The Bright Siders’ Dr. Kari Groff Emerges from a Dark Year with Upbeat, Purposeful New Tunes

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When the coronavirus hit New York City back in March, Brooklynite Dr. Kari Groff, a psychiatrist, mom and musician, faced the same fear and uncertainty as her neighbors. But instead of shuttering inside with he stringed instrument, she opened the door – channeling energy into playing for her neighbors, right on the stoop of her Park Slope home. 

The Bright Siders (photo credit: Jefry Andres Wright)

Picking up the fiddle earned Groff little fame (see the New York Daily News writeup here) and gave her a much-needed energy boost. 

“As a musician, to not perform and play together was also giant loss that has needed to be accepted and processed,” says Groff, who spent much of the last year nurturing a new-ish musical project — The Bright Siders, her duo with songwriter Kristin Andreassen. Their album A Mind of Your Own (Smithsonian Folkways) is out today. 

We recently caught up with Groff to learn more about the new record, pandemic parenting, and how she hopes to help others.   

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

Dr. Kari Groff: Because The Bright Siders collaborated with so many different musicians from so many diverse backgrounds, I would say that our album A Mind of Your Own has infusions of pop, jazz, rock, folk, Latin, and even one punk rock piece called “Bully This!”

I definitely would describe the sound as “fun and upbeat” but purposeful and thoughtful.

Rockmommy: What were the biggest challenges you encountered in the last 12 months? If you’re a parent, please speak to those challenges too!

As a person, it was difficult to be separated from so many of my friends and family.  As a parent, it was difficult to see my child go from being an active and independent elementary school student to an isolated, online learner. 

As a musician, to not perform and play together was also giant loss that has needed to be accepted and processed.  Professionally, I had to develop new skills as a physician to address a large-scale trauma that was happening to many people because of Covid-19.  Everyone has been affected but in very individual ways. 

But if I had to point to the greatest challenge of all, it was that we were not able to gather together in a time of great sadness and to not be able to lean on the things that bring me joy (parties, live music, making music together, etc).

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

Dr. Kari Groff: As the mother of a biracial child (Haitian and European background), the Black Lives Matter movement made me think even deeper than ever before about it meant to be a White mother to a Black child and what the Black American experience is. My daughter (age 10) wrote some amazing new songs at home and we were able to collaborate on this.  Being with her so much at home inspired me as a songwriter.  She is extremely creative and has a natural sense for what makes a good pop song.  She pushed me to elevate my skills and to expand my creative process. She would question my lyrical and musical choices thoughtfully. 

My daughter also has younger twin sisters with her dad and his wife. I have her twin sisters over to our home frequently to play and make music. All three are so musically talented, and I absolutely delight in their song creations and amazing voices and energy. My experiences with them really made me think about how The Bright Siders could do even more to be more inclusive and representative. I could see them carrying the torch of this project forward with me, along with Kristin and Smithsonian Folkways, because of their amazing energy, musical skill, and unique experiences and voices as Black Americans.  

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Dr. Kari Groff: I am grateful that there is a vaccine that is being delivered. I’m excited for a new and diverse political administration, especially our first woman VP!!!  I am excited to travel and perform again! I am hopeful that the pandemic will make us think about how we can live more compassionately towards each other and with greater environmental awareness.

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

Dr. Kari Groff: The Bright Siders is releasing our debut album A Mind of Your Own today (Smithsonian Folkways). The album is an incredible collection of songs and skits, in spirit of Free to Be, You and Me. It’s all about emotions and growing up. The music is very family friendly, educational, and uplifting. We are also releasing a video-book called “Victor and the Great Pause”- a thoughtful and deeply compassionate story about a dog that experiences NYC during the early days of the pandemic. 

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

Dr. Kari Groff: My best advice is to get up early before your kids. My own creative, music-teacher mom taught me this. Make time for your creative process. For me, it is the early hours of the morning when it is quiet and before I have started to tackle my physician work for the day. My mind is clear, and I can write lyrics and melodies with greater fluidity and less sort of background noise (literally and figuratively!). I also recommend taking a couple days off here and there just for your own creative process if possible. My co-creator on The Bright Siders project, Kristin Andreassen, hosts an amazing songwriting camp called Miles of Music. This would be the perfect opportunity to have a creative experience in a beautiful setting!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy. 

