Moms (who) rock
by: Katei Cranford
In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I spoke to a few Triad moms who pull the double-duty of being both performer and parent to explore the mesh between musicianship and motherhood.
Rock ‘n’ roll momma, Suzanne Stafford (who started singing in the choir before fronting bands through her 20s,) is a solo-act with two school-aged kids in-tow. Experimental-darkwave artist Elizabeth Iori performs as The Gasping while raising a teenager and a toddler. And collaborative electronic solo-artist, Anna Luisa Daigneault (aka Quilla,) is a new mom to an 11-month-old baby girl.
“I have yet to finish writing a song,” Daigneault joked. “I took about six months away from music after she was born, but it felt really weird to not be doing stuff,” she said of the transition into the “new natural” of post-partum performing. “I’d sing to my daughter a lot; and when I eventually started playing music again, it became therapeutic fun see what kind of songs came out under the restraints of trying to not wake a baby.”
“She’s also inspired me to write my most serious works to date, namely ‘Watch Me Eat My Nom-nomz’ and ‘1-2-3 Hay un caca,’ a song in Spanish all about diaper-time.”
“I’ve written so many off-the-cuff songs while communicating with the girls,” Stafford said of her songstress parenting technique. “Granted I usually only sing instructions to them when I’m either in a very good mood or I’m about to lose my patience, and it’s a coping mechanism. Motherhood’s made me quite the accomplished freestylist,” she laughs.
“I’m surprised to be more motivated than ever to create,” Daigneault said of her recent songwriting. “I thought having a child might stop me from making music forever. I was wrong,” she added with reflection. “But with so many new responsibilities towards caring for a new human, it can be hard getting out there and performing, and I don’t take it for granted at all.”
The hardships of balancing time and energy (or a lack thereof) weave through each moms’ perspective. “I end up doing most of my songwriting late at night when everyone is asleep. I don’t think it has changed the tone of my music,” Iori said of the writing process. “But I don’t think it would be nearly as political as it is if it wasn’t for my kids.”
Outside of songwriting, finding the balance between personhood, parenthood, and performerdom is essential.
“It’s important for mothers to not forget what makes them feel like delightful human beings, outside of the daily grind of diapers, toothless grins and splatters of applesauce,” Daigneault insists. “I don’t perform as often as I used to, but I do know that performing makes me feel happy, strong and in the moment, and therefore it makes me a better mother.”
“I don’t go as much as I should,” Stafford concedes. “But I like taking the kids to the shows at OPOTW or Common Grounds. It just depends how much juice I got left in me come showtime. Or cash. Kids make going everywhere expensive. I love how Rosie [Fernandez] hosts music on Saturday afternoons at Boxcar, that’s a great time for music-loving parents to hear some tunes. Plus there’s tokens you can shove off on the babies.”
Though exhausting, there are rewards known only to performer parents. “My daughters singing along to the songs that not a whole lot of other people hear, but they know all the words. That’s a neat feeling,” Stafford said of her favorite fans.
For Daigneault, “I remember the first time we sang the same note together. Her eyes got really big and excited. Magic. It was a long screech, but it was a fun one.”
On the note of kids’ approval, Iori said, “My teenager is like ‘meh.’ But the two-year-old seems to enjoy it. Watching the look on his face when I let him listen is the best part about being a musician and a mom.”
“Keeping the path forward, without breaks and stalls,” is Stafford’s plan with a new record in the works. “I go through fits of being able to keep focus on playing shows. But regardless, I play guitar everyday on my porch. Or on my bed.”
“When I do get to perform now, I enjoy it even more than before, because I feel excited to have the opportunity to share music in public,” Daigneault said. Her next show will be a solo-set as Quilla followed by a duo session with Molly McGinn at Joymongers (576 N. Eugene St.) on June 12.
Katei Cranford is a Triad music aficionado who’d like to applaud her own music-lovin’ Mom for all the concerts and Tuesday trips to Schoolkids Records growing-up. And to her Grams who—to this day—vents frustration by playing boogie-woogie tunes on the piano. Happy Mother’s Day.