Richard Demko on Challenges, Changes and Keeping Connecticut’s Live Music Scene Thriving

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

If anyone my local music scene in Southern Connecticut is deserving of the ‘jack of all trades’ designation, it’s Richard Demko, longtime multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, promoter and more. He has an ear for talent and a knack for making things happen. He’s a dad, too, which is awesome. 

I had the honor of meeting Demko — a.k.a., ‘Rick’ — in early 2020 at Café Nine in New Haven, through a mutual friend who invited him to see my band Trashing Violet play its third-ever gig. But although his reputation as a superstar engineer and founder of independent label NeuroTronix Records made me feel a little intimidated, his easygoing, engaged personality immediately put me at ease. 

For Demko, a man who is still busy juggling family life, with pressures to create, support and promote in spite of Covid-related restrictions, a pandemic silver lining was a surge of creativity. In early March 2021, Demko released his first orchestral single “Through Time and Space” (available on iTunesSpotify and Amazon), and is organizing as many outdoor shows as possible so his musician peers can play again. 

We recently caught up with Demko to chat about new music, summer plans, parenting and more. 

Richard Demko, of NeuroTronix Records, hard at work at Horizon Studio.


Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months?

Richard Demko: My biggest challenges in the past 12 months have been juggling writing, producing, promoting and all the label obligations I have with my whole household being home due to distance learning and working. 

It’s also been a challenge promoting albums because live music is a big part of getting music out there. With no live music, I’ve had to be creative on how we promote releases and singles. There is no script to what has had to occur to try and keep everyone out there and moving. 

I have a lot of sympathy for working musicians and venue owners who have been hit very hard this year. I’ve been lucky because I’m blessed to have great clients who have sent me lots of remote mixing work, writing and session work, and some decent album promotional campaigns. Because if that, I make it a point to try and give back to organizations and places that are supporting local working musicians and various venue relief efforts as much as I can. 

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process? 


Richard Demko: 2020 has had a big influence on my solo writing, as I’ve written a few pandemic-themed songs, including a Christmas tune released exclusively for the 2020 holiday season called “Merry Christmas From a Distance.” I’ve also written a few songs for sync licensing that pertain to certain aspects of the pandemic. 

Richard Demko “Through Time And Space”


Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 


Richard Demko: I am hopeful that the pandemic will come to an end and we can return to live music! I am also hopeful from a label perspective that Connecticut will gain some serious attention in the mainstream music scene, as we have so many great artists and bands in our area! 

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share? 

Richard Demko: As a solo writer, I plan on releasing of a few singles early in 2021, maybe a new Demkovic single will drop too. Passing Strange has a new album that we will be starting to track, which I’m really excited about. 

[SEE RELATED: Passing Strange Share Their Journey to ‘The Water and the Woods’ and What They Want Most in the Post-Pandemic World]

Rockmommy: What can you tell us about your new song? How did it come about? 

Richard Demko: This song was started 7 years ago. I never finished it and it just sat on the storage drive and I kinda forgot about it. About two months ago, I was going through some of the stuff on my storage drive and I came across this and decided to take a listen. One thing led to the next and I ended up finishing it. Normally a song like this I would submit to one of the music libraries I work with for sync licensing, but I really was digging this one and wanted to keep it for myself so I decided to release it to the world under my name. 

Rockmommy: You’re also a big supporter and promoter of indie rock– both independently and through NeuroTronix Records. What can artists hope for in Connecticut this summer? How are you navigating some of the new rules and challenges to bring live music back? 

Richard Demko: I think this summer is going to be pretty good for outdoor music. I’ve got a few places I’m working with to promote live outdoor shows, one being 10selden where I have exclusive access to the bookings calendar. During the spring and summer months, I tend to enjoy outdoor music under normal circumstances, so I think regardless of the changes in the indoor venue guidelines, I’m going to stick with promoting mainly outdoor shows — at least at 10selden. I wouldn’t say I’m just a supporter of indie rock, I support indie artists of all genres, and hopefully once things start to go back to normal, the label will be actively scouting again to expand its roster. I’ve got a few artists I’m keeping an eye on, but that’s all I will say about that for the moment. 

