “It’s impossible for people [without kids] to relate or really understand. Even in the beginning days, I would say to Ted, ‘I’m going to listen to something, but it’s going to take two days!’ It takes all of your in-the-moment brain power.”
Rockmommy: So there was an adjustment period for your band?
Susan Ottaviano: “Yes. I am also a part of another group that gets together to discuss these very issues. We are all musicians and performers and we are all-moms! We got together a few years back and are still going strong. We talk about our art and our kids and we help each other to facilitate our goals. It’s been a major support!
Rockmommy: How are things going for you and your son these days? Is he a musician? Artist?
Susan Ottaviano: “He loves sports — he’s into basketball, he’s into rap music. He came to our first show about a month ago, when we played in New York City in the Highline ballroom. He’s a great kid. He sat with his cousins and didn’t say much. I said, ‘a few people might come up to you and say, ‘are you Henry?’ and he goes ‘why would they do that?’ He’s just funny!”
Rockmommy: Did you ever feel like when he was growing up you wanted him to sing too?
Susan Ottaviano: “Maybe I was pushed to do things a little bit more, and take on the music my parents liked. I believe your kid’s job is to rebel against you. What we learned so much in Book of Love in the first ten years we were performing is that each generation, they want their own music. It’s part of their identity. I’m more fascinated with what he can teach me, as opposed to me saying, ‘you need to listen to this kind of music,’ or ‘that is bad music.’ It’s like fashion. I’m more interested in what he’s listening to and what he has to say. He is very creative … I thought I’d have a kid just like me, going to The Met, but it’s not like that. He likes Minecraft.”
Rockmommy: What advice would you give to musician parents — most of whom haven’t achieved as much commercial success as you, and have time management challenges when it comes to balancing everything?
Susan Ottaviano: “I think that it’s a question of figuring out a way to carve your time — try to have some separation, and some time you can spend with [your child]. It’s a difficult thing, thinking about ‘how do I get a babysitter?’ But the kids get older and it happens real fast. My life is completely different then it was six, seven years ago when I was trying to make the doughnuts, and running from work to homework and all of that. If you can try to find people to help you and carve out a little time — try to take on small goals — that helps. Try to do just one thing today. Don’t try to take on the world.Try to just do one thing, such as spending an hour on music.”
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.
Here was this woman with the biggest smile I’d ever seen, donned in a black-on-black mishmash of punk-rock and glittery, childlike attire. She was funny and strange, but totally down to earth at the same time.
Soon after that initial meeting, I learned that she had two grade-school-age daughters, which shattered my ideas of what it meant to be a mother — weren’t women supposed to quit playing rock and roll when they became moms? Unless you’re famous and rich, isn’t there some unwritten rule that you spend your limited free time cooking and reading “Good Housekeeping?”
It’s been about 10 years, and today, I’m also a mom and a rocker, like Rew. And still, she remains one of the coolest, if not the coolest, New York City musician mamas I’ve ever met.
So no one was more pleased than me when, soon after our second tour in 2008, Rew launched the first iteration of what would become “Rew & Who,” her weekly Internet show that gives every musical performer their “15 minutes of fame” and calls on them to confess their deepest, darkest “skeleton” in the closet. The show is absolutely unlike any “behind-the-scenes” style music profile you’ve ever seen!
When I found out Rew & Who would soon bid adieu to the world of music, I felt a little sad. But I understood. Rew’s a busy musician, mom, and more. Juggling all these things is near impossible and something has to give.
The final “Rew & Who” show will air live on August 17, 2016, 4-6 p.m. at Otto’s Shrunken Head in NYC. (For more on Rew’s other ambitions, check out her April 2015 interview with Rockmommy.
Rew of “Rew & Who?”
Here, she answers some of Rockmommy’s burning questions:
Rockmommy: So, August 17, 2016 — is this really the last Rew & Who?
Rew: I hope so!!!
Rockmommy: Or are you continuing the show in another medium?
Rew: I want to start editing all the archives to make a series that can be timeless… we have so much footage of all the years of the show and I really want to WATCH it!!! We have been blessed with so many guests passing thru from NYC and the world and I would rather get it out there than have it rot sitting on YouTube.So editing it into a late-night show that can utilize all the precious moments is my dream for now.
Rockmommy: Why are you ending the show?
