by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Camp Crush, the musical incarnation of husband-wife duo Jennifer Deale and Chris Spicer, pushes out powerful, soaring, synth-driven pop-rock songs with such conviction that you’d think they’d been doing this forever.
But as it turns out, when they burst onto Portland, Ore., music scene ten years ago, they were a pared-down folk-music act with a large local following. They could have continued on like that indefinitely, but a few years ago, something shifted. “I started getting really into synth and pulling in vintage pads, old patches, and new iPad patches,” Jennifer recalls.
Shortly thereafter, the decision was made to let go of their old project and create Camp Crush.
And while every musician remakes herself now and then, staying relevant and migrating an established fan base to a new sound — while raising two young children — wasn’t an easy feat. Jennifer felt out of balance and overwhelmed as she struggled to juggle a full-time job at a high-tech company with family life, music, and learning the ropes of parenthood.
The decision to let go of the day job wasn’t an easy one, but for Jennifer, it was absolutely essential to her entire being. In putting motherhood and music first, everything shifted, and today she parents two kids (a son and a daughter) and creates music with refreshing zeal.
In March, Camp Crush premiered “November Skin,” the first track off their brilliant EP She’s Got It (out May 18) which gives me serious nostalgia for my college goth-club nights.
Recently, Jennifer sat down to chat with Rockmommy on rebranding her sound, being a mom and living your truth.
Rockmommy: So let’s talk about the evolution to Camp Crush. How did this come about?
Jennifer Deale: So Camp Crush is my husband and I and we’ve been playing music together for 10 years and we obviously fell in love and started out playing music, and have done it in so many iterations — we had a folk band for a while, a blues band for a while — but Camp Crush is the band that we’re most connected to, that’s what’s most authentic to us. Chris has been a drummer since he was five, I’ve played piano since I was five. I started getting really into synth and pulling in vintage pads, old patches, and new iPad patches, and we’re trying to play these… and it was getting to a point where we’re like, ‘we’re folk but we’re 80s synth too.’
Rockmommy: Was the rebranding hard?
Jennifer Deale: So we took a month off and rebranded everything. It was really hard because we do most of our stuff DIY so it was all about working crazy long on weeknights and doing Photoshop and making a music video. We lined up a brand new website, brand new merch, and did everything to get ready for our [debut]. You have to apply for Facebook to change your page, so once they flipped the switch, we went live with our new band.
Rockmommy: What was that like?
Jen Deale: It’s really cool because we spent so much time being intentional in what we wanted this band to look like and sound like. Taking that time off to focus on all of those pieces was great. As a musician I just want to think about the music, but from a fan’s perspective … I want the whole package. We put out a single called “Take me Back.” Then we did a follow-up single called “Hometown Glory.”
Rockmommy: So How do you do it all? And you’re a mom to grade-school-age kids, right?
Jennifer Deale: We cancelled our Netflix a long time ago. Before I went full in the music thing, I had a big corporate job in Amazon. And I got to the point where I was like ‘I can’t pursue music to the level I want to pursue it and do this job.’ Being a mom is my priority — it’s a huge part of my day. So when I left my day job I was like, ‘I’m leaving a lot of money behind.’ But it’s a dream to get to do music. It’s a lot of late nights and we read Harry Potter and they go to bed at 8, and Chris is like ‘alright, what do we have to do?’ Chris will look at the calendar and go, ‘we have a free day on this day — we’re going to go on a day trip.’ We know there are big corporate jobs we could go back to, but this feeds us.
Rockmommy: I didn’t realize you’d have to give up so much to do this.
Jennifer Deale: Yes, absolutely. But I chose to be a mom. What am I trying to teach my kids in life? To take the most secure path? Or to follow your dream? It has been a lot less secure and a more of a scrappy lifestyle, but I see my kids a lot more.
Rockmommy: What inspired the subject matter in your music, your latest songs?
Jennifer Deale: As a woman in the music industry, I’ll play a show and with three or four bands on the bill and I’ll be the only female onstage the whole night. And ‘November Skin’ was inspired by an experience after a show, when a man pulled me aside and said, ‘I really think you’ve got it!’ And then he went on to tell me things I should improve on to get further into the music industry. So I wanted to talk about this unrealistic expectation of people for women to be something specific.
Rockmommy: How do your kids respond? Are they into music?
Jennifer Deale: I think the kids are understanding all of these things … but they don’t necessarily think it’s super cool what I do. My kids both go to an arts-focused elementary school. They both sing and do the school choir. But my daughter is a visual artist, and my son is a coder. And that’s cool. Music is definitely part of our everyday life — we have pianos everywhere — it’s part of the essence of our home. I know when I was their age, you couldn’t pull me off the piano! My kids aren’t like that about music but they are like that about art and technology.
Rockmommy: What advice do you have for other musician or artist parents?
Jennifer Deale: 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.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.