Mothers In Jazz(*) this week features an enchanting singer with a natural sense of swing. Australian vocalist Jennifer Salisbury has made a name for herself with her breezy but contemporary renditions of American Songbook classics. She channels the great voices of the ‘40s and ‘50s guiding her audience in a time-traveling roller-coaster of emotions. Her own songwriting is deeply influenced by the golden era of jazz. It’s near impossible to tell apart the songs that she wrote herself from the classic repertoire she draws on, songs immortalized by Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, and Doris Day. Salisbury perfectly balances the nostalgia of vintage with modern esthetics. Jennifer’s latest release – “Do you Love Christmas” is filled with songs that reflect the joy of Christmas as a child and the ability to carry that joy into adulthood. She lives in Melbourne with her eleven year-old and two and a half-year old children.
London Jazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?
Jennifer Salisbury: Always be kind to yourself, give yourself the same grace and understanding that you would give any other mother in the industry. The temptation is to always feel that you are not doing “enough” for your career in music but you need to celebrate what you are doing. You are caring for kids and running a loving home, you are doing a lot and you still manage to get out there and sing as well.
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)?
JS: Don’t book gigs too soon after having the baby – I was very enthusiastic and I was thinking that I would be able to bounce straight back into it but your body needs time to heal and you need time to rest.
Don’t wear a one piece fitted dress with no breast access to a gig when you are breastfeeding or pumping. Having to be half naked under a towel in the corner of a pub while trying to pump milk is extremely uncomfortable!
Remember to take a cooler and ice bricks when you are touring and pumping milk, I lost a lot of good breast milk that I had pumped while away because I forgot to bring something to refrigerate it during the long drive home in a hot van.
LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz: Be at peace with who you are and what you can do right now.
JS: The gigging life can be very chaotic and unpredictable. My daughter loves routine and predictability so often my schedule can cause her anxiety. I found that having a calendar on the wall where I list my gigs and rehearsals for that week/month has helped her a lot as she can mentally/emotionally prepare for my absence.
Take your child to as many of your gigs as you can that are at an appropriate place/time.
LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring/gigging:
LJN: A portacot that is EASY to put up and pack down. Test them out before you buy because some of them are absolutely painful!
You can get portable baby seats that you can vice to the edge of a hotel bench or table which save a lot of space and stress. Phil and Teds Portable baby seat or anything like that.
LJN: Best general travel/gigging/tour-with-child advice:
JS: I’ve taken the kids on tour with me before but I always have a support person to help me and I usually chose the locations that they might find fun. For instance, I went to Dubbo with my band The Swingin’ Elixirs and while I was performing the kids went off to Dubbo Safari Zoo.
LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?
JS: The joy that music brings to my life and the personal satisfaction I have from being able to go out and do my thing. My music is the sacred bit of “me” that I still have amidst the giving, joys and cares of motherhood. After I had Capri, I remember the shock of having such little time to myself. As a mother you are constantly giving. I guess it made me cling to my music and shelter it like a little flame in the blustering storm of a newborn.
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.)?
JS: Before kids I used to do a lot more gigs “just for fun” but now I have to be paid well enough to justify the expense of childcare and being away from my family. I guess it has made me put a higher value on what I do, which is a good thing.
In 2024 Jennifer plans to work on a new concept album and release an LP record in jazz duo format of Great American Songbook standards with her long time friend and guitarist Mark Morand.
(*) Mothers In Jazz” is a 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.
LINKS: Artist website
The complete archive of Nicky Schrire’s Mothers in Jazz series