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33 Musical Dads Discuss Fatherhood

June 19, 2011  |  12:00am
Robert Earl Keen

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Name and age of your kids:
I have two girls, Clara, age 16, and Chloe, age 10. I was 38 when Clara was born.

How does having children and being a father change the way you approach your career?
My writing and performing career was on the precipice of enormous expansion. I considered changing careers in order to try to be a Dad and provide a normal life and lifestyle. I could not give up my career in music. In the end, I found more passion and inspiration in being a father and a musician/writer/entertainer than I could have in any club, studio, record company or board room I can imagine. The combination has been like founding a door to a new dimension. I see all the colors now.

Having children has sharpened my focus and strengthened my resolve. My writing has become broader in theme, brighter in color and more melodic. My performance has become pithier and less experimental on stage. This change started early and continues to progress. And both my girls have opened up my ears to new music I would have never paid attention to in any context. I had lost what is most important to an artist, discovery. Stupid on my part as an artist, but would have been a disaster and my girls gave me that back.

What’s the best part about being both a musician and a dad?
I am able to spend large chunks of time with them at their activities. I am able to carry them around and give them my gift of discovery and input. I am patient by nature so it suits me to attend things that normally would be a “drop off situation,” so I am able to reinforce and keep schedules and agendas that occasionally fall through cracks. I do a lot of things they want to do and that they invent so it keeps me from being so judgmental about the world at large.

What’s the most difficult part about being both a musician and a dad?
The hard part is easy. The time I am away for weeks at a time is a killer, but it has its purpose.

What kind of music do your kids currently enjoy? Do you approve of their current tastes?
My girls are very musically astute. They like all kinds of music. While mine is not their favorite, they do love certain songs and are dispassionate in their criticism of my art they don’t care for. I consider them almost the perfect audience for new and untried material. I play something for them. They like it or they don’t. It is so refreshing.

Clara, my oldest loves David Bowie. I have no clue except she was drawn to his portrayal of Andy Warhol in the movie, Basquiat. Before that she was a huge Fallout Boy fan. I have yet to really define it but in general, she likes male driven pop music with colorful lyrics. She also is drawn to jazz. Chloe, my youngest, loves Broadway musicals. She’s 10 and likes almost anything she can sing. She loves funny and has no tolerance for slow and inside.

Have you attempted to immerse your kids in music? How have they responded?
As far as if I approve, does it matter? It’s all part of discovery for both of us. I do try to bite my tongue occasionally.

If yes, what instruments do they play? And what do their early musical
attempts sound like?

I believe everyone should know how to play an instrument. There is no substitute for that knowledge. However, I think that music is a personal choice, like religion. You can savor it yourself or you can share it with the world. I don’t encourage sharing it if that is not your feeling or intent. You can keep your music all to yourself and it will comfort you in a time of need. That being said, Clara, the 16-year old, plays some piano and took bass lessons for a while. She is good and has a good ear, but has no real interest to perform—I’m very glad for her in that regard. Chloe, 10, has taken violin since she was six and has played in a local orchestra for several years. She is very good and likes the attention, however she has recently discovered her singing voice when she was cast in a local production of Annie. I think she has found her instrument of choice. And she likes sharing.

If not, what are they interested in doing instead?
Other than music, Clara is a painter and Chloe loves sports.

I know this is too lengthy, however this is a subject that continues to interest me everyday of my life. I am not religious, but having children and being a musician Dad echoes the words of “Amazing Grace” in my mind, “I was blind, but now, I see.”

Marty Marquis
Blitzen Trapper

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Name and age of your kid:
Alaire, age three; Jedediah, 4 weeks.

How does having children and being a father change the way you approach your career?
I have more incentive to work at success these days maybe. But Alaire was conceived as Blitzen Trapper was first seriously considering becoming a “working band” so I’ve really always thought of fatherhood and the career as different aspects of the same thing.

What’s the best part about being both a musician and a dad?
About a year ago my daughter got to see a solo show I played and interacted with me and the rest of the crowd throughout. That was pretty sweet. I thought she made the show a lot cooler.

What’s the most difficult part about being both a musician and a dad?
Trying to find affordable health care for my family.

What do your kids think of your music?
Alaire thinks it’s funny and danceable I guess. For Jed I believe it’s just a part of his psychedelic wonderland.

What kind of music do your kids currently enjoy? Do you approve of their current tastes?
My daughter has pretty great taste, except for the demos on her princess synth I dig what she digs. Lately it’s been a bit of Mary Poppins and before that she would make us listen to the forthcoming BT record as much as possible.

Have you attempted to immerse your kids in music? How have they responded?
Of course I want to share with them this thing that I love so much. But my daughter has delighted me by leading the way, making up songs and so forth with very little encouragement from me. She likes percussion best but always tells me she’ll be a keyboard player ultimately. My grandma was a vaudeville singer and my dad a thespian with a penchant for Broadway, so we will see what happens with these kids but I kind of think the girl at least might end up on the stage. So I want her to be well prepared.

David Berkeley

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Name and age of your kid:
Jackson: 4 ½, Noah: 11 months

How does having a child and being a father change the way you approach your career?
Becoming a dad is a game changer, for sure. My kids have given me a whole new sphere of meaning and value in my life. It’s hard to answer without sounding a little treacly. Better to write a mushy song about it, perhaps. My love and concern for them seeps into every line of music I write on some level, because they’ve altered who I am and what I think and feel and see. It goes without saying, though I’ll say it, that I care far more about their happiness than any objective level of success. It’s a lot harder to be away than it used to be (although I now get more sleep when I’m on the road than when I’m at home), so I try to be more choosy about when I tour. I also have to be far more efficient as a writer, as there just isn’t a whole lot of extra time once diapers have been changed (Noah’s, not Jackson’s), lunches made, books read, wrestling matches fought, pictures drawn and odd stories acted out.

What’s the best part about being both a musician and a dad?
When I write a song for them that they really like, like my latest about Violet Baudelaire from Lemmony Snicket.

What’s the most difficult part about being both a musician and a dad?
Saying goodbye.

What’s the most difficult part about being both a musician and a dad?
Jackson loves it (most of the time). The problem is that if he comes to a show, he likes to run onstage and sit on my feet as I play.

What kind of music do your kids currently enjoy? Do you approve of their current tastes?
Noah has a great bouncing dance with an extended hand in the air that he takes to immediately when almost any thing with a beat comes on. Jackson is surprisingly emotional as a listener. Songs can make him really sad. He has long been into Johnny Cash and Tom Waits, and I sing him a lot of Paul Simon. But we took a turn for the worse last week when he discovered “Bicycle Race” by Queen. Now that’s locked on
repeat.

Have you attempted to immerse your kids in music? How have they responded?
They love music and hear it all the time, but I don’t push anything on them. Jackson has a little ukulele which he messes with. And as an incentive for potty training a couple years back, he got to choose a reward. To all our surprise, he asked for a violin. But it would be a
wild stretch to say he plays that thing. Both boys love messing with my guitars, and Jackson has some pretty good windmill air technique. Noah has a toy piano that he slams on and yells “dada dada.”

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