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?

Richard Demko: The best advice I can give to creative parents would be to just do the best you can with the time you have. Modify your creative schedule so that your family has the attention they need. When you get stressed, put that energy into writing or creating when you get the time, and it will not only come out more emotional, it will mean so much more in the end. I love being able to spend all this time with my kids and wife with everyone being home, however making the time to create is a very important part of having a balanced life.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Pierce Freelon’s 2021 to-Do List: Music, Media, and Helping Others

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

The start of every new year is full of hope — I knew this the moment I watched creative renaissance dad Pierce Freelon’s ‘Daddy Daughter Day’ video (featuring J Gunn). We recently caught up with Freelon to talk about his biggest hopes for 2021, and what the perfect summer looks like.

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound? 

Pierce Freelon: My sound is millennial Hip Hop head rapping at my home studio with two kids in my lap. Or electronic jazz and soul beats that sample voice memos from my iPhone. My sound is also family-friendly music about inspired by real situations that young Black parents have to deal with. 

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months?

Pierce Freelon: My biggest challenge in the last 12 months was adjusting my life so I can serve on Durham City Council. As a husband, father, musician and business person I already had my hands full. Taking on a new job virtually (during a Panny) was a heavy lift. But I’m still here!

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process?

Pierce Freelon: 2020 was the year of virtual collaboration. I’ve worked with so many artists that I never see in person. I’m not used to that. Usually, we get together and vibe out in the studio. These days, I’m emailing tracks, and getting WeTransfer links back full of magic. I kind of dig it. It’s like opening a birthday present. 

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?

Pierce Freelon: In 2021 I hope to get better every day. I hope to learn from the silence and solitude and slowness of 2020 and make that part of my everyday, intentional practice. 2021 is the year of affirmations and speaking things into existence. What affirmations do you say to yourself every day? 

Rockmommy: If you could plan the perfect summer for 2021, what would that look like?

Pierce Freelon: A perfect summer looks like no one running against me in my re-election bid for City Council! Let me go ahead and speak that into existence right quick 🙂 I was appointed back in August and I’ve been doing a great job (if I must say so myself, lol). Real talk, it would be nice to chill this summer after we approve the city budget and not be in full campaign mode. 

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Pierce Freelon: One project I’m really excited about is an educational television show for K-3rd graders I’m producing with PBS North Carolina in 2021 called Classroom Connection. This show will be a crucial lifeline for kids, especially in the rural part of our state where schools have been closed and internet is limited. There will be lessons from real public school teachers, music, puppetry, animation and conversations with kids! 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

Bronx family musician Fyütch’s New Song ‘Black Women in History’ Celebrates Dozens of Unsung Heroes

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Before he became a dad, musician or social artist, Fyütch was just a schoolboy with an open, impressionable mind. But while he learned plenty about the accomplishments of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, few other historical black women received more than a single, passing mention.

With his new song, ‘Black Women in History,’ Fyütch hopes to change that by educating a whole new generation of young learners about the accomplishments of everyone from Mississippi civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer to Shirley Chisholm. The song also features black female artists/singers Rissi Palmer and Snooknuk, and it’s clever as heck, dropping unexpected, fresh rhymes about dozens of inspiring ladies.

In fact, Fyütch and his co-artists drop so much history in ‘Black Women’ that anyone who listens to the song or engages with the video is bound to learn something.

See it for yourself on #MLKDay2021 — or better, share it with your family, as you honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Getting Candid with Mark Erelli: From ‘Blindsided’ in 2020 to New Music in 2021

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

For many musicians, the loss of performance opportunities in the pandemic has been unbearable – professionally and emotionally. Mark Erelli is one of them.

