When not on tour in faraway countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and Japan, China Forbes lives in Portland, Oregon with her 9-year old son Cameron. Best known for her vocal work with the retro lounge band Pink Martini, China began her artistic career studying visual art at Harvard and later working as an Off-Broadway actress. She has also released two albums under her own name and is working on a third. China sings in 9 languages. In this episode we discuss her unusual upbringing in Boston, touring with Pink Martini, postpartum depression and her dreams for future projects. I spoke to China in my dining room in Portland, Oregon in December of 2017.
Singer-songwriter and Portland native Tahirah Memory developed a passion for music at a young age. With humble beginnings singing along to R&B records at home, Tahirah grew up to become a highly sought-after vocalist. She has collaborated with musical heavyweights including kd lang, Esperanza Spalding and her father, Grammy-winning trumpeter Thara Memory. Tahirah also recently released her debut album, “PRIDE”. Now age 38, Tahirah artfully maintains a strong relationship with her 12 year old daughter while dividing her time between creating music in Portland and touring as a backup singer. In this episode we discuss Tahirah’s upbringing in a musical household, single motherhood, and the support she receives from family and friends while out on lengthy tours. I spoke with Tahirah in my home office in Portland, Oregon in September of 2017.
Raised in Alaska by orchestra teachers, Annalisa Tornfelt is a fiddler, guitar player, singer-songwriter and teacher living in Portland, OR. She’s recorded with members of The Decemberists in their band Black Prairie, written solo albums, spent years touring in her bluegrass band Bearfoot and collaborated with countless NW musicians. She is also a mother to Darian, age 17, and Rose, age 1. In this episode we discuss teenage motherhood, being raised in a religious household, touring with babies, having children 17 years apart and the complexities of identity and ambition. I spoke to Annalisa in August of 2017 in my home office in Portland, OR.
Born and raised in Indiana, Sara Lund started drumming at age 11 and playing in bands shortly thereafter. As a teenager she moved to Olympia, Washington and was soon known as one of the “heaviest drummers in town.” She toured and recorded with the rock band Unwound throughout the ’90s and early ’00s, long before women were a staple in rock bands. Sara now lives in Portland, OR and plays in the Corin Tucker Band, Hungry Ghost and the Secret Drum Band. She’s also a drum teacher, reading assistant and the mother of Niko, age 8. In this episode we discuss watching Shelia E open for Prince, being a tomboy outside of the Riot Grrl scene, the challenges of co-parenting with another touring musician and Sara’s love of music and motherhood.
Rhiannon Giddens is a vocalist, banjoist and fiddler from Greensborough, North Carolina. Rhiannon’s music draws from old-time, gospel, celtic, folk and jazz. She’s won Grammys with her string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, she won the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, and she won a recent MacArthur Genius Grant. She’s a cast member of the TV show “Nashville” and is also the mother of two young children, Aoife and Caoimhín. Topics include: touring for 200 days with a baby in a minivan, her children’s idyllic life in Ireland, letting go of ego, music as activism and how motherhood has changed her creative approach.
Amanda Bergman hails from the Swedish countryside and began her professional music career in 2010. She’s a member of the Swedish band Amason and has collaborated with The Tallest Man on Earth and Lykee Li. In 2016 Amanda released her first solo album, “Docks”, and also performed at the Polar Music Prize Ceremony. Now age 29, she and her musician partner Petter Winnberg are new parents to a 5 month old baby named Flora. In this episode we discuss swedish maternity leave, sleep deprivation, running a farm, and differing cultural expectations for mother musicians as compared to fathers. I spoke to Amanda over Skype from her farm in Sweden in September of 2017.
Shara Nova graduated from the University of North Texas with a BA in vocal performance and went on to compose works for opera, youth choirs and her own baroque pop band, My Brightest Diamond. She has recorded as a guest vocalist with David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens and The Blind Boys of Alabama, and she’s collaborated with visual artists Matthew Ritchie and Matthew Barney. She’s also the mother of 7 year old Cozzie. In this episode we discuss artistic fear vs freedom, touring 60% of the year, how Shara organizes her time when not on tour, being present for her child, and the dedication required to pull it all off. I spoke to Shara over Skype from her studio in Detroit in September of 2017.
As the daughter of country music icon Johnny Cash and a musician parent herself, Rosanne is the perfect fit for this podcast. She’s won multiple Grammys, she’s had two gold records, and in 2015 she was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. She’s also a great writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Mother Jones and Rolling Stone, and she wrote a beautiful memoir which I read and loved. She’s also the mother of four children. In this episode we discuss how growing up as a child of a touring musician affected her career choices, how she structured her time when her kids were young, touring with the Carter Family, how to deal with maternal guilt, and gun control activism as an extension of mothering. I spoke with Rosanne in my home studio in Portland, OR in November of 2017.
Meshell Ndegeocello’s music spans genres, from funk to soul to jazz to hip-hop and rock. She’s been credited for sparking the “neo-soul” movement and has received 10 Grammy nominations throughout her lifelong career. Her current projects include a new album and scoring the music for the TV series “Queen Sugar.” Meshell is also the mother of two sons, Solomon and Atticus. In this episode we discuss raising her first son as a young single mother working nightclubs in DC, and her second son much later in life, and in a committed relationship. We also talk about the value of saying “no”, wanting to do something other than music and the importance of choosing a good partner if you decide to tour a lot. I spoke to Meshell over Skype when she was in LA in October of 2017.
Corin Tucker is best known for her role as singer, songwriter and guitarist for the band Sleater-Kinney. She’s also made albums under her own name and has collaborated with members of REM on a new project called “Filthy Friends.” She’s also the mother to two children, Marshall and Glory. In this episode we discuss the early days of the riot grrrl scene in Olympia, being mentored by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, balancing responsibilities with a creative husband and how motherhood has deepened Corin’s work. I spoke to Corin in Portland, OR in October of 2017.