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. 

Solo Aspirations, 2018 (Part 1)

In 2017, I had a blast playing solo shows, duet shows, and even one full-band show (with Grandma’s Mini, in Washington, D.C.). I played in Stamford, Redding, and Bridgeport, CT; Brooklyn, N.Y., and the aforementioned D.C. While it would be amazing to play a monthly gig, it’s not realistic right now — but playing five gigs in a year is more than I’ve played in quite a long time.

So I don’t have anything in the books just yet — hoping for Acoustic Cafe (a grunge covers set with one of my favorite guitar lady friends) in February and Manhattan in March or April. Here’s to staying motivated to practice, regardless.

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Playing solo at Branded Saloon, one of my favorite little Brooklyn hipster dives

Lawyer Mom by Day, Rockstar By Night: New Day Dawn’s Frontwoman Makes it All Work

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

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.

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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!

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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.

Upcoming Shows: 

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.

Follow the band on Facebook & Twitter, or check out their YouTube channel.

—- Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy.