For most casual fans of music, the forty-five minutes that a band spends on the stage is all they can see. However, when the guitar cases are closed and the venue’s floor is littered with empty beer cans and trash, most bands load their gear into the van and return back to their normal lives.
Mother Church Pew’s Off The Stage is a series that celebrates artists’ paths to where they are and the things they do behind the scenes to stay there.
As of late, some camps have attempted to make discussing the subject of motherhood with female artists taboo; for those of us who strive for excellence and success in our careers as we try to be the best mothers we can possibly be, hearing the “war stories” of other women in the struggle brings hope and comfort—a sense that we aren’t alone in our worries and that our dreams can be realities.
“You’re assuming I’ve struck a balance,” laughs veteran singer/songwriter Kris Delmhorst, who recently released The Wild, her eighth full-length album, when asked how she juggles the many aspects of her life and career. “Like most artists, especially female artists, I was pretty scared of becoming a mom and what that would do—will I ever write again, will I ever be able to focus—and for about a year and a half, I didn’t one single line of a song. It was terrifying.” Delmhorst recently released her eighth full-length album, The Wild; when making the album, she decided to keep everything, as she puts it, “in-house.” “I mean, Jeffrey is literally in-house,” she says with a laugh about her husband and fellow artist Jeffrey Foucault, who joined her in making the record. “The other players were like our ‘people.’ The last record I made was like a blind date—I didn’t know anyone who played on it beforehand, we didn’t actually meet until we got to the studio. This time, the relationships were almost invisible, we’ve been together so long,” Delmhorst explains. “These songs took a lot of effort for me to find where they fit, and being able to just focus on the songs freed everyone up.”
“Every day is a series of compromises, because motherhood and career each want your whole entire self all of the time,” she adds of this amorphous idea of balance. Delmhorst has found that assigning a clear purpose to different portions of her day has helped immensely. “When I’m home while my daughter’s at school, I do my best to tune everything out and do my job, so that then, ideally, when she’s home from school, I can have some dedicated time to focus on being with her and not be absentmindedly listening to her talk, while also trying to do music business tasks at the same time. It’s still a challenge but I’ve found I feel better if at least in the moment I’m doing a decent job at one thing rather than a half-assed job at both,” she says. “The flip side of that is that as soon as she’s out of the house I have to try to change focus as immediately as possible and drop into work mode. It’s not really my natural tendency–like most musicians I lean drifty and dreamy—and it works a lot better for business/desk work than actual writing. I have gotten much better at writing in little chunks of time here and there—but these days I need to take one or two sessions per year where I go away and write for five days or so, and that’s when I get a whole lot of my writing done.”
Delmhorst is now on the road with her family, touring in support of the The Wild. “The hours don’t combine well, it’s hard to travel, and when your work requires sustained focus, it’s not easy. I have friends who go on stage with their babies strapped to them. I’ve never gone that far,” she laughs. “I toured with my daughter a lot when she was little, but now she’s nine, so it’s a little different. Being on the road is exhausting, and you have to focus on caring for yourself, it’s very self-focused. Having a kid disrupts that self-absorption,” she says. “It makes everything harder, but it’s the best thing in your whole life.”