HOMETOWN(S) Grew up outside Washington, DC and now I live in Conway, MA
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Two; Girl, age 10 and Boy, age 7
DAY JOB Hmm, depends on the day. Mom, Teacher of music to families, Performer and recording artist with The Nields
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married
FAVORITE CHILDREN”S BOOK Anything by Robert McCloskey, especially One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal. I love his drawings. It is amazing to me what he could do with one color of ink. I went to Maine as a child to visit a wonderful great aunt. The books always remind me of that time. Our family was always so happy there. Also Time for Bed by Mem Fox because it is like a lullaby, Harold’s Tail by John Bemelmans Marciano because it’s about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes and learning so much from that. Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash because the language is so delightful. The Secret Garden and Trumpet of the Swan are up there too. I acted in a version of The Secret Garden when I was 13 and it was also the first chapter book that I read to my daughter. She loved the Yorkshire. It felt like a book the needed to be read aloud. Like music.
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?
Both my husband and I have unconventional work hours. He is a part time teacher, a part time producer of music and a part time performer of music. I am a part time teacher, part time performer of music and occasional recorder of music. We used to be in a band together. Having children has meant that we rarely get to play on stage together. My husband does record all of our albums and he plays over a dozen different instruments on our latest record. Even though we have left behind our days of living in Motel 6 rooms and driving round and round the country playing shows, we still collaborate. Having unconventional work schedules means we have to communicate really well. This involves a giant paper wall calendar in our kitchen and lots of conversations that begin, “Can we talk about the schedule this week?” But every family has a juggling act to do. Ours involves music and driving.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
One of the ways that becoming a parent has changed me is that I am less ambitious or at least differently ambitious. I think when I was in my 20s, I was single minded in my life. Even my romantic life was part of my career— my husband and I were in the same band.
Having kids has made my career a less central part of my life. I know people who say, “After the baby was born, the dog was just a dog.” Well, after my kids were born, my career was just a job for a while. It took me some time to find what was really important to me about being a musician. Trying to get on the cover of Rolling Stone or win a Grammy seemed less important. So why show up for concerts? Why record new CDs? Why continue to make music? When I think about what the most fulfilling aspects of being a musician are, they are the stories I hear from people.
My favorites are about how our music has helped them emotionally. My favorites are about how families tell us that we are the only band that the kids and parents can all agree on. Music is such a powerful medium. It brings people together like nothing else. I began to realize that the language I had to communicate with the world was music. I started to volunteer in my children’s school— teaching music to the students and coordinating and leading all school sing-alongs once a month.
My sister and singing partner, Nerissa and I created a family music class that we call HooteNanny. Our greatest hope is that we are teaching families to use music as a way to deepen their connections with each other. So I think of our music differently since becoming a parent. I still love to play to a sold out room and to hear our songs on the radio, but what I really find gratifying is connecting with our audiences because we are singing authentically about our experiences and they can hear themselves in the songs. And I love to imagine that they are going home, picking up a guitar, and learning our songs in their living rooms.
MY WORST PARENTING MOMENT
My son was passionately in love with the Beatles. That led to an obsessive love and understanding of guitars. He knew about guitars the way most four year-olds know about dinosaurs. He could tell you which guitar George Harrison was playing on which song. He had a book called Beatles Gear that had photos and histories of every guitar the Beatles ever played. We made literally dozens of guitars made out of cardboard and color xeroxes blown up from images in that book. My husband and I thought we should broaden his horizons. So we showed him Pete Townshend and The Who at the Monterey Pop Festival. If you are a rock n roll buff, you might be familiar with Pete’s theatrics at that show. They included the smashing of his guitar. From then on, my son’s cardboard guitars were constantly being smashed on every surface of our house. It was one of those moments when you realize the meaning of the phrase, “You can’t un-ring a bell.”
MY BEST PARENTING MOMENT
I took my daughter to a concert. The main act forgot the tune and words to her greatest hit. She asked for help from the audience and the opening act walked up to the stage. The two singers ended up doing the song as duet —overcoming the mistake to make the most magical moments of the evening. I talked to my daughter after the show. I asked her if she liked it and what her favorite part was. Without missing a beat she said, “I loved everything, but my favorite part was when she forgot the words.” We got to talk about the beauty that lies in mistakes.
My daughter tends towards perfectionism. I can’t think of anything I could have done to teach her that lesson. We just had to happen upon it. I think parenting well means paying attention. On my good days, I remember to do that.