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33 Musical Dads Discuss Fatherhood

June 19, 2011  |  12:00am
Ryan Peoples
Oryx and Crake

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Name and age of your kids:
Sebastian, age 7. Izzy, age 2.

How does having children and being a father change the way you approach your career?
It has changed everything. When I had Sebastian, I was a dishwasher-musician and thought I could remain so until one of my music projects allowed me to become solely a musician. Since I had him, I have had to have real jobs that require real thought and real effort. It’s tough not being able to put music as first priority, but I can’t complain. I’ve watched a lot of my dish-pit compatriots completely trade in music for procreation. So I feel quite lucky that I have been able to keep it going and still get to be a daddy.

What’s the best part about being both a musician and a dad?
I get to be the cool dad at all the school functions watching all the other dads writhe from jealousy of my musician’s life style. (That’s what I keep telling myself… it’s very possible the writhing comes from pity)

What’s the most difficult part about being both a musician and a dad?
Watching the other dad’s live easier lifestyles and have a much easier time at paying bills. The touring thing is also problematic. Sometimes think of taking them with me and living like gypsies, but even I get tired of the car… not sure I want to do that to a two-year old.

What do your kids think of your music?
They’re amazing! Just today Izzy was repeatedly asking to view our new videos (“again”, “again”, “again”) and Sebastian was singing the melody from a demo I wrote a couple of days ago. It’s funny what that does to me… even if I have doubts about what I’m writing, if my kids approve a song, it becomes much better in my mind.

What kind of music do your kids currently enjoy? Do you approve of their current tastes?
The youngest is a rocker. If we try to play anything without drums, you can forget about it. The newest Fleet Foxes has been on constant rotation for me since it came out, but Izzy doesn’t have the patience for it. She screams and tells me, “I want song!” or “I want dance,” which means to turn this old folk music off and raise the tempo a bit. One of her favorites is “Flower Gardens” by Chad Vangaalen, which happens to be a personal favorite of mine as well so that works. But anything by Train (or some such crap) is just as likely to make her happy as well. It’ll be interesting to see what she asks for when she can express more specific preferences than “I want song”.

Sebastian has two stations on Pandora. One plays classical music and the other plays pop music. He really likes Mozart on the classical side. The pop station plays High School Musical, The Beatles, Beastie Boys, Queen, Run DMC, whatever… I’m pretty sure he just gives a thumbs-up to everything that comes on there. He typically has great taste though. That same Fleet Foxes album mentioned above—he knows all the melodies and a lot of the lyrics.

Have you attempted to immerse your kids in music? How have they responded?
Yes, but we haven’t had to try too hard. They both love music. It may have just happened by default… when Sebastian was a toddler he slept in a loft bed with a kick drum no more than three feet above his head on the next floor. And, my wife, who also plays in Oryx and Crake, has ended up holding Izzy through an uncountable number of rehearsals and a couple of shows as well.

If yes, what instruments do they play? And what do their early musical attempts sound like?
Izzy’s only two, but she keeps good time and loves to bang on stuff… pretty sure she’s a drummer in the making. Lately, I think she might want to be a singer; she keeps coming up to the microphone in the studio and kissing it. Every once in awhile, she actually sings.

Sebastian has been playing music on a number of different instruments for a while now and has become quite good at GarageBand. A lot of his recent stuff sounds like Daft Punk’s Tron score (one of his favorite albums), but my favorite song of his is one about picking up trash that he wrote when he was five. I looped the drums and synth with his input, and he sang and played harmonica on it. Here is a link: http://rocklazer.tumblr.com/post/735345819/picking-up-the-earth-do-it

Jason Elliott
Spirits and the Melchizedek Children

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Name and age of your kid:
Ian Robert Elliott, age 4.

How does having a child and being a father change the way you approach your career?
Well I definitely can’t climb trees like I use to…Ian is very important muse in my writing..since becoming a father, I’ve discovered things i wouldn’t of otherwise. particularly in myself. prioritizing is the key..being a father, you have the responsibility of teaching this little person how to be a human..that’s pretty special.

What’s the best part about being both a musician and a dad?
Just sharing something as special as music with your child. I grew up with a musician dad, and I’ll never forget sitting underneath his mini-grand piano while he played—some of my favorite times as a child…seeing the passion in his face while he played effortlessly was perfect. I wanted to find that same feeling…and I knew it was through music.

What’s the most difficult part about being both a musician and a dad?
Making sure I’m prioritizing correctly. The balance with being a good father and an artist..I often thrive off of retrospect and will do this alone and quietly.

What does your kid think of your music?
Ian, will just sit next to me while I’m practicing and sway his head…I think he likes it?

What kind of music does your kid currently enjoy? Do you approve of his current tastes?
Well he loves to sing “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young…and he’s in key every time! Yes and YES!

Have you attempted to immerse your kid in music? How has he responded?
Ive always just put something on..I’ve never been one to say, “HEY, Ian!! Come and listen to this with me!” I think your kids will like what they like, and more often than not, they want to naturally rebel against to what ever you’re listening to. Ian really likes everything that i listen to and play. He’s always stopping what he is doing and coming into sit and listen with me. As far as playing instruments go…he’s always wanting to play and make some noise! When Ian turned 3 years old, I got him a Jr. drum set. I figured if John Bonham got his son drums at 3…why not? He’s already got the “1..2..3..Go!!” down with the stick clicks. It’s pretty fun playing guitar when he’s drumming..he’s an animal!

Peter Himmelman

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Name and age of your kids:
21,19,17,15—I’d rather not publish their names.

How does having children and being a father change the way you approach your career?
Before becoming a Dad, I used to have a sort of relaxed, bohemian sense that the world revolved around me and my creative instincts. A sense that was I was doing something that had some great importance. One of the most significant things that occurred after the birth of my first child, was that my self-centeredness had been confronted. No longer were the songs, the performances, the interviews and the endless plans I’d laid to shimmy my way up the ladder of success, so weighted with life and death urgency. I suddenly had to be truly concerned with the welfare of another human being.

What’s the best part about being both a musician and a dad?
I’ve been blessed to show them the value of a life engaged in joyous expression.

What’s the most difficult part about being both a musician and a dad?
No doubt the requisite time away.

What do your kids think of your music?
Last summer I played a show in New York and my daughter, who’d just begun her first year at college in Manhattan was in the audience. After the show she said, “I’ve seen you play music and write music all my life but I guess I never really noticed it until now.” I suppose for my kids, my being a musician was like being an accountant. Just something that I did for a living.

What kind of music do your kids currently enjoy? Do you approve of their current tastes?
The only one of my kids who seems truly involved with music is my oldest son. He’s got a tremendous feel for what’s good and meaningful. He’s always on things months or years before they become well known. He played me Mumford and Sons, maybe two years ago and said, “these guys are gonna be huge.” Since he’s very literate, he’s been primarily interested in hip hop, Naz, J-Z, Shyne, Eminem. Hell yeah, I approve of it all.

Have you attempted to immerse your kids in music? How have they responded?
I’ve never felt I had to immerse them in music. It was always something that was just an organic part of our home life.

If yes, what instruments do they play? And what do their early musical attempts sound like?
All of my kids took some piano lessons at one time or another. My older son is the only one who stuck with it. My 19-year old daughter loves to sing and she’s got a lovely voice.

If not, what are they interested in doing instead?
I’ll break it down like this: My 21-year old son: theology, literature, politics, and improv comedy. My 19-year old daughter: biology, art history, psychology, and Jewish history. My 17-year old daughter: Russian literature, biology, history. My 15-year old son: basketball (he’s 6’5’’), creative writing, science fiction, and did I mention basketball?

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