THOUGHTS: Sarah Gillespie on Motherhood and Music (Tour Dates Start again Apr 22nd)

SarahGillespie and Susannah Carmen

Vocalist SARAH GILLESPIE’s daughter Susannah Carmen was born in mid-January. As Sarah looks forward to performances starting on April 22nd, she has some thoughts motherhood and music, and describes how she has dealt with the onslaught of opinion, advice and predictions. Sarah writes: 

I’ve seldom encountered such fascistic zeal on any subject as I have from mothers on matters of childrearing. I don’t know what happens to some maternal brains. Perhaps it is the surge of self-importance that comes from seeming like a God to another tiny, helpless human being. But many wonderful women, who are ordinarily measured and insightful, suddenly transform into solipsistic despots mistaking their own personal opinions and experiences as a template for universal humanity. So it was that when I announced I was pregnant in spring 2014, I received countless comments along the lines of ‘Lets see if you can still compose music with a baby in the house!’ or ‘You can ‘kiss good-bye to touring!’ If I protested that I would almost certainly write music and play music simply because I always had, I would be reliably informed of my child-free naivety. I didn’t know the ‘reality’ yet because I wasn’t a mother.

Amid congratulations and well wishes, this onslaught of predictions surrounding my music-free future perplexed me. Many friends of mine in the jazz world and beyond seemed to have pulled off this seemingly impossible task of being a) a musician and b) a mum – with great aplomb!

Sarah Jane Morris toured internationally with her baby son.

– Singer/songwriter Siobhan Parr breastfed her baby during intervals of gigs.

Emma Gawlinski of the gypsy jazz band Gadjo traveled across continents playing sax and flute with her baby girl in tow.

– Folk singer Beth Orton described in interviews how the stoned haze of sleep deprivation inspired her brilliant album Sugaring Season.

So… either these woman are super-human freaks of nature, or there is a false meme in our culture that insists women are allowed to have fulfilling creative careers and they are also allowed to be mothers – but they’re not allowed to do both at once.

A few months ago I had a concert cancelled in the UK when the programmer discovered I was pregnant. She explained that she couldn’t financially risk me pulling out close to the concert after tickets had gone on sale because my baby was sick/teething/in need of cuddles etc. I reassured her that I had already signed contracts binding me to my agreements to perform all over the UK but she was adamant that I was no longer able to stick to my word. I must admit I find this pretty shocking and sad.

After 4 months of maternity leave my band and I are back at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho on 22nd April. I can’t bloody wait! (*)

April 22 – Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho – London
April 25 – ‘The Life of Bessie Smith’ South Holland Arts Centre Spalding
May 7 – ‘The Life of Bessie Smith’ St James Theatre Studio – London
May 30 – Philosophy and Music Festival – Hay on Wye
May 31 – Philosophy and Music Festival – Hay on Wye
June 13 – Albion Beatnik Bookstore – Oxford
June 26 – ‘The Life of Bessie Smith’ Grimsby Jazz Festival – Grimsby
June 28 – Dentdale Festival – Yorkshire
July 4 – South Tirol Jazz Festival – Italy
July 5 – South Tirol Jazz Festival – Italy
July 10 – Swanage Jazz Festival – Swanage

(*) Does anyone know of a good babysitter?

Categories: miscellaneous

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