Rew: I am ending the show because I have timelessly put my heart and sole into it for so many years. I started as ReWBee’s World at Arizzma studios in Feb 2009 and then August of 2009 it turned into ReW & WhO? overnight. Then on May 19, 2010, Joey Ramone’s birthday, I moved the show to Otto’s Shrunken Head and it became my entire responsibility 100000000000000%. I have been so lucky with so many people who helped each week, Swami was the first to get me going, then Kate Perotti helped for long while, then Caroleen Stewart stuck it out till the very end. I have had some amazing interns as well, my wonderful daughter Harlee, Karen Monteiro, Zoe Davidson, Jonathan Locilento, Caroline Kaplan, Juan and the Fabulous HooP. There were more too… and I thank them ALL from the bottom of my heart…They helped keep it going while they were there so much and I am eternally grateful.
Rew, hosting her show “Rew & Who” with some musical guests.
Back to why I am ending… I am tapped out. I have also started acting and right now I got two lead parts in two films and I have so much work memorizing lines, rehearsing and shooting, that I cannot devote all my time to the show at this point. The show takes up ALL of my time — booking, confirming, organizing each week, and so much more. ReW & WhO? is a full-time job and … we still haven’t nailed our fairy god sponsor. So with that said, we appreciate all the donations we got along the way, just it hasn’t been enough to pay the rent so the time has come to close the door for now. THANK YOU OTTO’S SHRUNKEN HEAD, the Branded Saloon, Bungas Den, The Trinity in London and everywhere else we have done the show.
Rockmommy: When you look back at the last several years, what are you most proud of accomplishing, in terms of the show?
Rew: My most proud accomplishments are truly being so passionate about the show and barely ever missing a week. The show was so wonderful to me in the ability to meet so many people and I was able to really observe so much passion and talent that exists in this world. I really am a believer that this world has so much good in it and ReW & WhO is a perfect example of that. I really feel so lucky making so many friends worldwide and really get inspired by everyone who passes through. I love the show’s ability to even disagree peacefully amongst each other no matter what the topic being said was at the moment. The guests are my biggest accomplishment . The fact that they even wanted to be on the show and then there were so many who consistently want to return, that is just so overwhelmingly huge to me. I thank everyone who passed through and feel so lucky to be apart of this experience.
Rockmommy: Could you tell us about two or three of your favorite guests or moments?
Rew: Truthfully every guest had something to offer. Paul Zest Radio from Canada was a standout guest because he has been one of my biggest supporters of all time. The constant encouragement and kindness that he showed even before meeting us was overwhelming. And then when he visited NYC he was the WhO cohost twice that week (once at Otto’s and then the Brooklyn edition). He even brought us Elvis’ daughter [Elainee Presley] to both episodes, so there are two birds in one stone.
Alan Merrill has become a brother to me throughout the years and Jurgen & Marlowe have become family too as cohosts and non-blood family…my intern Zoe made this as her going away present..
Rockmommy: Who had the best “skeleton” in the closet?
Rew: Hmmm … another hard one to pinpoint. There have been so many amazing ones… some have gotten truly deep and some have even asked to edit them out!! Haha! The one that always was a stand out one my memory, at 14 minutes in from Keith of BITE.
Rockmommy: So with the show off your plate, what’s next for Rew?
Rew: Well as I said the acting is happening, I also will be releasing a single soon with Manta Ray Records, a label out of Baltimore I am working with. We began the song that was inspired from the documentary “AMY” — I never in a million years knew I would see that film and come home and channel a song right after seeing it. Manta Ray wanted me to release a brand new track with them and that was the one they picked… so stay tuned for “Miss House of Wine” in the near future.
Rockmommy: How are your daughters doing? Are they following in your path as a musician?
Rew: My daughters are incredible and they are following their own paths!!! Eva Lin is actually performing her music and writing the most incredible songs. She has a residency performing every Wednesday in July at Rockwood Music Hall this summer and I am blown way by her. Harlee is pursuing film and she has been writing as she always has her entire life. She has a few screen plays on her hard drive just waiting to turn into masterpieces.
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy
As any new parent will tell you, having a baby shifts your world in unimaginable ways.
Yet there are some new moms, between diapers and deadlines and sleepless nights, who seem truly unstoppable in continuing their life’s journey, babe on their hip, embracing motherhood while strengthening their purpose, motivated to find new meaning in their life, work, and service.
Katy Otto is one of these women.
Katy Otto with her son David, now 1.