His twelfth record, Blindsided, came out just a few weeks after everything shut down. Tours were rescheduled, then rescheduled again, then canceled. Shows with a full band turned into solo live streams from his basement. This week, we catch up with the Massachusetts singer-songwriter and dad of two to discuss the challenges of creating music in 2020 and staying positive for the new year.  

Mark Erelli (Photo: Joe Navas)

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months?

Mark Erelli: I am a parent of two boys, 10 and 13, so there have been many educational, logistical, and emotional challenges of guiding them through this year. But challenges of that nature always exist, though I’m not usually around so consistently to help address them because of my work. So the parenting has been tough but, in a way, it’s been a bit easier because I’m here for my kids and to support my wife. 

The biggest challenge was the impact of the pandemic on the release of my twelfth record, Blindsided, which came out just a few weeks after everything shut down. Tours would be rescheduled, then rescheduled again, then canceled. Shows I was really looking forward to playing with a full band turned into solo live streams in my basement. For once in my career, the groundswell of publicity and my musical profile were kind of synced up and it was all teed up to be a big, career-defining year for me. Of course it wasn’t, or at least not in the way I’d hoped for. And it’s not really something you can recreate, the moment passes and then it’s gone. So I’ve just had to try and wrap my head and heart around that, something I’m still trying to do.

Rockmommy: How did 2020 influence your music and creative process? 

Mark Erelli: For a while, I wasn’t really feeling like picking up a guitar and singing or writing. When a new song finally came to me here and there, I found I was far less critical in the early stages of the process. I didn’t worry about if it was good or deep or how it dovetailed with anything else I’d done, I just wrote it and took it as far as I could, then if I liked it I would go back and be a little more ruthless as far as editing and honing the finished work. 

I also used alternative media, like video making and animation, to help develop musical projects in a way that I’d never quite done before. At a time when it felt difficult to write songs, figuring out how to make an animated video allowed me to stay creative, but not be burdened by any of the expectations my normal musical approach might have.

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Mark Erelli: Honestly, I just want to begin the process of moving back toward a life in music. I’ve been working however I could this year, but it’s nothing like it used to be. Live performance  — my own gigs and working as a sideman for others — is a big part of what I do, and I’d like for that to be a big part of my life again on the other side of this. But there’s no “going back” to how it used to be. It needs to be safe for myself and my audience, and we’re going to have to evolve some new work/life balance strategies for both me and my family, and those take time. I can envision some stuff happening outside in spring/summer, and maybe even some proper shows toward the end of 2021, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to recreate the musical life I want until 2022.

Rockmommy: If you could plan the perfect summer for 2021, what would that look like? 

Mark Erelli: Summer of 2020 I did a few outdoor shows, but they were all very reactive to changing restrictions and guidelines. I would like to see conditions be a bit more stable and for promoters be very proactive in providing safe performance opportunities for artists and audiences to come together. We know better how to work under these constraints and so I’d like to take advantage of what we’ve learned and use it to provide more chances for community around music.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share? 

Mark Erelli: I released a Christmas song, written on Thanksgiving 2020, that came out over the holiday. It’s called “Not Quite Christmas.” And come Valentine’s Day, I’ll have another 3-song EP coming out, with each song exploring a different take on love.

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life?

Mark Erelli: It’s not a one-strategy-fits-all sort of thing, every artist and every family is different. What works for me is saying no a lot. My family needs a lot right now, and they are the most important thing to me. So that means I say no to a lot of music opportunities and say yes to the ones that are especially meaningful. I try to choose music opportunities that aren’t too disruptive with us all cooped up in one house and have sometimes been able to livestream from locations outside of the home safely, so I’m not keeping everyone quiet while I work. I want my kids to know that I love my job and making music very, very much. But I also want them to see me balance it with being there for them, physically and emotionally. In my book, if I were to have an amazing musical career that came at the expense of my marriage or family, it wouldn’t even be worth it.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Laura Merrill on Art, Life and the Legacy of her Rock n’ Roll Dad Alan Merrill

By Rew Starr

The first time I met Alan Merrill was on my show ‘Rewbee’s World.’ My friend Jo Brat said she’d recently met him at a random party and I needed to get him on the show since he was the actual songwriter who wrote ‘I Love Rock N’ Roll.’ It’s incredible how everyone reacts in surprise when they hear that. 

