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

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Blues Rockdaddy Marc Broussard on New Lullaby Album and Balancing Musician Life with Family

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

The life of a touring musician isn’t one for the faint of heart — it’s awesome, but frequently tough on mind and body, whether you’re gone for 10 days or 10 months. You’re always on the road, often far, far away from your home base and removed from your loved ones for long stretches. When parenthood happens, it’s even harder. Little ones are counting on you to be there for them — so when you’re home, you need to make every moment count.

For Louisiana bluesman Marc Broussard, the struggle of balancing kids and a full-time career as a touring musician isn’t always easy — but it is always worth it.

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Marc Broussard

“Having kids gave me priorities outside of myself for the first time in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful,” he tells Rockmommy. 

And speaking of kids, my own two little men (ages 6 & 7) love Marc’s latest studio album — A Lullaby Collection SOS III, which features a wealth of fun, reimagined classics (like “Danny Boy”) and lush, soulful scores (like “Bedtime,” our favorite).Broussard is also making his debut as an author with I Love You For You, a children’s book about inclusion, affirmation and appreciation for the special traits that make each one of us unique.

The best part of all: A portion of proceeds from the album and the book will be donated to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We recently caught up with him to talk about making the record, supporting important causes and carving out time for creativity.

Rockmommy: The lullaby record is so sweet and dreamy. How did it come about? Was there a moment when you envisioned creating this? 

Marc Broussard: Rebekah Phillips and I have been friends for years and we’d spoken about doing a book together many times. In fact, it was on the plane home after our last visit with Rebekah and her husband that I got inspired and wrote the book on the flight!

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Marc Broussard: A Lullaby Collection S.O.S. 3

Rockmommy: Lots of artists make records for younger audiences. How did you come up with the right “vibe” for an album for kids? (high energy vs. lullaby). 

Marc Broussard: I had been looking for an opportunity to support this particular children’s hospital, Our Lady of the Lakes, and even though I knew I wanted to make an album for kids, I didn’t want it to be just for kids. I wanted to make a record that kids would like listening too that could also make the parents smile.

Rockmommy: You’re on tour now. How has your music evolved and shape shifted as your life has changed, since becoming — and growing as — a parent? 

Marc Broussard: Everything about me is different than before I had kids, so much so that my wife has made comments about reflecting on my past behavior and snapped herself out of it with the thought, ‘Marc would never do that to me!’ Having kids gave me priorities outside of myself for the first time in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Rockmommy: You are involved in a number of philanthropic ventures. Can you talk about how you decided which organizations should benefit from sales of this record — A Lullaby Collection SOS III ? 

Mark Broussard: As I mentioned before, I had been looking for an opportunity to support this newly opened children’s hospital from the moment I knew of its existence. It’s a fairly simple process, really. Identify an organization doing incredible work and support them. I don’t see that changing much in the future.

Rockmommy: It’s really tough for rock moms (and dads) — especially those who need other income — to balance being a musician and a parent. What is your best advice for them? 

Mark Broussard: Money is nice but it can’t buy time. A singer friend of mine many years ago gave me some advice about getting some home-time. “Go home when you can, even just for a day. Go into debt if you have to.” I took that advice and made sure I got home as often as possible.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

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. 

NYC Rocker Michele Stork Unleashes the Noisy Punk Princess with (A)llerdings!

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

I met Michele Stork sometime in 2007, right after I began teaching guitar at New York City Guitar School. I don’t remember our first conversation, exactly, as we sat sprawled across the living room floor of our friend Gail’s Manhattan studio. But I remembered the sparkle in her eyes when she spoke about her band, Loki the Grump, and her musical influences — Rollins Band, Murphy’s Law, and other hardcore-music mainstays in DC and NYC. 

As a bonafide DC girl with a love of Henry Rollins and Murphy’s Law, I felt a special connection with Michele, which continued onto our tours. Every hardcore, punk and/or gravelly-vocalled band led us to rush the stage together. She’s still the only friend of mine who knows the words to my super-fast punk song “Strawberry Shortcake” (and has written alternate versions).

