Mothers In Jazz (32): Lauren Falls

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.

Lauren Falls is a Canadian bassist originally from the small town of Port Alberni, British Columbia. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, she has performed at numerous jazz festivals including the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival in Washington DC, and the Ottawa International Jazz Festival. Lauren was a past artist-in-residence at Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center, and Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute. She was also chosen for the 2006 International Association for Jazz Education Sisters In Jazz ensemble-bassists chosen in previous years include Linda May Han Oh and Brandi Disterheft. Lauren lives in Toronto where she teaches at the University of Toronto, performs and is raising her 18 month-old son with her partner, pianist Thompson Egbo-Egbo.

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Lauren Falls . Photo ©Shelagh Howard

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

Lauren Falls: You CAN do it all! (Especially with help.) It is possible to be a mother, a musician, a teacher and anything else you want. It takes a lot of planning and a great partner or caregiver but it is possible. Also, you can take gigs or go on tour but also don’t feel bad about not taking gigs in the beginning if you’re just too exhausted or if at any point you feel you need to be at home with your child. It’s all good.

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)?

LF: I wish more moms would have been upfront about how hard the first months can be. After my son was born someone mentioned that “I was in the trenches.” It’s one of the most changing and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. But I think if fellow moms had shared their challenges with me I would have been a little more prepared. I mean, of course people tell you “you won’t sleep.” But really, you won’t.

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

LF: Start making noise/practicing around the baby early. Get them comfortable and used to the sound of your instrument. Once you start to catch up on sleep it will start to feel so great to get to practice while they nap!

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

LF: Get the baby used to a pack and play early on so they’ll feel comfortable sleeping in them in hotel rooms. We also use white noise and bring the white noise machine with us wherever we go. It helps with noisy hotel rooms.

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

LF: Babies cry on planes. Even if they are the chillest babies in the world. Don’t get too stressed. Time changes can be tricky but it only takes a day or two for their internal clocks to recalibrate. Recently I traveled with my son, who is almost 18 months old, and I made sure to have a few “new things” to entertain him with, like stickers. Oh, and the more snacks the better!

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

LF: I thought I’d get back to playing pretty quickly but the lack of sleep was a bit of an issue. But I was also surprised how understanding some of my colleagues were when I shared this with them. I was worried I’d miss out on future work if I turned down a few gigs early on, but I really don’t feel like that was the case. One other surprise was that I was offered a university teaching gig pretty quickly after giving birth and was stressed out making the decision whether or not to take it. I didn’t quite feel ready but I did take it, because it was a great opportunity. I learned that having those few hours away teaching was really important for my mental health and helped re-energize me and inspire me musically.

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.)?

LF: One rule I still have with my partner is that one of us has to be “in town” if we have a babysitter at home. I’m still a bit of a nervous mom, even after a year and a half. So I feel more comfortable knowing one of us can get home relatively quickly after our gig if there are any issues with childcare. I’m sure this will eventually become easier but he’s still little and I still worry. 

Lauren’s latest album “A Little Louder Now” was released in November 2022

LINKS: Bandcamp

Artist website

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