Alan Merrill and Rew Starr (Photo Courtesy of Rew Starr; Photo credit: Johann Vipper)

That first meeting was more than a decade ago, but it was LOVE at first sight, in a way. Alan immediately adopted me as his sister… he always told me my ‘Rew’ sticker was the only sticker he ever had on his guitar case… I miss him and think about him every day. He passed away in early Spring 2020 due to complications stemming from the coronavirus. 

I recently caught up with his daughter, Laura Merrill, a creative soul in her own right, to talk about Alan and his legacy. 

Rew Starr: I want to say how sorry I am for your loss. Alan your dad was very special to me and zillions of others. How are you doing? 

Laura Merrill: Thank you Rew. I’ve been OK and slowly adjusting to the new normal. Life without my father is very strange.

He was and has always been someone I could turn to for advice and guidance… especially during a worldwide pandemic. Everyone knew him as a rockstar and to me he was always Daddy.

Alan Merrill and daughter Laura Merrill

Rew Starr: How old were you when you realized your Dad was a Rockstar?

Laura Merrill: Well it must’ve been when I started school because he was always the one to drop us off and pick us up. I didn’t realize how different he was from the other parents until he was in the crowd of them at the end of the day waiting to pick us up. He stayed true to himself and wore his leopard spandex, bullet belt, ripped T-shirt and pink headband in the school yard to greet us.

Laura Merrill (Photo: LauraMerrillImages.com)

We grew up with music being played and recorded around us since we were born so that wasn’t abnormal. It was the reaction of the other students and especially the moms drooling over him that I started to realize he was… special and a Rockstar. 

Rew Starr: When did you understand the impact of his work?

Laura Merrill: It was when I’d hear ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ everywhere. In the grocery store, gym, doctor’s waiting room, everywhere and of course on TV.

Rew Starr: Your Dad was a groundbreaker in so many ways — TV, music, being a Dad spreading love. Did you inherit some of this passion? Is there any favorite thing about him you have?

Laura Merrill: Yes he definitely was a groundbreaker and marched to his own beat. I inherited a lot from him. My love for music, art and fashion. Our humor is exactly the same. Our love and understanding of social media. But mostly his heart, we are very much alike in matters of love and our view on life. That was my favorite thing about my father, his loving nature and the way he made everyone feel like they were family. I’d admire his kindness from afar and I hope to carry that on and share it in my life. 

Alan Merrill and Rew Starr (Photo credit: David Tanner)

Rew Starr: What do you think he wants to see you accomplish?

Laura Merrill: I think he just wants to see me be happy and successful. Make a mark with my artistry. He was always my biggest cheerleader. I’m sure he’d like me to keep his legacy going. I work hard every day to stay true to my artistry as did he. 

Rew Starr: ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ is an anthem for the entire world. How did that make him feel? How did that make you feel?

Laura Merrill: It made him feel amazing. He knew what he had accomplished and wanted the world to know he was the man behind the music. Unfortunately, he accomplished that more in his death than his life but *sigh*…isn’t that the life of a true artist? For me, it makes me so eternally proud of him.

Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?

Laura Merrill: I do write here and there but have turned my creativity towards photography and art. It’s helped me cope with the loss of my father. Songwriting is so personal and perhaps when things settle down I’ll return to it. He would’ve wanted that as he was my biggest supporter. 

My father really instilled such a love for music in my soul. I can’t breathe without it. It has the ability to shape my mood.  

Alan Merrill and Rew Starr (Photo Credit: Alan Rand)

Rew Starr: Tell me about your photography? Your ART….

Laura Merrill: My photography and art at the moment celebrate femininity and the female body. I’ve always thought the shapes — dark and light of female nudity — to be so beautiful. I photograph it along with many self portraits, and paint it as well. I think a lot of my art is my mother’s influence. She was a model in a time where people were free to express themselves. I want to embrace that freedom.

