Bohemian Rhapsody: The Rockstar Movie That Caught Me By Surprise

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Bohemian Rhapsody — the biopic about Freddie Mercury, which celebrates Queen’s music — was not what I expected it to be. It was better. 

But I almost didn’t see it. With so much Oscar buzz around Lady Gaga and A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody was not at the top of my “must view” list. 

I love Queen’s songs: “We will Rock You,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and “We Are the Champions” are regulars on my iTunes playlists. But time is limited when you’re a parent of young children. Going to the movies typically means seeing a cartoon with a Disney princess, angry bird or Lego ninja. 

Also, I already knew the story of Freddie Mercury — or at least I thought I knew it. I’d heard the songs, and read articles from time to time about the lead singer of Queen who wrote epic rock n’ roll anthems and eventually died because of AIDS-related complications. But as it turned out, what I knew barely scratched the surface of who Mercury was, or his profound legacy. Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie, digs much deeper. 

Fortunately, life often has a way of giving me what I need. And last week, as I settled into my seat for a flight to Orlando, there it was, in the Delta movie queue. Ready to watch. 

I was hooked on the sweet, charismatic Mercury (Rami Malek) within the first few opening scenes, watching him slinging suitcases onto a truck at Heathrow and bicker with his dad before heading out to the local club to see an up-and-coming band. 

Malek did a tremendous job portraying Mercury in his transformation into the person he was “meant to be”: from the lonely, sweet, shy, conflicted 20 something,  into the dazzling performer with the multidimensional voice who wielded his microphone stand like a scepter. The portrayal was far from “boring” — Mercury’s favorite term for anything that didn’t push, or challenge, artistic boundaries. Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy, who played band members Brian May and Roger Taylor, respectively, also delivered spectacular performances, as did Lucy Boynton as Freddie’s love — and best friend — Mary Austin. It definitely helped that the real-life May and Taylor served as creative consultants for the movie. 

At 2+ hours, the movie is a longer one (I was cut off as my plane landed, so I ended up watching it again on the return flight). But it’s worth watching, start to finish, again and again. While Rhapsody has endured criticism for a few supposed historical inaccuracies, anyone who plays music in band should not miss this gem of a movie.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

On Taking Chances and Embarking on New Adventures Post-Kids

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

From the moment I set foot on my first airplane at age 4, I’ve always loved traveling — from exploring Disney World as a little girl to setting foot in Amsterdam, Rome, London, Paris, Belize and countless other places as an adult.img_3850

I’ve slept on floors of friends’ ramshackle houses, exhausted from playing back-to-back rock shows. I’ve enjoyed plush hotel beds in foreign cities and quaint countrysides with my family — especially my grandmother Mary, who would take me wherever she wanted to go, regardless of my age. One of my fondest memories is of the time she took me to a casino on Paradise Island (the Bahamas) and insisted that I was 18 (I was 12, maybe 13 at the time).

These days, I spend more time envying my friends’ travel pics on Instagram — especially my parent friends — than I do actually traveling. I’m not a touring musician by any stretch of the word, and taking kids anywhere is expensive. As a result, I’m grounded most of the time. I have a bucket list, of course — it includes Greece, Hawaii, Croatia, among other destinations — but it’s not something I’m actively checking off.

So when my husband surprised me on our anniversary with a trip to Jamaica, I was ecstatic — but a little less enthusiastic than I would have been 10 years ago. My adventure “muscle” is out of shape. Could I really bring myself to go to another country for a few days? Sure, we’d gone to Nashville for two nights in 2015, and a honeymoon in 2010 in Belize, but times have changed. We’re in the middle of a government shutdown and the current political climate is anxiety-inducing.

I need only look at photos from my youth to realize that I miss my old, whimsical self. The one who wasn’t afraid of plane flights or long security lines. The one who favored grit, not glamour. The one who could be wowed by a flock of dirty pigeons in Venice, Italy, or muscled Gods in Venice, California. This girl is still inside me, I just need to dig her out. Yeah, the one who tried Haggis in Scotland while her distressed parents looked on. I want that girl back! img_3851

I guess my message is this: Try not to let life and parenthood make you forget who you are. Sure, you’re older and wiser (and likely more considerate and careful), but you don’t need to forget how to be curious, and embrace the unknown. I write this to myself as much as anyone else, hoping the words will sink in if I push hard enough on the computer keys. Maybe they will.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Camp Crush’s Jennifer Deale Gets Real About Politics and Relationships with ‘Run’ EP

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Camp Crush, the Portland, Ore.-based wife-husband duo of Jennifer Deale (synths, keys, vocals) and Chris Spicer (drums, vocals), is known for embedding important social messages into sonically luscious New Wave pop.

