Mothers in Jazz

Mothers In Jazz (26): Elin Forkelid

Mothers In Jazz” is a new series, started by vocalist Nicky Schrire. The initiative aims to create an online resource for working jazz musicians with children, those contemplating parenthood, and jazz industry figures who work with and hire musicians who are parents. The insight of the musicians interviewed for this series provides valuable emotional, philosophical and logistical information and support that is easily accessible to all. “Mothers In Jazz” shines a light on the very specific role of being both a mother and a performing jazz musician.

Elin Forkelid is a Swedish saxophonist whose music is a hybrid of jazz, rock, pop, folk and improvisation. She received the Swedish Radio Jazz “Newcomer of the Year” Award following the release of her debut album in 2010 and she went on to perform with the prestigious European Jazz Orchestra, holding down the first tenor chair. Elin plays primarily with the bands SOL SOL, Anna Högberg Attack, and Oya Sextett. She lives in Stockholm with her husband, pianist Adam Forkelid, and their three children, aged 8, 5 and 1.

Elin Forkelid. Photo credit Peter Gannushkin

LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?

Elin Forkelid: Try to be present. If you’re playing a concert, don’t think about your kids during that time-let the music be everything at that moment. If you’re playing with your kids, let THAT be all that exists for then. I’m not saying this is easy, but for me it has gotten easier over time. My motto is: “Wherever you are, be there”. I try my best to live that way.

LJN: What information or advice do you wish you’d received but didn’t (and had to learn through trial and error or on the go)?

EF: That it doesn’t always go the way it’s supposed to. My eldest has several diagnoses, and these eight years of being his parent has been a bumpy ride for sure. It would’ve been great if someone had said that sometimes children are born with special needs. Actually, it happens all the time. And you learn to cope and form a life around it. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to process such information while being pregnant, but if having a child with special needs was talked about and normalized that sure would’ve helped.

LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:

EF: Try not to compare yourself to others-YOU are the best mother to your child. Aim for     presence. When times are tough, remember that it will not always be this way.

LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring/gigging:

EF: Ergobaby or Babybjorn are great for carrying your kid around. The Babyzen Yoyo stroller is great-it’s easy to fold and you can even bring it onto the plane as hand luggage

LJN: Best general travel/gigging/tour-with-child advice:

EF: While on tour, you may have to let go of some of your principles- good enough is okay! And again, presence. While you are playing, your child is non-existent (well, I’m being harsh, but you know what I mean!).

LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?

EF: That I still feel drawn to play music! Becoming a mother didn’t make me not care about anything else-music still matters to me. In a way, actually, even more than before, because after becoming a mother EVERYTHING matters more. It’s like I feel more.

LJN: What boundaries have you set for yourself as a mother in jazz (could be related to travel/touring, riders, personal parameters, child care decisions, etc.)?

EF: Due to our situation with a child with special needs, me and my partner never work at the same time (by this I mean playing a concert in the evening). We simply can’t have a babysitter for all three of our children. That means sometimes I have to say no to job offers, even though I’m “free”. But that’s fine actually. I know that once I’m playing, I’m really playing. I play my heart out every time. And when I’m with my kids, I’m really with them. And I’m fine with that. It’s the presence thing all over again. 

LINKS: Elin Forkelid’s website
Elin on Bandcamp

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