Rew Starr: Tell us something we don’t know about you?

Laura Merrill: I am ambidextrous. I hate anything to do with math and still count on my fingers.  

Rew Starr: What’s the greatest part about being a rockdaughter?

Laura Merrill: The best thing — and I didn’t realize this until after my father passed — is that with his success and now that he’s gone…he is still all around. People and fans posting videos, songs and photos I’ve never seen online. It’s like he’s visiting and still here. I’m lucky in that way I guess. 

Every time I hear “I Love Rock and Roll” in a bar or on the radio it’s like him saying “I love you” from heaven.

Alan Merrill (Photo Credit: Laura Merrill)

Here’s a photo I took of him for his album just a few weeks before he died. It still feels like yesterday that he came over for the session. He brought several guitars and a ton of clothes. My brother was there as well and we just had such a great time. We were busting on my dad for some of his poses as kids usually do. He had a gig downtown just after the session and I went not knowing it would be the last time I’d see him play. He sounded amazing as always.

Days after the shoot he was rushing me to get the photos finished because he was so excited to get his album out. This is the photo he put on the inside of the CD and I really tried pushing him to make it the cover. The photo he chose pointing at the camera was a goof and I almost deleted it. It just goes to show what a silly character he is… always marching to his own beat.

Rew Starr is an actor, musician and mother who lives in New York City. 

It’s the Middle of November, and My Band is Still Practicing Outside

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

November is all about gratitude, with Thanksgiving, and #WorldKindnessDay and all of the other little days in between. It’s also the birth month of some of my favorite Scorpios, like my childhood bestie Karina, my Dad, my niece Luciana, my mother in law Lynne, and my dear friends Emily, Steph and Linda. 

It’s a little foggy outside, but Trashing Violet is going strong.

But this year I’m feeling especially grateful, not just for my health and my children’s health, and for medical doctors and the recent election. I’m also grateful that my parent band — in spite of all of the parenting/life/moving/health/family struggles, and the loss of our beloved rehearsal space — has stuck together. 

Not just stuck together, but managed to home-record our first single (“Eggs”), learn a new cover (Concrete Blonde, “The Vampire Song”), and play an awesome, intimate show in my drummer’s cul-de-sac during the Halloween season. We’re also practicing EVERY WEEK in his bucolic backyard, underneath a canopy of trees and stars, fog or no fog. It’s so inspiring to look up into the sky and feel like I’m being held by the universe. 

Singing with my band Trashing Violet. #maskup

Yes, it’s getting colder. I don’t know how much longer we can continue to play music outdoors, in the dark, especially when it gets super chilly. With the coronavirus spreading faster than it’s ever spread, we may soon have to shutter indoors again, in a depressing flashback to the days of March and quarantine. 

The fact that it’s holiday season makes this potential reality pretty sad (I get teary just thinking about staying home in December, because I have spent every Christmas since my birth in Maryland, my home state). 

So it’s essential to take a moment, today, to say THANK YOU to my higher power for the ability to practice and play, sing and strum, even in the world’s darkest hours. 

Peace. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

How I’m Being Present for My family, While Missing My Band: a Guitarist Dad’s Quarantine Experience

by Earl Henrichon

My name is Earl Henrichon and I play in a Hartford, CT-based band called The Professors of Sweet, Sweet Music (POSSM). Yes, you heard right, that is the actual name of our band. We thought it would be hilarious if people actually had to say that out loud in the off-chance we were able to play shows in public.

Earl_POSSM_2

Earl Henrichon & The POSSM

A few years later and we’ve won several Best of Hartford awards, a New England Music Award nomination for Best Band in Connecticut and we’ve co-created the Hartbeat Music Festival (a day-long event showcasing local musicians of all genres). I guess now we are stuck with the ridiculous (but hopefully charming?) name.

