A Band of mothers
In 2014, I put together A Band of Mothers to play a show of honky tonk and hurtin’ songs at Hugh’s Room in Toronto. We sang songs about motherhood written by our favourite country women, like Loretta Lynn, Hazel Dickens, Kitty Wells, The Carter Family, Ola Belle Reed, Dolly Parton and more. I had a kick-ass band of bluegrass women: guitarist, Kristin Cavoukian (Houndstooth) who also sang back-up vocals on my last recording, Get Yourself Home; Fiddle player, D’arcy Good (Longbranch) and bass player Marnie Niemi. The show was on on Mothers Day (my least favourite day of the year) but, that year Mothers Day rocked! I really miss playing with them, but not surprisingly motherhood got in the way of keeping the band together. You can catch these amazing players around town: Kristin plays in Houndstooth plays every Thursday from 7 - 9 pm at The Tranzac, D’arcy plays with the band Longbranch and Marnie Niemi plays with any number of amazing bluegrass bands.
About motherhood and songwriting:
I’ve written songs about motherhood, like Sleepy Baby and Everything is Everywhere, even a song about the lullabies my dad sang to me which I sang to my son, called Lullabies of the Land. The songs just started rolling out when my son was about 2 years old. Being able to write and remove myself from the minutia of motherhood got me through those challenging early years. From this experience I started a writing group for mothers called Write on Mama, with the idea of just coming together to write anything at all: scratch out poems, fill a journal, finish a novel or a thesis, write a letter or a to-do list, The group has become an important anchor every month over the last 7 years, helping other mothers and myself included to keep on writing. One of the songs on my upcoming album, Country Girl, came out of a writing session with this group. The group gave me structure and support to finish my latest recording, This Is My Room, which is a nod to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and the incredible effort it takes to carve out time and space and money to be able to write as a woman and as a mother. I’ve put together a book of poetry, called O Motherhood which will be available once the new album has been released.
Two of my musical Heroes, Loretta Lynn and Iris De Ment:
I know the feeling of being stopped in my tracks to write a tune after listening to one of my many musical heroes. It reminds me of a favourite scene in Coalminers Daughter , when Sissy Spacek playing Loretta Lynn leans in close to the radio to hear her favourite songs, then hushing everyone in the room so she can sit down to write her own songs. I have leaned in close to listen to Loretta Lynn sing ‘ I’m a Honky Tonk Girl’, and know that same scene from my own life of trying to quiet a room so I can focus on a song, especially during the years of mothering a small child.
I wrote Sleepy Baby after my son turned two, getting it down in bits and pieces whenever I could steal a moment away for myself. The song was actually born after I discovered gardening one summer, but really comes from years of listening to Iris DeMents album, My Life. I think Sleepy Baby was directly inspired by her song, Easy’s Getting Harder Every Day. I got to see Iris DeMent perform at Hugh’s Room in Toronto years ago. The best part of that concert was singing her songs in a cab on the way to the concert with Dotty Cormier (Heartbreak Hill - also an incredible singer-songwriter). We stood side by side in the back as Iris De Ment sang and both wept.
This will be the beginning of an archive of songs by mothers connected to the experience of motherhood. Stay tuned!