Michele, who works in the music business by day, brings the same love of hardcore and punk — and righteous, unforgettable lyrics — into all of her musical projects, from her former band Loki the Grump to her latest project (A)llerdings!, with her friend Joe De Sapio and husband Dietmar.

We caught up with her earlier this week to discuss her plans for getting creative in the near future. 

ROCKMOMMY: How would you describe your music style?

MICHELE STORK: I’m all over the place when I write songs, but I definitely love to play punk of some sort. My very first band was avant-Garde punk, my second was goth punk, then ones all over the spectrum. The band I‘m most known for in the GRGR world was a bit on the pop punk side.  The current trio for this show – (A)llerdings! – is really raw.  Our friend Joe is an awesome guitarist, but my husband and I have not picked up our instruments in quite a few years so we are not so awesome… but we do have a load of fun so the fact that we are less than spectacular doesn’t really concern me!

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Michele Stork (drums) with Joe & Dietmar of (A)llerdings!

ROCKMOMMY: What kinds of songs will you be playing at your next show? What instruments will you be playing, and who will be with you onstage?

MICHELE STORK: We’re playing a short fast set — some originals, some covers. I’m attempting drums and vox, Dietmar, my husband, is attempting bass, iPad and vox, Joe is killing it on guitar and vox.

ROCKMOMMY: Who is the most inspirational live performer you’ve seen lately?

MICHELE STORK: If I have to pick only one of my recent concerts, I’d have to go with Bob Mould! He’s as phenomenal solo as he is with a full band. Brilliant songwriter and guitarist!

ROCKMOMMY: The GRGR reunion show celebrates women in music — has a lot changed in the past 15 years, since Girls Rock & Girls Rule was founded, and female rockers became more visible?

MICHELE: Women are definitely more prominent as leaders in rock, and in many other genres, now more than ever. It’s pretty awesome to see the transition. However, we still have a LONG way to go. I’m hopeful it will truly get to the place where it’s just a PERSON who rocks as opposed to having to distinguish between genders.

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Michele and Dietmar — lovers, spouses and players.

ROCKMOMMY: Being an independent artist isn’t always easy. You’ve gotta balance lots of stuff. What’s your best advice for making time to rock?

MICHELE: “Making time” is exactly what you have to do. You can’t wait until you have time, it’ll never happen. You have to make that appointment with yourself and/or with others — put it on your calendar as a priority meeting — and stick to it as best you can. Even if it’s just one hour per week.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

NYC Rockmommy Rew Starr Proves it’s Never Too Late to Take on a Brave New Role

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Some say that your best life doesn’t begin until you’ve lived a little — partaken in at least one great, wild adventure, gotten burned, or conquered one of your deepest fears. For many rockmommies, living your best life is inextricably intertwined with the creation something new — starting a family, starting a band, taking on new creative roles and experiencing life with fresh eyes and a full heart.

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Rew Starr on stage, playing “punktry”

This is the story of Rew Starr — a staple of New York City’s East Village music and arts scene and a living example that a woman’s best life can begin whenever she wants it to begin.

[NYC Rockmommy Rew Starr and Filmmaker Daughter Harlee Ludwig on Making the Perfect ‘Imperfect Girl’ Video]

Not long ago, Rew enjoyed a coveted status as one of the most celebrated local musicians and performance artists in New York City. So when, in 2016, she bid adieu to her beloved Internet radio show — Rew & Who? — to make room for a new acting career, the idea sounded a little crazy.

Four years later, she is busier than ever, splitting her time between paid acting gigs and musical performances. Which goes to show that you’re never too old (or too young) to live your best life or be a creative rockstar. 

Here, Rew chats with us about her latest projects and what we can expect at the upcoming Girls Rock & Girls Rule Reunion show (2/15, at LP n Harmony, 683 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211). 

ROCKMOMMY: How would you describe your music style? 

REW: I always call myself PuNkTRY because I have a punk rock heart and often tell too much information in my songs!

ROCKMOMMY: What kinds of songs will you be playing at your next show? What instruments will you be playing, and who will be with you onstage?