And now the world has gone to shit in a period of three months, and we are all in quarantine. Suddenly my band is not getting together and playing music, and there are no shows to practice for. This time has given me an opportunity to reflect on a lot of things when it comes to music, its impact on my life, my teaching and my family. I figured what the Internet needed most was the perspective of dad who was getting older and plays in rock band…so here we go!

Earl_POSSM_3

Earl & family

I am a high school Health and Physical Education teacher, husband of 14 years and father to an awesome (and sometimes totally insane) 7-year-old daughter. I also love to surf and have an unhealthy relationship with fantasy sports. My wife Jane is clearly an amazingly supportive, patient and understanding human being (talk about a rock mommy!), and as a result my life is immeasurably better for having had so many fun and exciting experiences. Jane has been staying at home since the birth of our daughter, and what we lack in income we have gained in family time. Everyone has their own situations, but for us this has been a tremendous positive…at least so far.

I came to music late in life. I listened to The Beatles, Guns and Roses and a lot of other rock bands growing up, but I didn’t understand what was involved in creating the sounds I was hearing. It wasn’t until I had been listening to Jack Johnson for years, and couldn’t get those sounds out of my head that I finally picked up a guitar. That was about 8 years ago.

Almost immediately after learning a couple of simple chords, I started writing music by ear. At the time I thought was creative and insightful but I look back now and realize how truly terrible most of it was. But not having the requisite shame one should have about publicly embarrassing themselves, I quickly assembled a group of (luckily more talented than I) guys and convinced some fellow teachers it would be a good idea to come out and see our band in action after school once in a while. The beauty of music, probably for all of us, but especially for me, has been the connections that it helps create with other people. From the start we always had other teachers sing songs with us, and later people from other bands would jump in on songs or for join us for entire shows. This helped created a community because of which my life will always be better off and for which I’ll always be grateful.

There are many things about performing music live that actually don’t fit my personality at all. As an early-rising teacher I am not at all at late-night guy. In a perfect world, my favorite place to be is at home with my family, watching some Netflix and getting to bed at a decent time. We don’t play tons of late gigs as a result, we are always glad to open up for other bands, and I usually leave before the rest of my bandmates when a show is over. But I enjoy the hell out of being on stage, sharing the fun moments with others, and being a part of something that brings some joy and laughter into others’ lives.

Having my daughter grow up around music, the guys in the band and all of the positive experiences that have come from that is something I will look back fondly on forever.

Over the last few months as I’ve been teaching from home, my day is very different. I did 30 days of yoga with my wife, hiking constantly to try and wear out the dog, the 7 year old (and if we are being honest, the 43 year old — me!), and now protesting has become something we participate in as well. This new rhythm is giving me the opportunity to go back and spend time with music in a way I haven’t before. Not having the pressure of getting ready for the next show, booking future shows, having people rely on me to set a lineup or finishing up something for a recording has been freeing in a way I did not expect.Earl_daughter_1

When I first learned guitar I didn’t take proper lessons or even take time to learn anything properly before finding reasons to start playing it in front of others. Since then I’ve mostly been practicing for the next show. Now I am finding the time to learn the scales on the guitar better, how to play a solo that doesn’t sound forced, and how to create voicings of chords I hadn’t considered before. I’ve even starting to learn a bit of the piano — which has helped all of the theory make sense.

I am aware that everyone’s quarantine is different, and that many of the rock moms and dads are feeling run ragged by working, homeschooling, feeling financial stress etc…but there is also a reset button that this time is allowing us to have. I suspect that many of us will find when things go back to whatever normal is going to look like when it happens, that we will miss some of things about this time as well, and to enjoy some of that while we are there.

If anyone of you are interested in checking out our music, we are releasing a new single on all streaming platforms on May 29th, and we can be found on all social media platforms as The POSSM, and at thepossm.com. I hope the rest of the quarantine treats you all well, until we are all rocking out in front of audiences again!

Earl Henrichon is a father, teacher and guitarist for the Connecticut band The POSSM.