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Camp Crush: Parents and partners Chris Spicer and Jennifer Deale.

Onstage and on screen, Camp Crush aims to stimulate conversation, as evidenced by band’s deeply moving May 2018 EP She’s Got It, or the single “Take Me Back.” 

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

In their downtime, they’re just regular parents, trying to give their two young children the best, most balanced life possible in a progressive-leaning town. But over the past two years, under the eye of a Conservative-leaning legislative and executive branch, new and unexpected challenges have arisen. Specifically, the political divisiveness has wielded significant impact on interpersonal relationships, and challenged the deepest of friendships.  

Camp Crush’s new EP Run, out Feb. 1, is the culmination of these challenges, a set of songs about the divisiveness that dealt huge personal blows. It’s an album about human connection, but also the tragedy of human disconnection. But Deale also wants it to be a record about hope. 

Rockmommy caught up with Deale to talk about parenting her son and daughter, making music with her partner (and coparent) Spicer, and navigating political differences in the quest for a peaceful world. 

Rockmommy: What’s the backstory for this record? How did it come about? 

Jennifer Deale: With this whole new societal landscape we’re all living in, all of a sudden everything is divisive, and every single issue is incredibly important to everyone you know. It’s true the stakes are very high for everyone involved. And one thing I didn’t expect when this happened was the fallout between my family, my friends, my neighbors. I think the world is experiencing this wariness of human connection, they’re afraid of being attacked, saying the wrong thing. As musicians, we’ve seen that people aren’t going out as much. Or if you know you’re on a different side than someone, there’s distancing that happens. But a huge part of being a musician is building community — with your fans, with venues … and from a musician standpoint, we’ve seen the impact of [this distancing]. It really led to us writing these songs. Human connection is the answer. If we can get face to face with people, we can see them as human. 

Rockmommy: Is your music community political? 

Jennifer Deale: Obviously Portland [Oregon] is a very progressive city, but even within that there are these sub-genres that divide. Maybe you’re progressive, but you’re not progressive enough. Or it’s Bernie bros verses Clinton voters. And then you start subdividing. And we’re just like, ‘hey, let’s find some humanity. Let’s do the good that inspires you.’ If we can focus less on some differences, the world would be so much better. 

Rockmommy: With so many divisive issues, how is that possible to come together? 

Jennifer Deale: If you listen to our music, you know we don’t back down from our stances. There are some base issues we care about — like our safety and about equal rights. But at Thanksgiving, do you not attend because you’ll be around family who feels different? I’m not about meeting in the middle, but I can show a decent amount of respect.

Rockmommy: So let’s talk about the album. 

Jennifer Deale: ‘Run,’ the first song we released, is featured with an animated music video that Chris made. That song is about that human connection. I say, ‘I want to run away’ … I don’t want to deal with the complications of society the way it is.’ But instead of running away, we should run to each other. Find community. ‘Vicious Life’ I wrote about losing friendships after this political divide happened.

Rockmommy: Why is this music important to your children, the next generation?

Jennifer Deale: It’s important to show we can still learn and grow. We want to show our kids that we’re not making blanket decisions. It’s important that we teach our kids to have an open mind.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

New Year’s Guitar Goals: 10 Minutes Per Day

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I do start off every January 1 with the intention to be a better person and a better parent and spouse. But I’m also feeling a little bummed that most nights, I’m too exhausted to practice music, and most days, I’m too busy parenting or working to make like Nita Strauss and bust out solos left and right.

And so goes the life of the busy parent!


I wouldn’t have it any other way — I love my kids and they are everything to me. But I needed to do something to motivate myself just a little more on the nights I don’t have band practice, because unless I have a show coming up, it’s sometimes hard to motivate myself to play.

A wise person once told me, “pick up your guitar every single day, even if it’s only for five minutes.” That got me thinking, “if I can pick up my guitar for five minutes, then why not 10 minutes?” Sure, it would be nice to play guitar for three hours per day (outside of teaching), but the way my life is right now, that’s impossible. But 10 minutes? I can handle that!

With my busy life, 10 minutes every single day is harder than I thought it would be. Still, I’m happy to say that on Day 7, I’ve managed to fit in 10 minutes every single day — even when it means I have to sneak off into another room and play quietly while my kids are watching Ninjago. Even when it means I’m going to bed super late because it takes 10 minutes to motivate myself not to skip a day.

And as a result, I feel much better about life. I’m doing something small every day to nurture my skills and bring music into my life.