When Otto, the drummer and singer of Trophy Wife, the band she shares with co-collaborator/musician friend Diane Foglizzo, isn’t busy raising her one-year-old son David with her partner, she’s busy creating art and continuing her activism for numerous issues — such as LGBT rights, gender equality, and a focus on parenting that is less about what you have and more about what you do and how you choose to live.
We interviewed Otto recently to learn more about her quest to balance working (at Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania!), music (she also has her own label, Exotic Fever), and motherhood.
Check out our full Q&A — especially if you’re a rocker mom looking for some good, gritty inspiration on getting your groove back.
Rockmommy: You’ve been a mom for a little more than a year and recently you played your first show in a while. What was the experience like?
Katy Otto: The first show I played post-birth was with my band Trophy Wife in Durham, N.C., at the Pinhook on December 11. My son David was just over six months old. The show was a bit of a drive from where my band lives in Philly, so we took David with us and dropped him off on the way at my parents’ house in Bowie, Maryland. He stayed with my folks overnight for the evening of the show.
The Pinhook was celebrating its seventh anniversary. The space is a queer punk club in the south, and it means a great deal to our band. We were honored that they invited us to play, and while we had thought about waiting a bit more to get out and play a show, this seemed like the right time to do it. I was still nursing at the time, so I pumped in the club (with a cover on) basically just in the middle of the room. It was pretty intense but felt like one of the most punk things I’ve ever done, actually. The sound guy looked a little surprised but rolled with it. Everyone was very accommodating — I stored my milk under the bar by a keg.
The show itself was incredible. We were overwhelmed by the amount of support people in Durham showed us, some even knowing our lyrics. I think it had been the longest stretch in my life I had gone not playing music in front of people since I started as a teenager. I was very nervous, but once our set started, that all evaporated. I felt very whole and like myself being able to be in my element like that, particularly with my bandmate Diane.
Katy and David
Rockmommy: Are you still creating new music with Trophy Wife, and Diane Foglizzo?
Katy Otto: Yup! Diane and I have written four songs since our last album: two while I was pregnant and two since David’s birth. We’ve been playing out and even traveling here and there for shows. It’s been great. I’ve also been grateful for the support of my partner, family, and friends in helping to provide childcare so I can rehearse and play out. I also play in a four-piece band in Philly called Callowhill that is finalizing songs for our first full length. We have a seven inch/digital EP out.
Rockmommy: Do you think it is more challenging to keep up with the Philly rock scene you were an active participant in now that you are a parent?
Katy Otto: I am not able to go out to shows I am not playing as much, but I still feel very connected to Philly’s underground music community. I moved to Philly six years ago after living in the D.C. metro area my whole life. I am so glad I made that decision. Philadelphia is extraordinary in terms of the music, art, and activism people are involved in. I also know a number of other creative parents and recently did a series of interviews while I was on maternity leave with people on balancing parenting and creative practice. If you are interested in reading them they are here: http://www.fvckthemedia.com/issue63/frontpage
Rockmommy: Do you think mom musicians, in general, have it harder than other musicians (e.g., single men, dads, etc.)? In what ways?
Katy Otto: I don’t think anything is that cut and dry. I don’t think gender is binary. I think there are many factors at play, including the support networks people have, as well as other resources such as money. I have been fortunate in weaving together a strong web of support to allow me to continue my musical practice. I also have very understanding band mates in both of my active bands. There are some aspects of societal gender roles that have meant that, in general, I think there are more challenges for a mother even just perceptually when she is away from her child and out in the world doing things. For example, I’ve had even “progressive” male friends ask me when I’ve been at a show I am about to play if my partner Chris is “babysitting.” It really is mind boggling. I think one time I said, “Who would he be babysitting?” Dads parent their children. They don’t babysit their own children. This is an annoying kind of question, but I also think any single parent is going to obviously have a host of different challenges that I don’t have as a co-parent managing childcare and an outside life, regardless of gender.
I will say that I know a number of cis men in hetero relationships who are musicians who I have seen have a very different experience than I have. They have said to me that becoming a parent didn’t vastly impact their ability to tour, etc., or the activity of their band, but in a lot of these cases I’ve seen that that is because their female partner bears the brunt of child rearing duties. When I did my interview series, I did interview men who play in bands, but I specifically chose to speak with men who I knew where playing a very active role in their children’s lives — including some single fathers. I think the question you pose is complex and I don’t think there is a clearcut answer.
Rockmommy: How has motherhood influenced your music, or creativity in general?
