Of course, that was 40 years ago, and rock and roll has since evolved to accommodate a much more family-friendly lifestyle — these days you’re more likely to read stories about “Hot Moms Who Rock” than about some musician’s hotel room overdose. But even if raising kids is no longer antithetical to a music career, touring still presents a major sticking point for most musician parents.
“In the past, I’ve gone on tour without really thinking about it,” said Claudia Gonson, the drummer, keyboardist and vocalist for the Magnetic Fields. “It was like, ‘Of course, I’m in a band — this is what we do.’ ”
This time, as she finalized plans for the band’s current 66-day tour, the Brooklyn-based single mother was becoming frantic as she faced more than two months on the road with her 1 1
2-year-old daughter, Eve, in tow.
“Touring is such an endurance test anyway,” Gonson said. “And when I’m exhausted, I get very weepy and weird and paranoid, and I shout a lot. I’ve learned this the hard way.”
Seeking to stave off seemingly inevitable fatigue familiar to any working mother, Gonson reached out for guidance to a fellow musician mom, Kori Gardner of the band Mates of State — who made her first foray into touring family-style when her first daughter was 10 weeks old.
Recognizing how difficult it was for many artists to find competent, creative caretakers, Gardner, along with three other partners — all 30-something women, and each with an intimate connection to the music world — launched chARTer Nannies, a travel nanny agency that places heavy emphasis on the “ART” part. Between them, they share a remarkable constellation of creative pursuits, child-rearing skills and entertainment business connections — not to mention a killer list of playgrounds in proximity to commonly played clubs.
“You have to have some connection to the art community and want to support it, to understand why families — and moms in particular — would even want to do this,” said Gardner, who writes candidly about raising kids on the road in her blog “Band on the (Diaper) Run.” “It takes a certain kind of person to respect that.”
For years, Erin Austen Abbott was precisely that person for bands such as Mates of State, OK Go and the Flaming Lips, as well as NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon, among others. Abbott, a Mississippi-based artist and Charter Nannies partner, logged thousands of miles as a travel nanny, sometimes spending nine months out of the year on the road.
“It’s definitely a 24-hour adventure,” Abbott said. “It can also be a learning experience. But not everyone is cut out for it.”
Abbott, now married to a musician, is eagerly passing on many of her real-life lessons from the road to the agency’s growing roster of new recruits. She recalled one particularly challenging day during a Flaming Lips tour when the bus broke down, cutting into critical zoo time for Steven Drozd’s two young toddlers.