Six Rock Memoirs I Can’t Wait to Read This Winter

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

We don’t know what the future holds, but one thing’s clear: We’re not leaving the house much this winter.  

Personally, I’ll be digging into a lot of books. And it just so happens there are some killer rock n’ roll memoirs out there — like, hundreds of them. I don’t have time to read all of them, but are six highly rated, salacious ones I’m hoping to tackle this winter. 

Just a few of the rock n’ roll ladies I plan to read about in 2021. Lisa Robinson’s ‘Nobody Ever Asked Me About The Girls’ isn’t a memoir, but it is full of some great cultural insights and anecdotes by a highly renowned journalist.

Debbie Harry: ‘Face It’ (2019): I’ve never met Debbie Harry, but I feel like we’re cosmically connected, and not just because we’re blondes in bands drawn to New York’s East Village art-punk music scene. Nevertheless, I have a confession: After attending her book talk at NYC’s Town Hall in September 2019, I got super busy with life, and didn’t get to crack it open. This winter, I can’t wait to read some of the salacious tales of Debbie’s adventures with bandmate and bestie Chris Stein and others. 

Patti Smith: Just Kids (2020): Patti Smith inspired so many of my favorite artists, like Shirley Manson of Garbage. But only recently did I stream her 1975 debut album Horses for the first time. And girl, have I been missing out! This memoir, based on Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, is as real as it gets (fun fact: Mapplethorpe created the androgynous image of her in white shirt, black pants and black jacket for the Horses album cover).

Lenny Kravitz: Let Love Rule (2020): Lenny Kravitz was one coolest, most talented and eclectic musicians of the late 1990s and early 2000s — and in this memoir, he dives deep, taking the reader on his journey through the industry, marriage and fatherhood, and more.

Tegan and Sara: ‘High School’ (2019): I’m super excited to read this book about musician twins Tegan and Sara Quin because we’re about the same age, and it’s loaded with ’90s grunge references. Rolling Stone published an excerpt when the book was released — and it takes me right back to my teen angst years, and the moment I first discovered the guitar.  

Patty Schmel: Hits So Hard (2017): Everyone who knows me knows that Hole is my favorite band, and has been since 1994, when the band released ‘Live Through This.’ Hole’s incredibly talented drummer Patty Schmel has been through hell and back, like many in the heroin-infused ’90s Seattle grunge scene. Today she’s a wife and #rockmommy so when I got this book as a present from a writer friend, I knew it was meant for my nightstand.

Bobbie Brown: Dirty Rocker Boys (2013): She’s Warrant’s cherry pie, a sexy video muse that put the pop-metal band on the map. In this memoir, widow of Jani Layne (and the baby mama of his daughter Taylar), spills the secrets of being a rockstar wife. I’ve wanted to read this one for ages!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Stacey Peasley’s High-Energy Record Embraces Optimism and 2020’s Silver Linings

This month, Rockmommy talks to artists about their plans or the coming year. Up first: family pop-rock musician Stacey Peasley, whose upcoming record Make it Happen! drops February 12. If the buoyant title track is any indication, Peasley’s latest album will be the dose of joy we all need in an otherwise uncertain, chilly winter. 

Stacey Peasley (Credit: Katie Ring Photography)

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

Stacey Peasley: As a mom and business owner, I found that 2020 had its challenges. I have two teenagers and a second grader and we had a busy suburban life — soccer games, gymnastics meets, music lessons. Our activities came to a halt, and each child had to adjust to online learning. I am most concerned about my second grader, who was learning crucial reading, writing, and math skills. The lack of normal child and adolescent peer interaction was also a big challenge. Now they attend a hybrid model and are in person and remote every other week. Activities have started up again slowly. 

Pre-Covid, I was working as a performer and music specialist in schools, libraries, and classes five days a week. I was also in the middle of recording my latest album. Suddenly, all of my work was  gone or had to transition immediately to virtual, and I had the bare minimum to work with — basically my iPhone and a laptop! I had to learn to record the vocal tracks on my album’s final two songs at home on my own. I wasn’t able to perform with my band, and that was really surreal.  It was also challenging knowing my income was going to be severely impacted.