Katy Otto: I view the time I have to play music now as more precious than ever, and I value it as sacred. I feel drive to be out and present in the world, doing the thing that has meant the most to me since I was a teen. I want to have both – motherhood and a creative life. I think there are also all kinds of ways to be a mother, and we can challenge that definition all the time. My bandmate recently got me an awesome book called Revolutionary Mothering. It provides a lot of excellent conversations on motherhood as experienced by queer women, women of color, and low income women. It really has challenged a lot of stereotypes I’ve seen and absorbed in the dominant culture about motherhood since I was a child. I am incredibly grateful for this book and can’t recommend it enough.
I am also only just learning how motherhood will affect my creativity, since I am new to this. It’s been hard to eke out the same space and time to create, but again I feel so grateful when I have it that I think I pour a lot into it. I am interested in building networks and relationships with other mothers and parents so we can pitch in and help each other out with child care and support as we all continue to create in the world. I want my child to be part of a beloved community of mutuality, and working towards that also seems like its own kind of creative practice. I have always felt like community organizing and social justice work, indeed political imagination in general, were urgent forms of creative practice.
I also think my interest in heavy, dissonant music has only continued to grow the older I get. So far I think motherhood has only added to that.
Rockmommy: We always like to ask rockmommies about balance — have you found a way to balance your motherhood, work, and other endeavors? Or is it something you’re still working toward?
Katy Otto: This is a constant work in progress, and I know many other mothers know much more than I do. I have not been afraid to reach out and ask for support, and I’ve been humbled and lucky to receive it. I have a partner who is very committed to an equitable sharing of childcare and other domestic work. We both work full time too, so we’re continuing to negotiate what that looks like. He is very dedicated to jiu jitsu practice, and I try to make sure he has enough time out of the house for that, too. We check in about scheduling regularly. It’s a lot to balance work, creative life, parenting, and time for our relationship with each other. A key has been the help of friends and family. David, my son, has a beautiful array of other people in his life. This feels really positive to me and right for our family.
Recently Trophy Wife played a benefit show for Decarcerate PA in Pittsburgh that offered childcare on site, in a room with sound protection. That was an incredible experience — David’s first trip as a roadie. Part of how it worked was the combination of a supportive partner who understands my need to drive across the state and play music in DIY venues, a bandmate who is incredibly accommodating to a person with a child, and a community that actively supports and welcomes parents. The show was a release for the second edition of the zine “Women in Sound” by Madeleine Campbell. She is a phenomenal human being and you should definitely check her zine out here.
Rockmommy: What is the best motherhood advice you’ve received, which is worthy of being passed along?
Katy Otto: I hold on to something that Ian MacKaye of all people told me, when I had a lengthy conversation with him while pregnant. He basically shared the idea that the single best way for me to parent was to continue being my authentic self. It’s been important for me to know that when I am living in the world as the person I’ve worked hard to be, that will help me be who my child needs. The instinct to parent is in our bones. We can make the roads by walking, as the book I mentioned Revolutionary Mothering emphasizes. We can reject blueprints and paradigms that aren’t right for us, some of which reinforce dangerous binaries and stereotypes. I continue to be inspired by so many of my friends who parent and create with beauty, imagination, and courage — and I’m particularly grateful for all the folks who allowed me to interview them for the series I mentioned before. I hope to keep adding to it, and I hope it can be part of ongoing conversations.
— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy
Faith. It’s something all moms have to have, regardless of their spiritual orientation. And it’s something that rockmommy Dawn Botti, singer-guitarist of New Day Dawn, had to have a lot of when she went against her practical inner voice and said “yes” to a last-minute gig in Oklahoma in 2013 with just three weeks to figure out how she would take time off from her legal career, care for her son, and finesse her musical chops so she would be in prime form to hang with A-List metal acts.
Needless to say, she pulled it off.
New Day Dawn’s Dawn Botti
Botti’s talent is undeniable to anyone who listens to her sensual, powerhouse vocals on tracks like “Runaway” and “Life Impossible.” But it’s her dedication to pursuing what she loves (music, and yes — her day job too!) while putting her son and family first that is most admirable.
Today, Botti and the rest of her New Jersey based rock n’ roll band are better than ever, and prepping for some great shows this summer — including an opening spot for metal mama Lita Ford this August.
Here, in her own words, Botti tells us the tricks she uses to balance it all (hint: it has a lot to do with putting self-love before perfectionism):
Rockmommy: New Day Dawn has been around for some time — how did you learn to balance music with a career in law, too?