REW: I will be playing my original songs. Maybe my Bowie cover of ‘Rebel Rebel’ and some other surprises that the band might not know!! I like to keep it suspenseful! I’ll be playing with the one and only bassist Donald Dixon and Dr. Andi on drums. There is usually a surprise guitar player as well but if I say who said yes it might change!

ROCKMOMMY: Who is the most inspirational live performer you’ve seen lately? 

REW: Definitely the most inspirational performer I’ve seen is my daughter Eva Lin. She blows my mind in every way!

ROCKMOMMY: Being an independent artist isn’t always easy. You’ve gotta balance lots of stuff — work, parenthood, health and taking care of loved ones. What’s your best advice for making time to rock?

REW: Just always have a gig booked! It keeps me from forgetting my songs and playing is the best medicine in the world!

ROCKMOMMY: You let go of some obligations — notably Rew & Who — so you could make time for other endeavors (acting). What’s that been like?

REW: Well this acting thing has been beyond my wildest dreams! I have never been so busy with projects that challenge my brain with memorizing lines, and surrounded by so many trained people! I have been working more than I ever did as an artist and getting paid! What a concept! As my tax stuff pours in I’m in shock over how much work I did last year! Now I’m submerged in rehearsals for a brand new play called ‘upstate’ with a giant part that’s opening March 2 at the Hudson Guild Theatre and there is another run this weekend for ‘a two hundred dollar rhinoceros’ — the play that keeps going since last March! I even was nominated for best actress (my 2nd nomination!). I cannot even count how many indie films, music videos, TV and commercial projects (I even get to work with ZsaZsa Gabone, my precious angel yorkie) I’ve been in since ending “ReW & WhO?’ But I am forever grateful to every guest that came through the show and everyone who helped its seven-year run! It’s always there on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

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

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

It’s been quite a year — from my oldest son’s learning to do flips (and learning to read) to my baby boy entering kindergarten, we’ve hit so many parenting milestones. And personal milestones too. My husband sold his company and stepped up his baseball coaching game, while I stepped up my musical endeavors: I played the longest springtime “mommy and me” show at my kid’s preschool, started a rock band with two other parents (and one cool cat mama), and made good on my commitment to play guitar ten minutes a day (except when I was traveling — haven’t figured out how to do that yet!).

[SEE RELATED: “New Year’s Guitar Goals: 10 Minutes Per Day”]

I learned to say “no” to having too many goals, and say “yes” to joy.

This is the most important thing I learned.

The world is a crazy place, and in many ways more terrifying than it was in my own childhood. Between the acceleration of global warming to the tensions in the Middle East exacerbated by our current Administration (sorry to get political, but it’s true), we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I find myself fraught with worry on many mornings like these, wondering if gun violence or terrorism will have a direct impact on those I love.

But while I can’t control tomorrow, I can try to make the most of today. Enjoying my sons and niece while they are young. Spending meaningful time with my husband. Enjoying my parents and in-laws. Appreciating my friendships.

On New Year’s Eve, we had kids ages 1 to 14 hanging out all over my house. Our basement is full of musical instruments, as I always hoped it would be — my husband’s drum kit, a keyboard, lots of shakers and percussion and several of my guitars. Sometime around 9 or 10 (I wasn’t looking), a band of highly sugared-up little ones hit the basement and started jamming out on all the gear. The cacophony of their playing was so perfect — and so right. It made my heart melt a bit.

 

So while we can’t always predict the outcomes of any year, or any action we take, we can change our attitude. We can accept wonderful things when they enter our lives. We can be present for the spontaneous moments that offer so much joy.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Andrew & Polly’s High-Energy Family Album Celebrates the Little Everyday Things

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

As the editrix of a mommy blog, I hear a lot of peppy indie rock. And so much of it is (lyrically, at least) inspired by remarkable, fun ideas — say, songs about flying a rocket ship to Mars or songs about breakdancing with dinosaurs. Yet it’s the mundane stuff — the everyday activities — which parents and music partners Andrew & Polly believe are worthy of their own anthems.