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

Stacey Peasley: As a creative artist, educator, and business owner, my mind is always going — songs to write, lessons to plan, curriculum to learn, gigs to promote, music and classes to market and honestly, I love all of it! I started to try to take advantage of this new “down time” and focus more on writing. I wrote a song that will appear on my new album called “At the Parade” during Covid, after the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston got cancelled. This song would not exist had it not been for Covid. I also started to focus on my next project, which is a ballet concept album for children, and I’m continuing to write that. I also had to get creative with my virtual offerings and have now embraced having fun being creative with my very own green screen and backgrounds! Still trying to learn a few new things!

Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021? 

Stacey Peasley: I am most hopeful musically, that we can all be together again, communally enjoying music. I am so blessed to usually be surrounded by kids and families, singing, dancing, and having fun with friends. I am usually having toddlers and preschoolers giving me lots and lots of hugs. I am most comfortable teaching and performing, and I really miss it. I love the feeling I have making music with other musicians, as well. I have been in bands since I was 18 years old, that’s over… gulp …25 years! My first gig was in 1992! I am also hopeful that our children and nation can heal from this catastrophic pandemic mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

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

Stacey Peasley: I would LOVE to share my new album called Make it Happen! that drops on Feb 12, 2021. It has 10 original songs that I really, really love. I worked on it with musicians and producers in Boston and New York, and I am really excited about it. I also think it shows my growth as a songwriter. 

Stacy Peasley (Photo Credit: Mandy MacCormack)

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

Stacey Peasley: One thing I realized these past few years is that when I wasn’t able to be creative due to the hecticness of life and as a mom, I got really angry and almost depressed. I had all these ideas festering inside of me that weren’t permitted to come out because I had no time to devote to them. As a parent of young children, there isn’t a lot of “me” time! I would suggest small steps to keep those ideas alive, whether it’s writing and singing a song into your phone to capture the idea, knowing you WILL get back to it, asking for help, and even having your kids get involved in the creative process with you. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short. I honestly cannot believe my first baby will be 16 this year! 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

A Year of Rock n’ Roll Silver Linings

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

It’s been quite a year — and definitely not the one anyone expected 365 days ago. There’s no way to sugarcoat how terrible it’s been, between the pandemic, racial tensions and political strife.

I count myself as lucky, but still experienced a lot of pain and sadness. I haven’t been to Maryland, my home state, since March, and haven’t seen my family in months. My poor kids have had to endure nearly a year of part-time or full-time “home school” — and while their dad has a master’s in education and I’m a guitar teacher, helping them learn was harder than we expected!

But there are so many silver linings to the 2020, and I need to take a moment to share a few of them right now:

  1. Both of my kids learned how to ride their bikes. Bye, bye, training wheels!
  2. I spent 1 out of every 2 days at the beach between May and October.
  3. I set out a resolution to play 12 shows in 2020 and I DID IT!! My band Trashing Violet knocked out four in January and February, and between 3 livestream solo gigs on Facebook, and one neighborhood driveway gig on 6/21 (Make Music Day), I also played a party with my band, and a fun Halloween gig on our drummer’s driveway for his neighbors. Oh yeah, I played First Friday Norwalk (solo) with my friends Castle Black, and The Cellar with my husband and friends (with my kids watching).
  4. Orchestrated a GRGR (Girls Rock Girls Rule) reunion show in Brooklyn with my crew — Michele, Rew & Gail — in February before the apocalypse came.
  5. Interviewed at least 30 artists/musicians/rockmommies
  6. ran a camp for my kids all summer
  7. experienced more things outdoors in cold weather than I ever thought possible, with and without heat lamps (who thought we’d own one?!). I’ll never forget that night in December when my band practiced in our drummer’s backyard in 15-degree weather.
  8. Grew Rockmommy’s followers and published a ton more content.
  9. Learned the basics of DIY home recording, and purchased my first-ever PA, bass, and professional microphone/console set.
  10. Spent so much time with my spouse and kids. I love them so much and am so grateful they have my back.

So here’s to looking forward, and taking on the future with gratitude. I’m hoping for the best for humanity and everyone I love. Thank you for reading this blog, and for being a valuable part of the #Rockmommy community. XOXOX and Happy New Year!

— Marisa

7 Reasons I’m Pumped About Miley Cyrus’ New Record ‘Plastic Hearts’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I love Miley Cyrus’ music so much that I cover two of her songs on the regular — “Malibu” and “Wrecking Ball.” The first one speaks to me for so many reasons; it mirrors a short period in my life when I felt exhausted and apologetic for taking the little things for granted. The second one is tear-jerkingly beautiful and powerful — and one of the greatest songs ever written. 

