Are you a musician? Is your band having issues? Our new advice columnist, who we’re going to call Fan Landers (a.k.a. Jessica Hopper), is ready to give you Real Talk about any problems your musical outfit might be having—whether professional, practical, or sartorial. Confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
Love the column. I’m writing today to ask your advice about getting back into a band now that I have kids (ages three years and six months). I’m a bassist and I sing (usually backup), too. I’ve been out of practice for the past year or so, but now I’ve found a band I might really want to join and who might be excited about me too, should the stars align. I’m super stoked —and nervous— at the possibility. Joining a somewhat established band and breathing a little fresh air into it has been a good M.O. for me in the past. I’m most concerned about the logistics of touring. The band I’m eyeing doesn’t need a bassist until my baby is almost one, so that’s better than “now or never.” Playing music makes me so happy, and I feel the most joyful and “myself” on stage. (I am tearing up a little typing this. Ah, hormones.) But this is a high-maintenance age for the kids, and my husband’s job is fairly demanding too. We have a great network of grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who could perhaps help out if I’m on the road here and there. Still, I’m sure it would be very hard on my husband and kids if I were gone for long stretches. I know plenty of parents are musicians. Do you have any advice for how I could tour as a mother of young kids? Am I crazy to consider this? Thank you very much.
As a mom of two kids about the same ages, I applaud your interest and energy for getting back into music. You have undoubtedly spent the last few years giving yourself tirelessly to the founding of your family, and for their well-being and yours, it is important—nay, essential—to have an outside interest that regenerates you.
Let’s start at the top. It’s good that the band that you are courting here isn’t going to need you for a bit—you are going to need a few months to get back into practice, which means finding a way to have dedicated time to yourself to sit down with your bass and just play. You can’t pretend like you are just going to squeeze it in at the end of the day when your kids are asleep, because you are going to be absolutely knackered and trying to shuffle in 12 minutes of practice with doing laundry and picking up toys. That’s not going to get your chops back up. This is where your extended family comes in handy. Talk to them now and see if there is an hour and a half a week where they could come and take the kids to the park, or if they have a weekend morning to spare—and piece together enough time for a regular-ish practice schedule, so you can dedicate a few hours a week to playing.
You also need to get with this band now-like, perhaps over a drink and a taco, and talk about their goals. You are assuming touring, but there might be some bigger or different ambitions in the wings. What if they want to go to Europe for a month next summer? What if they want to make a record in a studio where their buddy hooks them up with free time for weeks on end, but they can’t start until midnight? What if when you become a member they expect you to chip in on a quarter of the cost of a new van? You need to really suss out their situation for any plans that would get hung up by virtue of you needing to put your family first in your life.
You may like this band and they may want to jump you in, but don’t get hung up. You need to find a band without a rigorous practice schedule, maybe an established local band that’s interested in staying local and playing one or two shows a month tops. I know you are already pondering the idea of hitting the road, but you should trot things out slowly and see how it goes for a couple months. Shit is going to hit the fan quick if you have to find sitters four times a week and get up with a kid at 6:30 a.m. after a 2 a.m. load-out. Playing into a band is going to be viable long-term only if the demands of doing so are reasonable.
When you talk to your new potential band, you have to lay your cards on the table. Do not upsell your situation. They may not know what it means to have two kids under three and what that means as far as making a time commitment, or that it’s difficult for you to make last minute plans, or that you might not be able to make practice if you have a sick kid on your hands. As a reader of this column, you probably are already aware that parents of young children can be a source of resentment for their bandmates and their aspirations.
Regardless of whether they end up vetting you, get back into practice for your own sake. If it turns out this isn’t the right fit, you should round up some other parents and start a double-duty band and playgroup.