A&P_2019-Wall_web_photo credit Missi Hostrup

Andrew & Polly 

Thus, the musical duo’s latest record “Go for the Moon” is filled with songs about the silliness of normal life — from falling off chairs(“Chair School”) to watching scuba divers swim (“Aquarium”). Each track is interlaced with a special surprise, be that tinkling keys, booming choruses or slide guitars and trombone jokes. 

Recently, Rockmommy caught up with Andrew & Polly, to talk about the Los Angeles kindie-rock scene, and the constant juggle of parenthood, music and everything else (like their Ear Snacks podcast). 

Rockmommy: The world is full of so many would-be musical partners. How did you guys meet? 

Andrew & Polly: Polly was making a record in college and rehearsing in a dorm room with one of Andrew’s friends. Andrew asked him to ask her, “Does she need any keys?” Seventeen years later, we’re still making music together!

Rockmommy: What was the inspiration behind ‘Go for the Moon?’

Andrew & Polly: Family life is magical, difficult, and ridiculous all at the same time — this collection of epic anthems is inspired directly from the absurdity and delight we find in our everyday lives. Childhood and parenthood alike take a good dose of aspiration and a whopping spoonful of humor, and we hope this record can be a soundtrack for many different kinds of little adventures.

Rockmommy: You’re proud parents of Izzy and Gertie — what’s it like balancing parenthood with a career in the arts?

Andrew & Polly: Balance? Ha! We try and keep a little space between work and family, but for us there’s obviously a lot of cross-pollination between the two. “Chair School” is now a catch phrase in our home (where people fall out of chairs on the regular), and “Mom’s Name” (co-written by the incomparably hilarious Mike Phirman) was based on a real life preschool drop-off. Gertie, Izzy, and even Polly’s dad volunteered to be on this record, but they’re not part of our social media, and that’s probably the best way we keep a balance between work and family — by trying to keep our phones away when it’s time to play.

Rockmommy: Tell us about the Los Angeles music scene. How would you say your live show compares with that of others?

A&P_Go for the Moon-cover(web)Andrew & Polly: LA has a rad kids music scene, and we’re honored to fill a little Westside niche of it. Two incredibly wonderful LA-based kids musicians are featured on “Go for the Moon” — our new music pal Mike Phirman and our longtime collaborator Mista Cookie Jar. Our shows range from intimate duo shows to large stage-rocking ensemble events, but we always make sure our concerts are interactive and tailored to the vibe of the space and the audience. We love taking a big stage with bass, drums and trombone, but more often than not we get to singalong right up close and personal with an acoustic set for curious young ears interested trying out Polly’s ukulele or Andrew’s glockenspiel.

Life in LA is a bit odd though — it’s a complicated and beautiful city, not just a place for fun celebrity-sightings. We even included a song about it on this record, “Circus by the Sea.”

Rockmommy: What is your favorite song on the new album and why?

Andrew & Polly: That’s like choosing your favorite child! No fair, we can’t do that! We’re super proud of this record and the “Go for it!” feelings each song elicits in a different way. But a couple songs worth mentioning… “Mom’s Name” a collaboration with Mike Phirman is about a real parenting milestone and based on a true story (like so many of our songs). Once you start toting your toddler all over town, you end up meeting a lot of great people — but you just don’t know their names. Instead it’s like this: “Oh, do you know what Ollie’s dad told me yesterday at the park?” And “When you see Frankie’s mom tomorrow, could you give her these pants back?” This song is a humorous deep-dive into that oof-ful truthful parenting rite of passage in which you find yourself asking, “But who is that lady? And who even am I?”

Another favorite on the record has to be “Chair School,” featuring Mista Cookie Jar. Actually, both of these songs were long-fought logical battles that required incredible teamwork to bring them into existence! Maybe that’s why they are faves. If you’ve ever seen a kid just… BAH! Fall out of a chair! You’ll understand this quirky tangent of a song about a fictitious place where everyone can learn to “Chair!”

Go to The Moon is available for download now. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.