So now, I’m going to throw this question to the readers: What can you do for 10 minutes every day that feeds your soul? Post in the comments below.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Randy Kaplan and 4-Year-Old Son Record Love Song to Wife/Mommy . . . About Candy, Protein, and Crime

By Randy Kaplan

My wife and kid have been slowly but surely muscling their way into my not-JUST-for-kids music racket. And it’s been great!

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Musician and dad Randy Kaplan 

Julie May has an incredible voice and has been writing and performing for decades. Since we joined forces, she’s been releasing her own songs — some on my records, some on her own. She’s also contributed lyrics and music to my songs — “Burpity Burp Burp Burp” and “Every Second Counts” were her ideas.

Julie sings “Goodnight, My Someone” from The Music Man on my record Jam on Rye and “Bye Bye Baby” (the song Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell sing in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and the Pete Townsend rarity “Sleeping Dog” on Trippin’ Round the Mitten.

When our son, Ryland, was going through a stage where he didn’t want to hold Julie’s hand in public, Julie wrote and recorded a parody version of the Loretta Lynn song “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man).” She changed the song title (and lyrics) to “You’re Still Baby Enough to Hold My Hand.” Good stuff!

But the family collaboration I want to tell you about here is a song I recorded with my son when he was four years old.

Ryland walked into my study one afternoon and announced that he wanted to record a song. “Okay,” I told him. “That sounds fun.”

I went back to grading papers. He stood there staring at me.

“Turn on the thing,” he said.

“You mean you want to record a song now?” I asked.

Indeed he did.

“Uh, do you have something prepared?” I asked him as I lowered the microphone and opened GarageBand on my laptop.

“Yes! It’s called ‘Mommy Love Song.’”

Wow. He had a title and everything.

“Do you want some accompaniment?”

“If you want to.”

“Anything in particular you have in mind?”

“Just do it,” he commanded.

I finished setting up and hit record.

“Can I sing now?” Ry asked.

Since the title indicated that this was a love song about Ry’s mommy and my wife, I gently strummed a Major 7 chord.

As my son launched into his e. e. cummingsish ditty, I made sure to stay in the background. I changed chords now and then and tried to hum some harmonies.

As the song went on, I thought, “The title is a bit misleading.” There was, after all, no mention of love or Mommy. The thing seemed to be about candy, protein, and robbing banks.

When he launched into a punk rock chorus of “I, I, I, I, I, I, Ah,” I interrupted him.

“I thought this was ‘Mommy Love Song,’” I laughed.

Maybe I shouldn’t have cut him off. Who knows where the song would have gone. As it stands, it’s the one-minute-and-thirty-six-second track that ends Trippin’ Round the Mitten. You can hear it by clicking HERE. And here are Ry’s lyrics:

 “Mommy Love Song” by Ryland Kaplan

I can never be when anyone decides
The candy in the world is protein for you
When anyone today could be the nice to way
And I can never do in the middle of the way!

I can never be in the way to other beach
Oh yeah, oh yeah I can never be, today is the way
Every day is the way that no one can be
The candy in the world is protein for you

O yeah!
I can’t do anything in the middle of the night!
‘Cause bad guys be careful cause anyone decides
No one in the world does anything
Robbing a back is anyone to sing

I, I, I, I, I, I, Ah!

Randy Kaplan is a musician, storyteller, teacher, and father.

Inside the ‘Kindie Rock’ Life of Rockmommies Jennie and Sarah of The Not-Its!

by Jennie Helman & Sarah Shannon

“Just one more bedtime story, then I’ve got to get to practice.” Good night family, hello “band family.”Cover for digital

That’s what we tell our kids on the one night a week we hang out for the purpose of working on old and new tunes and connecting with one another. We represent the girl power of The Not-Its! We’re tutu-wearing, 40-something rocker moms. We play what’s known as ‘kindie rock’ — if you’re not familiar, that’s independent rock for kids and their grown-ups.

And our bond in this band is so strong; we are lucky.

We’re raising pre-teen girls (Sarah with two and Jennie with three), maintain day jobs, and have our own start-up businesses on the side – Lugabag(Jennie), a travel seat for toddlers that attaches to a rolling suitcase, and Rockaboo (Sarah), a preschool music, movement and mindfulness program.

As we juggle year-round show schedules, travel, writing songs, recording albums, practicing, The Not-Its! is what we like to call our “jobby”— somewhere between a job and a hobby. It’s a job because we work really hard. It’s a hobby because it doesn’t pay the bills, but it brings us great joy.

