As mentioned in my previous post I've been talking with my female musician friends who have already been down the mommy path; asking them for advice about double duty - growing a baby and your fan base.
For many years now I have held Kellylee Evans as my shining beacon of musical motherhood. I hope by now that you have heard of Kellylee. She's a fantastic singer and songwriter who just happened to win this year's Juno for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year with her third release, Nina. Her take on the repertoire of Ms. Simone is spellbinding - highlightling both her incredible vocal talent and her soulful sincerity.
Although most jazz singers start their careers with albums covering songs made famous by singers who came before, Kellylee came to the jazz forefront with her first album Fight or Flight which garnered her first Juno nomination. Her next album Good Girl is also outstanding.
Kellylee is probably the most positive person I've ever met. I mean, I like to think of myself as an upbeat soul (I didn't get the nickname Sunshine Skittle for nothin') but Kellylee takes positivity to a whole new level. Just being in her presence is enough to make you think you can take on the world and win. I'm sure it is this attitude that has helped her balance a life of international live performance, songwriting and raising three beautiful children. So, who better for me to turn to for some baby-mama songtress tips?
1) How did you maintain the quality of your sound when your core started to fill up with the baby? Does it start to feel like the baby is invading the space usually reserved for your lungs?
I definitely found it much harder to breathe and to take deep breaths when I was pregnant. For each pregnancy, I have felt the baby sooner and sooner. So for my third and last baby, I needed to start becoming accustomed to the reduced lung capacity pretty early on. I found that if I didn't fight it and just accepted that I was not going to be able to hold notes for as long, I would be alright. I played around with melody lines more and changed my phrasing, but just instinctively.
I am generally quite uncomfortable throughout most of my pregnancy, so I dreaded the idea of performing when feeling so horrible. But the funny thing was, once I hit the stage, all my excitement and adrenaline resulted in helping me forget all my ailments. Nausea, sore back, heartburn, vertigo - they all disappeared once I got into the show.
2) How did the baby's movements effect your singing/performing?
The baby's movements didn't bother me a bit during performance. For me, it was more getting used to how I was going to move once I was on stage. Once that was adjusted for, we were like a perfectly synchronized machine.
3) Did you find that your audience reacted differently to you when you performed while you were pregnant? If so, what changed?
The baby I was carrying during my last pregnancy, during the time when I really started performing more, definitely became OUR baby, as in the audience's baby, the band's baby, the venue's baby, the media's baby. Even to this day, people ask about him. They watched him grow, were nervous he would arrive while they were watching me on stage and then saw him soon after he was born (I was back performing when he was five weeks old). People really showed their love for me and the baby during my pregnancy and afterwards. A great feeling.
4) Was there a particular song that came to have new meaning once you started performing it while pregnant?
I think every song became a bit more emotional, because I was being inundated with higher levels of hormones. I cried at the tiniest little thing. So, all the songs developed new meaning.
5) Did you compose while you were pregnant? If so, how did that effect your song writing?
I don't think I did compose anything during pregnancy. I was an absolute wreck off stage and spent most of my time sleeping or nauseous. I was lucky to have enough energy to take a shower, much less create anything. Once the baby was out, it was like I was flying again.
My thanks to Kellylee for her candid and thoughtful responses.
Alongside her upcoming dates in France, Kellylee has some exciting live Canadian performances on the calendar. Trust me, she is someone you want to see in person!
April 30th in Ottawa at D'arcy McGees.
May 6th in Ottawa at Mercury Lounge.
June 1st in Toronto at Koerner Hall.
Visit www.kellyleeevans.com for details and tickets!