Miley Cyrus ‘Plastic Hearts’ is out now

I just started listening to Miley Cyrus’ new record Plastic Heart today, and it’s brilliant. Here’s why I’m so excited about it.

1. Things are dark AF right now. 

We need a fierce, balls-out babe rocking our world right now. Miley made the record that will fix your broken December, with its face mask mandates and axed holiday visits. It will fix your head, as you drive down the highway, nostalgic for warm rehearsal spaces and gigs at dive bars. Thank you, Miley, for saving me from the depths of 2020 misery. 

2. Joan Jett and Billy Idol Make an appearance. 

Not gonna lie, the first track I streamed was “Bad Karma,” featuring orgasmically rich uh-huh huhs that would make Julia Michaels shiver. Joan Jett’s never sounded hotter, and neither has Billy Idol on “Night Crawling,” which is sultry and a touch goth. Yes, I’m swooning from my chair, over here in the suburbs of Fairfield, Connecticut. 

3. Her voice keeps getting better. 

Like fine, red wine, Miley’s vocals have aged beautifully, and on Plastic Hearts, we can appreciate their weathered, lived-in smokiness. Pitchfork’s Shaad D’Souza puts it perfectly in noting, “her sandpapery alto has never sounded more natural.” 

4. She keeps proving the haters wrong.

After the 2013 MTV Awards twerking incident, Miley Cyrus underwent a serious identity crisis — stuck for years between the innocent Hannah Montana persona and full-blown womanhood. But no matter how many people called her stupid or over-sexualized, or blamed her for setting a bad example, Miley held her head high and moved forward. She continued to live her life authentically, write music, sing, show up for her family, make time for charitable events and — eventually — attempt to get sober. Who among us hasn’t struggled with identity crisis or regret? I’m sure there are stupid dudes who will look at the headline for this blog, roll their eyes, and mutter something under their breath about how dumb it is for a grown-a*s woman to rhapsodize her love of the former Hannah Montana star. They can all suck it. 

5. That “Zombie” cover is so on point. 

I could write a sentence or two about how many dude-infused rock bands have tried to cover this ’90s classic from The Cranberries. But instead, I’d like you to use your time to listen to it here, in its raw, guttural beauty. Spoiler alert: It’s MUCH better than any other “Zombie” cover you’ve heard. 

[RELATED: My Teenage Nostalgia: Singing Along to Dolores O’Riordan in the Car]

6. She is not defined by genre. 

Like the best of artists, Miley doesn’t let herself fall into one category, like country or pop. While Plastic Hearts is a rock record, there’s a country-esque tune (“Angels Like You”), which bring out her Nashville drawl, and a fun, nightclub-vibe track with the girl-of-the-moment Dua Lipa (“Prisoner”). It’s so, so good, and suddenly I find myself wanting to drive a delivery truck.

7. She wears her heart on her sleeve. 

Miley’s struggled with losses in love, addiction, and trauma from the recent California wildfires, which burned down the Malibu home that inspired her love song to ex hubby Liam Hemsworth. Staying sober is no picnic, especially in Covid times, and Miley’s had a few slips. But she’s real. And real is exactly what we all need right now. Happy listening, mamas. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy

K. Britz on Jamming, Being ‘Kind,’ and Raising Girls

Q&A by Rew Starr

While we can’t always control the crazy, we can control how we treat other people. This month, Rockmommy connected with folksy-punk, indie-rock artist K. Britz to talk about her new single ‘Kind,’ motherhood, and having compassion for others as we navigate the day-to-day experience of pandemic life.

Musician K. Britz. Photo Credit: Mass Crush

Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?

K. Britz: It’s going alright. I used to hate when people answered that question with “Can’t complain” and yet, “Can’t complain” is probably the best answer today. Or I could be a jackass and say, “Actually kind of great.” Who says that now? There’s been many periods of my life that were a whole lot worse, and I was a lot lonelier because everybody else seemed to be having a better time. Now everyone has a certain level of compassion for each other in day-to-day interactions. If you can’t get it together people understand. For someone like me, who is naturally always a day late and a dollar short, this is the best of times. 

