Kristin Hersh was born in Atlanta and grew up in Newport, Rhode Island. Kristen began playing guitar at age 9 and by the time she was 14 she’d talked her friend Tanya Donelly into starting a band. They called themselves “Throwing Muses.” Unbeknownst to them at the time, the band would go on to enjoy a long career and international success. After the band broke up Kristin wrote many solo albums, started the rock band 50FOOTWAVE, and wrote two memoirs. Kristin is also the mother of four sons. In this episode we discuss her mental health misdiagnosis, having a baby and a new record at age 19, her son’s kidnapping and both homeschooling and unschooling her kids out on the road. I spoke with Kristin over Skype from her recording studio in Rhode Island in January of 2018.
As the daughter of touring musicians, Ruth Ungar was introduced to the musical life at a young age. Ruth is now an accomplished singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. She’s best known for work with the folk band The Mammals. Ruth also has two children, Willy and Opal, and co-runs a bi-annual music festival called The Hoot. In this episode we discuss van breakdowns while touring with school-aged children, being married to her bandmate and playing shows with her babies on her back. I spoke with Ruth over Skype from her home in Woodstock, New York in December of 2017.
LaRhonda Steele’s musical journey started in Oklahoma where she sang a solo in church for the first time at age 13. LaRhonda is best known for her leadership of the Portland Oregon Interfaith Gospel Choir and for her collaborations with a variety of Portland blues, jazz and gospel groups. LaRhonda heads her own project, “The LaRhonda Steele Band,” and is also the mother of two daughters. In this episode we discuss surviving breast cancer with the support of her community, her musical beginnings in the church, and the challenges of raising two children while legally blind. I spoke to LaRhonda in my home office in Portland, OR in October of 2017.
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.