Mothers In Jazz (34): Jesse Palter

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.

Jesse Palter is a vocalist and songwriter originally from Detroit. She has lived several musical lives while collaborating with musicians like Ben Williams and Geoffrey Keezer, and having her music sung by vocalists like Cecile Mclorin Salvant and Sara Gazarek. Jesse’s work with pianist Sam Barsh as “Palter Ego” saw the duo deep dive into the world of pop, jazz and soul with placements on a variety of television shows and commercials including 90210 and Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Her work as a contemporary songwriter saw her signed to Mack Avenue’s imprint “Artistry Music” for a 2019 release and branding as a pop/rock artist. Leaving the label behind, Jesse reconnected with her jazz roots for her 2022 album “Nothing Standard.” She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their 9 month-old son.

Jesse Palter Photo by Roland Lefox

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

Jesse Palter: To be honest, I don’t know if I just blocked it out, or if I didn’t receive advice because I was private about both my pregnancy and the newborn phase (and I don’t regret that. It allowed me the opportunity to be very present without the pressures of social media) – but nothing comes to mind as it pertains to balancing my career and motherhood. I think the biggest realization I’ve had myself is that we’re all just figuring it out (and that nobody really has it all figured out, which I could and would say the same for a professional creative career); this has helped give me (and all mothers) grace. What a journey it has been and continues to be! If I were to pass on any advice about balancing/juggling motherhood and career, it’s to do just as I mentioned; give yourself grace and figure it out as you go. No two babies are the same just as no two career paths are the same – what works for someone else may or may not work for you. You will get to know your baby and you will become a multi-tasking master who on some days feels like an unstoppable badass and on some days defeated; grasping for a modicum of your pre-matrescent artistic identity – and yet, I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. What a blessing for my child to witness his mama pursuing a career that doubles as my passion. It can be done and it’s actually fuel that drives me.

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)?

JP: It takes a village and surrounding yourself with those who can support you (particularly in a hands-on way), both as you transition and settle into the role of parenthood, will give you life. Stay on top of your mental health! And, find your community of moms. Moms helping moms is everything.

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

JP: Set stuff up during your pregnancy (releases/gigs/etc.) to hold yourself creatively accountable (of course, after an appropriate amount of well-deserved maternity leave). You will be so happy you showed up for your art and you will come back to baby with your cup full! 

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

JP: Huge proponent of baby wearing – my Solly wrap was my best friend for the first 5 or so months. If you’re breastfeeding, a pump that doesn’t require being plugged in so you can pump on the road (I’ve had to pump pre-gig in cars and greenrooms and countless times on the highway getting to and from a session), and the Slumberpod for your pack and play + Hatch for white noise – badabing badaboom.

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

JP: Do it. It might be messy. It might seem impossible. But you need it. Your art needs it. Your heart needs it. And if you need it, your child needs it for you too.

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

JP: My time is more precious than ever. Certain things I once cared about professionally don’t matter in the slightest. Also, I’m surprised how different I feel on a cellular level. The first gig I did postpartum, I had to overcome newfound feelings physically and mentally while being out of my newborn bubble. But, I was so grateful I dusted the cobwebs off and got lost in the music that night.

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.)?

JP: A lot of this is trial and error and figuring things out as I go. The biggest boundaries for me have been related to health/wellness, particularly surrounding Covid (at different periods throughout my pregnancy and postpartum, I’ve asked musicians to test prior to rehearsals and/or gigs, or have had to make choices about who I play with and where I play based on their level of precaution, and none of that was comfortable or familiar, but I knew it was what was best for my baby). Now that my dude is a little older, I’m taking more risks and doing more things to get this kiddo socialized and to also make sure mama is getting out there too. 

Jesse’s latest album “Nothing Standard” was released in 2022.

LINK: Artist website

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