We are driving through a downpour in my sister’s Subaru on the Taconic State Parkway. Last night we played in a corner of the Down the Road Cafe in the admissions building of Bard college. I first played this gig in the spring of 2006 thanks to my old camp friend, Rachel. When she booked me at her school it was the impetus for the crazy 6 month cross country tour that I naively embarked upon just before my 24th birthday. Now 7 years later, it’s a small bit of welcomed consistency. Funny.
Anyway, the road just started and Emmett is a champ. Poor kid has managed to still dance every time he hears music even though his sleep has been interrupted two nights in a row. After today’s drive through upstate New York and western Mass to the sweet farm we are playing in New Hampshire, Emmett will have been to over 25 states. It’s a bizarro life. I often wonder if he will remember any small dreamy fragments of this time. What stories will he tell his children? Hard to imagine your almost 18 month old baby as a grown man with his own children, but as everyone says and as I have experienced, it goes with the quickness of a mighty river. Life never stands still for even a breath.
Also, it’s just started to snow.
Emmett has been all over. He’s been to more states than most grown-ups and Canada too. Last summer we did about 10,000 miles and managed to not lose our minds entirely. This year we are taking it a bit easier, as Emmett has greater mobility and force of will than last year. We have an almost 18 month old dude on our hands who would much rather play in a bucket of water all day than sit in a minivan. I can’t blame him.
So we are about to leave on our first ten day tour adventure. This week we will fly to my sister, Marisa’s house in Philly (check out her amazing blog> food in jars), then drive to Bard College in up-state NY, then to a farm in NH, then to Cape Cod to play this amazing house concert called No Place Special, then to Long Island for another fantastic house concert. Then a day off at my sister’s high rise in Philly, the place i have longest known, my grandmother’s apartment that my sister inherited around 10 years ago. We used to spend sweltering summer days here when i was young. My beautiful fake-eye-lashed grandmother, Tutu we called her, would take us to the Please Touch museum and Betsy Ross’s house and to the liberty bell. Even with my sister’s long residence, the apartment has held onto Tutu’s scent and in an instant i am always transported to my childhood. Thanks to Rebecca Loebe, Marisa’s house has now been dubbed The Urban Food Sanctuary, as she has delicious cheeses, jams, and physical manifestations of recipes you’d see on some fancy lady’s pinterest board. Right, then a gig in Brooklyn and a house concert in Philly… and then NASHVILLE.
The Folk Documentary is premiering at the Nasvhille Film Festival on April 19th and we get to walk a red carpet and be a part of it! I’ve never been in any sort of film before, so i am pretty thrilled. Before my dreams of folk stardom, i always wanted to be an actress a la Julie Andrews or Bette Midler. Not the cool actress, but the one who could really sing.
So, how does one tour with a baby? You may ask… The truth is, i’m not really sure there’s a cut and dry answer, you just move slowly, breathe deeply and know that at some point you’ll be home. Here’s a list of things that make musical parenthood better:
- It’s easiest if you have help. This past summer, our dear friend Jaime donated her time to our tour in exchange for coffee, food & travel. We had a dedicated baby lover on hand during shows. It was fantastic. If you can convince a grandparent or bored friend to come along on your tour, that is the way to go.
- Spend the money on the hotel. I have never regretted getting a hotel room. I used to sleep in my car in waffle house parking lots, but ladies & gentlemen i have moved up in the world and now the priceline app finds us a bed. it’s worth it. Hotels are moderately baby proofed and a space for a little person to run around with abandon is priceless.
- Snacks, Books, Toys, Phone loaded with Thomas the Tank Engine. Anything that gives you a moment of brain space, feel no shame about using it. Emmett loves eating cheerios one at a time… it’s an easy way to avoid utter meltdown.
- It’s going to be ok. A show lasts around 2 hours usually. As a mommy, it’s painfully hard to hear your baby cry, it’s painfully hard to know that baby is struggling and you’re not there to sooth him. But as long as the little person has a competent caregiver while you’re playing, it’s going to be ok.
- Unload, Explode, Hit the road. The best thing about having a baby on tour is that no one expects you to stay up after your show, get drunk and jam all night. Other folksingers may agree that often the most exhausting thing about a show is the socializing post gig. Not to say that i haven’t met some of my favorite people at the merch table and i don’t DEEPLY appreciate getting to know the audience, but if you’re doing it right, you’re pretty beat after playing your heart out all night. Post gig with a baby is way quicker. People understand your tiredness because they have a concept of it. Tour exhaustion is hard to grasp unless you’ve been there.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you and your family are out there creating art and following your muse down into the darkness of the next town, you are doing something really brave and good for the world. You are sharing your love with people. Your kids will see you believing in yourself and thereby believe in themselves. You are modeling good behavior by being so damn true to your heart.
That’s what i got right now. It’s 11:33 pm and Emmett will wake up at 7:45am no matter what i do. Pictures of the packing process will be here on tuesday. thanks for reading!