“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.
Melissa Lauren is a Canadian vocalist who is a singer-songwriter steeped in the jazz tradition. She grew up performing throughout North America with the Toronto All-Star Big Band, and went on to release several acclaimed albums. Melissa has performed at Folk Alliance International, the Halifax International Jazz Festival, and the New Skool Rules Festival in the Netherlands as well as in Eastern Europe. Her voice was featured on five tracks by Montreal electronic producer Hibernate, one included on a compilation by British dance pioneer Paul Oakenfold. Melissa lives in Toronto with her husband, guitarist Nathan Hiltz, and their 6 year-old daughter.
LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?
Melissa Lauren: Making sure that you and your partner (if you have chosen to have one) are on the same page with things in terms of scheduling, parenting, responsibilities, and what life is practically going to look like postpartum. My husband and I did not live together very long before having Leah. We were still very much in the honeymoon phase until she was born. While we had known each other for years, we didn’t know each other as partners. It was a HUGE dose of reality when she came along and we realised we did not know how to get along as well as we thought. We continue to learn and adapt everyday. Also, grandparents are a GIFT FROM THE HEAVENS!
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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)?
ML: When I was pregnant, I had many friends tell me how time is taken from you once you have a child, and to enjoy the last few days/weeks of doing things like groceries and eating breakfast alone. What they didn’t tell me was that now I cannot imagine a life without her (my daughter) and that moving forward through life as a mother, I would feel sad and an emptiness when doing things without her.
LJN:Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:
ML: As someone in a freelance industry, it is really easy to get caught up in guilt about how much you are working, not working, moving forward. Here is the secret about motherhood: don’t wish to move forward. It is almost impossible to be driving, driving, driving your career while staying in the moment with your little one. Time is precious and at the end of life you will regret the moments you did not savour with your child.
LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring/gigging:
ML: My husband and I are both musicians, so we don’t have the luxury of one of us staying with her. So, a good sitter that you can bring along! 5-minute stories, snacks, podcasts for travelling.
LJN: Best general travel/gigging/tour-with-child advice:
ML: Remember to tag on extra goodbye time before a gig or leaving for a show/tour. It always takes a lot longer to get out the door than you think. It is also handy to learn the fine art of doing makeup and hair fast. Always have a back-up go-to person on site of a gig in case the little one needs extra hugs or company, even if she appears independent!
LJN:What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?
ML: I do it all for her; she drives my motivation. I can’t remember what it was like to sing and make music before she was in my life, it must have been empty?! Another thing that surprised me is how guilty I feel when she does not get my full attention; something the pandemic really illuminated as we all worked from home.
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.)?
ML: I have to stop doing “vanity” shows and remember that I am supporting a family. I choose timing around my husband as well; I tend to not take gigs that run extremely late. We have had to learn to tour separately because it is easier for him to stay home with her if I go out (and I hire a different guitarist.) I am more conscious of what tasks are taking up my time with little reward.