We get to create music with dear friends, see new places, connect with incredible kids and families, and contribute to communities in a positive, soulful way. We’re often asked how the heck we have the energy to do what we do. And the thing that makes most sense is that we believe in and do what we love, and that keeps us young at heart.

Our bandmates are also parents: Danny, Michael and Tom also manage day jobs along with their “jobby” with the band. Our Not-Its! kids are a lucky bunch — they always get free snacks in the green room, stage access, studio play, and cool trips (we all went to India a few years back).

But as moms we’ve struggled. There are the daily worries of being spread too thin, vacations cut short, missed soccer games, the perennial “to do” lists stacking up. We know every mom can relate. Yet over the years we’ve been able to let it go, recognizing that we only get one shot at life — we have to do what we love knowing everyone around us will benefit. Our girls see us challenged, making mistakes, determined to get it right, working hard. We know they’re watching and learning.

It’s easier now than when the girls were toddlers and it was a constant balance of parenting while playing. Either the girls were rocking out or tugging at our tutus (“Can’t ya see I’m singing here, kid?”). There are too many sweet moments to count. Sarah had a song where she’d call her oldest to the stage, pull her in her lap and sing about a story they made up together. Sometimes the kids would cry the entire show because they should have been napping, or make their way on stage for more crackers. After one show we found Jennie’s daughter literally asleep in her open bass case backstage.

And as the girls have entered middle school, being engaged looks just a bit different. Being older and more independent, they share ideas that we eagerly mine as gems for content. Now and again they slide us a new lyric, brainstorm song content, grab the mic during sound check, act silly (but cool) with their friends at a show.

Our songs have to connect with both kids and parents – no matter what age. As an example, “Curriculum Night” (off our latest album, Ready or Not), evokes that feeling of parental excitement (tinged with a bit of anxiety) in meeting your kid’s teacher. The lyric about “grown-ups squeezing into tiny chairs,” is a memory we can all relate to… every year from Kindergarten on. Kids laugh, parents get it. Item number one in our band’s manifesto (even though we don’t really have one) is to make music that we want to hear with lyrics that are not dumbed down — and our kids are a good “first test” audience.

We see a toddler boldly walk on stage as if they were a part of the band, or a family dancing together. We hear from fans that they played one of our records over and over on a road trip and it didn’t drive them crazy (or secretly share that they play our tunes even when their kids are not around). Stories like these give us a great sense of lift and gratification. Rocking out family-style at a live event or to a favorite record builds stronger connections and inspires what we do. There’s nothing better than experiencing music together, no matter whose family it is.

Our worlds are not perfect, but they sure are rewarding — and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jennie Helman (bassist) and Sarah Shannon (lead singer and former member of the Sub Pop group Velocity Girl) live and work in Seattle. The latest album by The Not-Its!, Ready Or Not,was chosen as one of the top albums of 2018 by the annual Fids & Kamily poll. Catch the latest news about The Not Its! and their upcoming concert dates at www.wearethenot-its.com and view their new video “Hide and Seek” on their video page.

Folk-Rock Mama Edie Brickell’s Big Comeback is Blissfully Nostalgic

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians in the late-late ’80s, when Casey Kaseem played a video clip of “What I Am” — highlighting the ditty as one of the week’s hot movers on the Billboard 100 chart. I was young, and loved pop music like Debbie Gibson — but also loved Guns N’ Roses — and Edie Brickell was unlike anything I’d ever heard (my parents played the Beatles, The Zombies and Elvis, but never any Jimi Hendrix, Eagles, Grateful Dead or Woodstock-worthy rock).

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Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians in Portchester, N.Y., on 11/08/18

I was instantly hooked on the dizzy, slide-guitar tune from the six-piece band that I wanted to use my allowance on the band’s debut record, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars. I’ve never looked back. The hours I spent listing to “The Wheel,” “Nothing,” “Little Miss S,” “She,” “Circle,” and — of course — “What I am” were well spent.

But I’d never seen Ms. Brickell (who some refer to as Ms. Simon, per her famous husband).

Turns out, she was busy being a mama (of three kids, no less), and dabbling in musical side projects all of these years. So when I found out her band was coming to my area, I went nuts!

Thursday night’s performance at the Capitol Theater in Portchester, N.Y., was epic. Yes, Edie’s voice has changed (the timbre is a little different), but she sounds terrific. And the New Bohemians, with their drums-percussion-keys assault, play in perfect harmony. I loved every second of it, from the classics to the new tunes off the just-released album Rocket like “Eyes in the Window.”

I’m hoping for more great shows like that in the future!

Marisa Torrieri is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.