Dawn Botti: New Day Dawn grew out of a former project that my drummer husband and I were in from 1999 to 2003 (before parenthood) called Slushpuppy. The breakup of Slushpuppy was very emotional for me… almost like a divorce. So after that, I was looking to reclaim what I had lost and move it in a more positive direction, hence the name New Day Dawn. A few months into the new band I discovered that my husband and I were pregnant. I was worried the other members of the band wouldn’t want to continue working with me, but they were super supportive!
Dawn Botti in mama mode
I was able to continue to work on new music with the band while I was pregnant, and we took those nine or so months to write and start recording our first album. After my son Walker was born, we continued the recording (most of it was done right in my home so it was very convenient and I could be near the baby at all times). I was also working on getting my pre-baby body back and going through lots of emotional transitions. In these early years I struggled with the guilt anytime we had to leave our son with a babysitter to go play a local gig, or leave for a few days to play somewhere farther away. But ultimately when your child sees that you are following your passion and doing something you LOVE to do, then they WANT you to do it.
Rockmommy: The music industry is really competitive. How did you guys establish yourself in the New Jersey/New York music scene?
DB: There are no short cuts. We have made our fans literally one show at a time and then add social media to that and it’s one “like” at a time, one Twitter follower at a time. Fans expect a lot more interaction out of artists today. They want to feel like they know the artist as a friend, and in fact many of our fans have become dear friends over time. It’s also so important to support the other bands in the local scene. To get out and support other shows even when you are not playing. This is probably the toughest thing for me and I wish I could get out more — but there are only so many days in a week, and after you take away the nights spent on family and school affairs, band rehearsal, business dinners, and so on, there are very few nights left to just stay home and recharge or work out, let alone go out to see other bands.
Rockmommy: Has being a mom influenced your sound/music?
DB: My son, Walker, is now 11. Of course he has influenced my music — I don’t see how becoming a parent couldn’t influence any artist. It changes the very fiber of your being, your very core: You are just a different person and therefore think differently, feel differently, and see the world differently — and of course that comes out in your writing. One thing that is very important to me is that my child can always be proud of my music and could sing the lyrics out in public, or to his classmates. I was never an artist who used shock or overly sexual words or dress to get my point across anyway. But now I do put everything I do through a filter of “could I show my son that?” I guess that’s not very “rock and roll” of me — but I figure an artist needs to first be authentic before anything else.
Rockmommy: What are some of the challenges to balancing everything?
DB: The greatest challenges are lack of time and lack of energy. You can’t go 24/7 and yet you have enough to do to fill up 24/7 and more! You need to be kind to yourself, forgive yourself and know that you won’t ever cross off everything on your “to do” list. You have to forgive yourself that not every task will be accomplished at an A+ level. And most importantly, you need to embrace opportunities and just say “yes” even if you have NO IDEA how you are going to fit that thing into your schedule. For example, in 2013 we got a call three weeks before the date, and were asked if we wanted to be part of the lineup for ROCKLAHOMA out in Pryor, Oklahoma. The three-day lineup that year featured Guns n Roses, Alice in Chains, Cheap Trick, Dokken, Halestorm, and many other amazing bands. My practical brain was saying, “how the heck do we get the band out to Oklahoma from NJ in three weeks, what do I do with my son, how much is this gonna cost?” But out of my mouth came “Of course!” I still have no idea how we pulled it off, but I booked a short tour from New Jersey to Oklahoma and back again. We made the entire round trip in five days, and took my son with us. He was the best road warrior out of everybody! At the big festival I introduced Walker on stage (he was around 8 years old at this time), and after our set there was a huge line at our merch booth and many wanted him to sign the CD along with the band, and wanted to take photos with him. It was a great family memory and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that would have never happened if I listened to my practical — and often overwhelmed — mommy brain.
5. What advice do you have to other moms who don’t have the luxury of just playing music as their “job” (when they aren’t being parents)? To what extent can you have it all — a good relationship with your kids, a band, and a career?
Again, I think it’s all about maintaining balance and maintaining a good perspective. Don’t judge yourself against the other younger/non-parent bands — heck you can’t even judge yourself against the bands compromised of all men who may have kids, but have a wife or girlfriend home taking care of those kids while they are on the road… it’s just different for a mother. For a long time I tried to compartmentalize my life — I didn’t want people at work to know I played in a rock band for fear that I would lose credibility and respect, and I didn’t want fans and those in the music business to know that I was also a lawyer and a mom for fear that I would lose credibility and respect. But now I’m over all that. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. My career as an entertainment executive/lawyer speaks for itself, and so does my music. My advice is don’t let ANYONE tell you what you can and can’t do. Remember you are running a marathon, not a sprint. Your goal is not to be “perfect” at everything… your goal should be about the experiences. If you focus on the experiences rather than grabbing the “prize” you will feel much more fulfilled and be better equipped to understand what to take on and what not to take on.
June 10: New Day Dawn with Eve 6; The Stanhope House, Stanhope, NJ
June 24: New Day Dawn with Among Us (Reunion Show); Mexicali Live, Teaneck. NJ
Aug 11: New Day Dawn with Lita Ford; Starland Ballroom, Sayerville, NJ
Purchases for show tickets may be made through New Day Dawn’s online store.
Not too long ago, rock guitarist St. Vincent — also known as Annie Clark — unveiled an edgy new guitar specifically designed to fit a woman’s body and accommodate her smaller hands.
Although pioneers like Daisy Rock have been churning out female-friendly instruments for a while, the news was pretty groundbreaking for a few reasons. Until now, most of the signature guitars bearing a woman’s name are actually designed by men at big-name guitar purveyors like Fender and Gibson. Also, while St. Vincent did get a little help from engineers at Ernie Ball’s California headquarters, she was very much involved in the design and development process for her signature instrument.
So will this set the precedent for more professional shredders to do the same?
We can only hope.
For now, here are five great signature guitars that some of the best female rock guitarists have helped bring to market:
A cool-looking, $1899 guitar was crafted to perfectly fit St. Vincent’s lithe, womanly form, playing technique and personal style in Ernie Ball Music Man’s San Luis Obispo, California factory. Features include an African mahogany body, Ernie Ball Music Man tremolo, gunstock oil and hand-rubbed rosewood neck and fingerboard, St. Vincent inlays, Schaller locking tuners, 5-way pick up selector with custom configuration and three mini humbuckers.
St. Vincent’s Ernie Ball Music Man electric guitar
Halestorm front woman Lzzy Hale is one of the heavy metal’s few chick singers who also shreds — and has achieved major mainstream success. Her sharp-looking, signature $2,299 Gibson axe is super badass, with Alpine White finish and gold appointments, Gibson’s popular 57 Classic and 57 Classic Plus pickups, select tonewoods, and high-quality locking hardware.
Legendary Heart guitarist-singer Nancy Wilson — and rockmommy of two — tears it up onstage (side note: I’ve tried playing “Crazy on You” for years and still can’t do it right!) and in the studio. So it is only fitting that Gibson unveiled the robust signature Nighthawk in her honor. The $1,499 guitar features a comfortable ribcage body contour, rosewood fingerboard, a Nighthawk mini-humbucker and Nighthawk Lead humbucker, with five-way switching. It’s visually stunning, too, with Grade-AAA maple top dressed in a high-gloss nitrocellulose Fireburst finish with Cherry back and neck, and a commemorative “Fanatic” truss-rod cover.
Gibson’s Nancy Wilson Nighthawk Standard
4. PRS Orianthi
Aussie guitarist Orianthi, who has strummed for Carrie Underwood, Alice Cooper, and so many other big names, was on the brink of taking her career to the next level as Michael Jackson’s guitarist for his 2009 world tour, when, sadly, he passed away in June of that year. Her signature guitar features:
Beveled maple top with flame maple veneer and Korina back;
PRS-designed tuners, SE HFS treble pickup, SE vintage bass pickup, and tremolo Bridge; and
volume and tone control with 3-way toggle pickup selector.
Daisy Rock is one of the most innovative, pro-female companies out there, with its huge array of electric and acoustic instruments designed for girls and women of all ages. The Bangles Signature Model, inspired by the quintessential all-girl 1980s band, is a particularly beautiful piece, with its piercingly pure tone, slim and narrow neck suited for smaller hands, and vintage look.
Daisy Rock’s Bangles Signature model
In writing this blog, I’ve learned that while there are plenty of lists for “best female guitarists” and “best rocker moms,” finding a signature guitar that possesses the name of a female guitarist and is tailored to a female’s physical features is a near impossible feat.
Therefore, rock mamas — or heck, even dudes — who are looking for something that is designed with a woman in mind ought to take a closer look at these electric works of wonder.