I’ve been working on a couple creative projects and doing a lot of waiting around. 

Rew Starr: You’re a mom. How’s school going? 

K. Britz: I have 3 daughters. My youngest is 10 and she is in school. For now she is on a hybrid and goes every other day. 

Rew Starr: So tell readers a little bit about your music. How many bands have you been in? Is it more than boys you have been with or less?

K. Britz: I’ve been in about 5 or 6 and they were all boys except when we were in the Dirty Mothers. The non-classical music world is still pretty heavy on male participation. I used to think it was because women weren’t welcome, and that may have been true in the past, but at this point in time I think it’s more benign than that. A lot of being a musician is waiting around and hanging out, and I think women are inclined to find something else to do in the meantime. 

Rew Starr: We met in ‘the Dirty Mothers’, and that was so much fun, we had incredible opportunities in a short time, would you consider a revival one day?

K. Britz: Sure I would!

Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?

K. Britz: I put a single out during quarantine, a duet with Jamaican singer Mystic Bowie (of the Tom Tom Club). It’s called “Kind” and it’s started to get some radio play so we’ll see.

Rew Starr: I know you are very popular in the yoga and spiritual community. How does this influence your music?

K. Britz: Well, with yoga I learned that its easy to get people to chant with you if you make the melodies easy and even grown-ups like sing alongs. I stopped trying so hard as a singer. It’s easier to get people to sing a long with you if you make it accessible, and really, that’s the best. When the audience is singing too.

Rew Starr: What about playing out? Have there been opportunities?

K. Britz: Not really. I sang a song outdoors at a friend’s memorial this fall, but that’s it. 

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

K. Britz: I had my own sourdough starter before it was cool. 

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

K. Britz: Writing songs about my girls. 

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

“Kind” on Soundcloud

Rockmommy’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Rocker Moms

Our annual Rockmommy gift guide is for the mom who sees strumming the guitar as “self care” or wants to channel her inner Janis in 2021 — or at least through an emotionally turbulent winter. Here’s our list of top picks on Black Friday.  

Ibanez Nita Strauss JIVAJR Signature Electric Guitar, $799: Alice Cooper’s leading guitar lady’s new JIVA is blonde and blue, and perfect for players who like a lightweight instrument to wield onstage. The JIVAJR has many of the appointments of the original JIVA10, including the Ibanez S body shape, H-S-H pickup configuration, double-locking Edge Zero-II tremolo, and of course, the ‘Beaten Path’ fretboard inlay. 

JivaJR guitar

Music playing cards; $10:For a fun game of solitaire or spoons, this one-of-a-kind card deck, available through Uncommon Goods, is sure to delight the pop/rock/country/blues lover in your life. 

Oasis Soul Scent Marley Treat Box; $62: We love Oasis Soul’s coconut-soy wax candles, which are inspired by mama Lola Pyne’s love of music. Bring a little sunshine into a dreary winter with her Marley collection — full of goodies infused with a warm earthy blend of Caribbean teakwood and clove. For Black Friday, everything is 20% off, so snatch yours quickly.

Nobody Ever Asked Me about the Girls: Women, Music and Fame; $24.14: Book by acclaimed journalist Lisa Robinson dives into the obstacles and triumphs of women in the music industry. As one reviewer puts it, “This book doesn’t simply rehash old interviews, it explores and comments on the distinct obstacles and issues women in the industry faced in addition to the ones both men and women had to overcome.”

Strung guitar string bracelet; $25 and up: Moms who loved charm bracelets as kids will adore these charmed bangles. Each one is inspired by a song (like “Hurts So Good,” “Yesterday,” “Paradise City”) and they look great together. Rockmommy readers: Use code DUSTIN20 at checkout for 20% off. 

Ridged Glass Guitar Picks; $20: Inspired by the beauty of molten lava, these handmade guitar — which are highly rated — picks fuse glasswork and music.

Spiritual Gangster Rip Amor Crop Top; $88. Our favorite yoga brand’s Grateful Dead x Spiritual Gangster collaboration is loaded with ‘60s vibes and perfect for indoor winter workouts. And unlike mom’s first rock band T-shirt, this fun tie-dye tank top is flattering — not super loose and boxy.

Songwriter’s Journal; $14.73. For the digital maven who misses the days of pre-baby journaling.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy