by Marisa Torrieri
Singer-songwriter Tracy Bonham gained international fame for her iconic ’90s rock song “Mother Mother” — the post-grunge-era anthem for so many young adults getting their first taste of the real world. Fast forward to 2021, and Bonham’s now a mother herself (of a 10-year-old son), navigating the daily struggle of work-life balance and channeling her expansive musical talent into new projects.
This month, the singer-slash-guitarist-slash-violin player debuts her very first children’s album, with Melodeon Music House: Young Maestros Vol. 1, an energetic 11-song record for kids of all ages. It’s available now on all media platforms (iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc.), and CD.
Bonham fans — including older millennials and Gen X’ers of all ages who fell for her soaring vocals and angst-ridden rock in the pre-aughts — will be delighted to share this set of super-fun, danceable songs that highlight musical concepts the whole family can appreciate. The first single, “Me Symphony,” is my favorite so far, with its fun animation, big band vibe, and rhymes that linger in the listener’s mind, hours later: “I lost my tuba in Aruba/I lost my piano in Indiana.”
My kids love the joyful, silly ‘Let’s Take The Subway,’ which might be the only song I’ve heard that cheerfully name-drops the NYC C Train, B Train, and the elusive G train (which I’ve still never managed to catch).
We recently caught up with Bonham to find out what’s next:
Rockmommy: Hi Tracy! How did ‘Young Maestros’ record come about?
Tracy Bonham: Everyone was forced to stop during the pandemic. I don’t like being told what to do so I was pretty mad at the world. I would say F**k COVID to myself… often. During this time my bassist and collaborator, Rene, and I were figuring out how to create a business plan for my music education music curriculum and remote classes. I had been teaching my original curriculum at the Brooklyn Preschool of Science for a number of years, and little did I know it would become a laboratory for this new endeavor!
In October, I had an incredibly uplifting conversation with my manager, Patrice Fehlen, where we decided that we would jump head-first into releasing an album of my music education songs.These songs had been laying around for years and thankfully they had already been recorded and mixed a few years prior with my dear friend and founder of Gowanus Music Club, Josh Margolis. Josh is a musician, a teacher, a business owner and another music enthusiast / music theory nerd. We recorded and mixed these songs over the course of six years knowing that someday it would become something really cool. However, my career as a singer-songwriter, and being a parent, would always kick the project to the back burner. Once Patrice and I put it out into the universe, that early October day, the whole thing started to take shape. Rene became my business partner and we started creating Melodeon Music House with the first album release, and accompanying music education program, called Young Maestros Vol. 1, slated for release on April 16, 2021.
Rockmommy: The video for ‘Me Symphony’ is so fun, and all the songs on this record are so great! Did you ever think you’d make a children’s album/family record in your pre-parenting days? Is it wild to think about that?
Tracy Bonham: It is totally wild to think about. I have never been one to follow trends and I probably would balk if someone told me (pre-parenting) that I would follow the ranks of artists who make children’s albums after they become parents. When I started writing these songs, they were meant to be teaching tools.
Rockmommy: So my rock band Trashing Violet covers “Mother Mother.” It’s one of my favorites. Is it a blessing or a burden to have one iconic song because you have so much other great music?
Tracy Bonham: I would rather have one iconic song than no iconic song! Thank you for saying that about my other songs, but if they didn’t have ‘Mother Mother’ as the beacon, they might not have reached so many people. That song was iconic because it touched a universal nerve. Pretty much everyone can relate to it in some way. I don’t think I nailed that kind of transparency and universality with any of my other songs.
Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?
Tracy Bonham: I am really hopeful the vaccine will give people their lives back. I hope the people of the world can heal and rise out of this pandemic in a more thoughtful and mindful way. I especially hope that in 2021, the United States and all of its inhabitants, from whatever political affiliation, can heal in a psychic way. The patriarchal system is being challenged and I am so excited to experience the age of femininity taking shape.
Rockmommy: What is your advice on balancing parenting and creative life?
Tracy Bonham: My advice to any creatives out there who are new to parenting — do not freak out thinking you will get writers block or lose your creativity. First of all, you have just done the most creative thing there is to do in the history of creation! You have created a family.
For both men and women, your creativity is on fire! It is what you do with it from this day forward that matters. Whether it is creating a loving environment and an inspiring relationship for the child to thrive in, or whether it is taking care of your individual muse by creating loving boundaries for your art to cultivate on it’s own, these things you CAN do and will do if you believe you can. Of course, it is incredibly hard to find the time and energy when you are a parent of a young child. But what I found was that creativity FOUND me as long as I stayed open to it.
I would be changing a diaper, singing to my son, and a new melody would come out of my mouth. Of course, I would be singing the word “diaper, diaper baby, diaper, diaper baby” but I was creating a future melody for a future song. I always kept my iPhone nearby so that I could hit record on the voice memo app and save the fleeting but inspired moment for when I had a half hour to myself (yes, that is possible) to go back and listen and create something out of it. I guess what I am saying is, please don’t think creativity goes out the window just because you have a new focus. Remain open to possibility. It may come in different forms. But creativity will always be available for you if you are available for it.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.