Balancing Band Life and Raising Boys: How Much is Too Much of a Good Thing?

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Five years ago, having a few moments to myself to strum my guitar — without getting interrupted by a toddler — was a bit of a miracle. 

Fast forward to 2020 and my two young sons are no longer toddlers. They’re 6- and 7-year-olds with their own interests who need me less and less. This is bittersweet: While I don’t want to repeat the baby years — the diapers! the sleepless nights! the 2-hour nursing sessions! — I miss our constant time together. I miss reading to them big chair, snuggling on the couch, pushing the double stroller to the park while clutching a mug of coffee. The whole bit.

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Baby Nathan, sometime in 2013, and my guitar.

One positive development that’s come out of their independence is my ability to nurture interests of my own again — namely music.

[SEE RELATED: New Year’s Goal #1: Making Time for More Joy and Spontaneous Jam Sessions]

After Nathan was born in 2012, I pretty much put #bandlife on a shelf, save for teaching guitar and the playing occasional solo gig or reunion show with my longtime D.C. pop-punk band Grandma’s Mini. But in 2018, I was ready to fire up the old Fender Stratocaster — and the new Gibson SG — and play out again. The only thing I was missing was bandmates. So I asked the universe to help me find them.

The universe granted my wish. In November of that year, my guitarist pal Anna and I met with rock daddy bassist (and guitarist) Doug E. through Craigslist, scored rehearsal space in a studio, and soon after, brought my friend Jason’s brother Nick D. into the group to play drums. Several rehearsals after that, our band Trashing Violet became a living, breathing, gigging machine. 

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Me, rocking out with my band Trashing Violet at Cafe 9.

Yet amid the sheer joy of playing songs every week in our rehearsal space, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would actually play shows — not just occasionally, but ALL THE TIME. About a month ago, we were asked to play so often that I started getting that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I’d have to ask my husband, yet again, if he minded that I got booked for yet another show. 

As I explain in this interview (below), filmed over the weekend at our gig at Sage Sound Studios, the fact that my bandmates and I found each other in a similar time in our lives was nothing short of pure serendipity. That I could find bandmates with intense day jobs and parental responsibilities who understood that I’m a #mommy first and a #rockmommy second was amazing. 

 

But of course, as we rehearse weekly and gig weekly, my sons are undoubtedly seeing less of me. I’m not there 2 nights a week to tuck them in. My older son, who is especially independent, is OK with this; my younger son gets a little clingy each time I leave (he’s been known to shout “band practice is dumb,” according to dada). It was a bit of a wakeup call when I realized this morning, while scanning photos on my phone, that I have taken more pics of my bandmates than Nathan in the last two months. As I gazed into his dark-chocolate brown eyes, my heart swelled, and I felt a tinge of guilt: Am I playing out too much, and missing out too much on the little things?

[SEE RELATED: ‘I Started a Band with my Toddler’: The Nap Skippers’ Julie Rustad on Life and Gigging with a Wee One]

I realized then that achieving absolute perfect balance in every area of my life would be impossible. At the same time, there are limits. I need to make sure I’m considering the feelings all of the people who need me before I overcommit myself. Time is more precious than ever. Every minute I spend away from my loved ones better be worth it because it’s a minute I’m missing out on being with them.

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My younger son Logan, playing the keys at the local movie theater.

So, yes — I can play consecutive shows if the opportunity arises. I can practice once a week with my band because it makes me happy. I can go on tour for a weekend or even a few days … should the right opportunity arise. But I can’t rehearse every single night and play every Friday and Saturday — nor can (or should) I say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way. 

When my kids are 14 and 15, I might find that I’m needed even less, and there’s more time to pursue music goals. Maybe I’ll go on a two-week tour. Maybe I’ll do a lot of things — travel to Greece, surf in Hawaii, learn how to play the drums.

But in the immediate future, I need to pause and reflect, and see things through the lens of motherhood: Is a gig I’m being asked to play good for me and my band? Is it worth taking time away from our families? Does it fill my heart with joy?

Putting my family’s needs first is important, even if it means saying “no” once in a while to creative endeavors. And it makes the stuff I say “yes” to all the more special. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

Should Rocker Moms Change the Way They Dress After Having Kids? I Say No.

On the cover of my album “Sex & Guitars,” which I released more than ten years ago, I’m wearing a vinyl miniskirt, leaning back in a bed, guitar in arms, eyes seductively gazing into the camera. 

marisa-mini1I still love seeing this photo of me in my pre-kids, pre-marriage days — although (sadly) I don’t wear the vinyl skirt much anymore for lack of opportunity (it doesn’t feel quite right for a PTA meeting or mommy-and-me gym class). Perhaps I shouldn’t be sad: The black vinyl skirt represented a sexy, racy moment in 2008 that resonated with the album’s theme — love, careless flings and heartbreak. That moment felt amazing to live, and is wonderful to remember. 

Fast forward to 2018, and I’m a mom of two very young boys. And while I still rock a tight dress, I feel a little weird when I put clothes on that are provocative and un-momlike, at least in the traditional sense. This is true whether I’m going out with my girlfriends or playing a gig. 

[RELATED: “Baby Clothes with Guitars and Gender Roles”]

I’m not necessarily surprised by my feelings. Women are frequently slut-shamed for how they dress, and still expected to carry on differently when they become wives and mothers. I’ve heard more than one comment from certain relatives that I should give up bikinis in the summertime, although I find one-piece bathing suits uncomfortable. As such, there’s a tiny voice on rock show nights that asks, “Marisa, is that really appropriate for a mother to wear?” 

So today, as a favor to myself, I’m posting this photo of me in my favorite black mini dress, the stretchy one I tend to wear onstage these days, my parental status and age damned. I work out and eat healthfully — why shouldn’t I wear what I want? But even if I didn’t work out and eat healthfully, I should still be entitled to wear what I want. 

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From my band Grandma’s Mini’s DC gig at The Pinch in September 2017

I wholeheartedly believe in self expression: Anyone, regardless of their size or shape, should be able to wear the clothes that most resonate with their spirit, and makes them feel most beautiful. While there are certain events that dictate style — for example, I wouldn’t wear a vinyl skirt to a church service or a crop top to a parent-teacher conference — why should having kids mean I have to stifle my self expression on stage, when I am performing?

Of course, some have said my kids may feel weird as they get older, seeing mom dressing like a 25-year-old in a concert hall. But maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe we should challenge ageism and the idea that women who flaunt their bodies should cover up the minute they get pregnant, never reverting to their carefree youths. Maybe challenging flawed ideals will help our children embrace their own inner rockstars, however such self-expression manifests itself, when they are performing or creating art. 

OK, that was a mouthful. 

In all seriousness, I’d love to hear from my readers in the comments: Should rocker moms dress less provocatively after becoming parents? If so, to what extent? Are there any limits to self-expression in parenthood?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy

Camp Crush’s Jennifer Deale on Parenthood, Music, Feminism and Carving Out a New Sound

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.

 

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Camp Crush

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.