[#1] Share with us a snippet of your story.
Where to begin, where to end, that is something I struggle with. Oldest of four kids, born and raised in the Arizona desert, I've been a little dreamer since the beginning. We got a piano at age 7 from my great grandma Tootie, my fingers were like magnets to the keys, I just knew how to play. I turned my tiny bedroom closet into an office, set up a desk a typewriter and a tiny boom box and went to work, trying to figure out how I would make things happen in the world. I drew mickey mouse for hours and traded drawings for fancy pencils in the fifth grade. Introverted and shy, I struggled with years of loneliness and insecurity and turned to creativity for comfort. At 11 I came across a pair of scissors and decided to give my little sister Katie a very awful very short haircut while my mom was in labor with my baby brother. I had a full cliental of aunts, cousins and friends by 9th grade, convincing me in my junior year of high school to go to beauty school half days. Simultaneously I was prodded into an audition for "meet me in st. louis" at school, I was 15, I had never sang a solo and hated the sound of my voice, desperately wishing it sounded like the little mermaid, and yet it did not. I got the lead role, pushing me through my insecure shyness and into the light and onto the stage.
At 17 I graduated a semester early and became a beauty school dropout so I could move to Los Angeles to pursue singing after a few voice lessons. Shortly thereafter I was met with heartbreak and left the music behind and headed back home to Mesa. I sold shoes at Nordstrom, and kept cutting hair in my bathroom, and met my husband two years later at 19. But there was this hole in my soul... that music could only fill. I packed up my jeep cherokee and back to Cali I went to try again at age 20. After a long-distance test of our relationship, I married Dave Ray CPA (that's what I call him), a handsome left brained accountant from Nova Scotia.
And yet I was the starving artist, I went to music school, started writing songs and played the sunset strip while I did lots of odd jobs, illustrating, nannying twins and still cutting hair in my bathroom until I found a lucky break and got a golden ticket on Season's American Idol, that changed everything. I toured the nation, and started an indie record label, June Baby Records, released a few solo records and then started a duo with Jack Matranga in which we released three EP's known as Jack and White. In the last three years I also have been co-hosting, and developing a cutesy quirky online webseries known as "the girls with glasses" alongside Summer Bellessa, a dear friend I met many moons ago on Myspace.
Lots of other things have happened, lots of dabbling and doing and trying and working. After years of patiently waiting, I finally gave birth to London June Ray. Everything was just leading up to this point. I always hoped that I would be an M&M and a GWG, a mother and musician and a girl with glasses, and I am! It's hard to believe I came to LA ten years ago to chase after the dream... ten years later here I am, still living and loving that dream!
[#2] What is your favorite part of the day with your little one[s]?
Favorite part with my little one?! Well that's a tricky one, either in the morning when I go get her out of her crib when she shoots straight up with excitement and she has the most wild shock of hair and that sleepy eyed "I just woke up" look on her face, GAH! it kills me everytime. But then there is bedtime, when she kinda relaxes her crazy monkey body and sort of cuddles with me and we say prayers and sing a song while she quietly drinks her bottle. That is pretty amazing too. London is just the cutest little character, we're best friends, I love most parts of the day with that little chicky chick... except for the shopping parts... THE WORST. M.E.L.T. D.O.W.N. EVERY TIME.
[#3] Name Instagram MOMS who inspire you.
Instagram moms who inspire me: wow I am stressin over this one, too many to choose from! There are a gang of mama's out there that I find inspire me through out my day in my own journey as a mother and artist. I have found such a supportive and incredible community of people on instagram, It's been a blessing connecting with so many great women. It's hard to narrow it down to three, but let me give it a try.
My partner in crime
... between the two of us, she is the one that keeps the ship afloat while I'm treading water. Summer is super human, she is quite possibly the most productive positive individual I know. And yet she is as down to earth as they come, natural, prompt, well spoken, so even keeled. And even with all of her responsibilities and challenges, she manages to rarely complain. I am so inspired by her work ethic and attitude... and she does it all while nursing a baby! Really a remarkable mother and woman.
is a friend of mine from church, hope I don't freak her out by mentioning her, as she isn't trying to build a legion of followers. However Erin's approach to instagram is unlike any other I've seen. She isn't trying to get glamorous, no staging, no filters, this is straight up real life, down in the trenches motherhood. From tantrums at target to throwing valuable possessions down the toilet, it's funny, it's disastrous and it's always an adventure with her four children, including a set of twin toddlers. Though I aim for authenticity in my portrayal of life on instagram, I know I'm guilty of focusing more on the pretty parts as so many of us do, and in the midst of perfectly curated pictures of motherhood that pop up on the feed of those I follow, Erin's photos reminds me that it is incredible refreshing to keep it real. The best thing however about her photos however, are her captions. She is one funny mama.
I recently told everyone I know to follow this mother living in Germany with her two children and husband serving in the military. Her perspective is less focused on day to day living, but more of a photo journal of her surroundings and travels... from dunkin' donuts to old churches and cliffside coasts and beyond. Just to look at her instagram feed feels like you've taken a mini-vacation around the world, I always love to see where she is next, and the places and things she captures. Such a brilliant eye for beauty of the earth!
What challenges have you faced in balancing motherhood and your passion for creativity?
Often times I've been guilty of linking my self-worth to my productivity level. How many things I crossed off my list, how clean my house is, how much service I gave, how many creative projects I was involved in and completing, how often I was engaging in social media and how many people followed me, or "liked" me or what I was doing, how many records I sold or didn't sell, how often I was blogging, gigging, writing, and of course, how much money I was bringing to the table to contribute to my family all were barometers of how awesome or terrible I felt I was doing in life. My self esteem and happiness were very much attached to all these things. In my heart I knew that none of these things really defined my true worth and value, but I still felt vulnerable to the temptation to measure myself to these ego driven standards of success.
Wow, having a baby flipped my world upside down and forced me to gain some much needed perspective. In the first half of her life, I spent anywhere from 5-7 hours a day breast feeding, pumping and bottle feeding London. Nursing was my greatest challenge of motherhood to date. It just didn't happen as naturally as I hoped, it caused me a great deal of pain for several months, I had to cut out dairy entirely for London's sensitivity to lactose, and battled a low milk supply for the last four to five months... I bought every supplement and remedy, tried to just "relax", employed the best lactation consultant in the biz and invested everything I had, time, money, energy, body, mind and spirit to make it work. This experience really threw off my productivity game. Initially I felt discouraged and all out of sorts with myself, feeling like I "wasn't getting anything done". It was all I could do to keep this hungry baby of mine fed and full.
I had to sacrifice a lot of my own creative aspirations and goals for a while. Especially in my business, the expectation to jump back in the ring in my skinny jeans asap was looming over head, and I felt that pressure. Emails would pile up, text messages would go unanswered and it just took me some time to get a handle on my new life as a mom. Of course I feared that I would be forgotten, or everything that I worked for would disappear. But I was served a delicious and daunting piece of humble pie, and I ate it. I sat with that baby, and I held her and bounced her till I thought my arms would fall off, I nursed her till my nipples bled, I accidentally spilt precious viles of breast milk and sobbed with despair... and yet all I wanted to do was stare at her, smother her little face with kisses, and hold her close to me and keep her my tiny baby forever. The love I was feeling truly overwhelmed my existence, I guess I was just willing to do anything and everything. Fully crazy I was, a really happy, miserable hormonal mess of a mom there for a little bit, and it was imperfect and wonderful.
At about five weeks after labor I got a call from my manager, reminding me of the plan to record a Christmas record. It was July, oddly it is in the dead of summer that Christmas records are made. I was still in the throws of nursing and schedules and routines. At the end of August I decided I would give it a go. This was a challenge, just to leave her even half the day. Naturally, I wasn't super comfortable to interrupt a recording session to inform my producer that I needed to go pump in the bathroom. I'll never forget the time I was in the middle of an important conference call while pumping and my manager on the line said "can you guys hear that? what is that sound" and you know, I just said "oh yeah, that's my breast pump!"... As if conference calls weren't awkward enough! I've pumped while driving to the desert for a photo shoot, nursed my baby backstage before a show, or on a set. In time, I got the hang of it, and I have learned to just make it work. Before I knew it, nursing was over and on to the next phase... a bittersweet realization of parenthood.
I waited 8 years for my Londy Loo, here I am at age 30, never dreamed it would take that long. I have experienced a lot of incredible and exciting things in my creative life, but to have had those experiences truly allows me to be present with my baby and not feel like wishing these precious fleeting years away, or wondering if there is something else I wish I would or could have done. Raising a baby is productive. With all of it's unique challenges, this is what I want to be doing, right now!
Honestly, the landscape of my life has changed. For the last five years I've spent most of my time on the road, on a stage, in an airport... I just can't do it like that anymore, packing up the baby and putting her in the van with the band just isn't happening. I mourned that inevitable loss of my old life during my pregnancy, and yet when she was born and placed in my arms an amazing thing happened, I was changed, emotionally, psychologically. So I had to re-landscape, and figure out new ways to use my creative passions and the platform I've worked so hard to build, and find ways to make it work closer to home so I can now enjoy the experience of raising my little human.
It's taken a lot of trial and error. I shall not pretend that it is an easy balance. This might sound a bit cynical, but balance shmalance! Of course I'm always aiming for it, I'm just not sure it exists, for years I have had this expectation, that I "just gotta have balance" running to and fro, here and there, wearing myself thin and yet always letting someone down. That expectation was disappointed time after time. I always drop the ball. In terms of challenges, I want to do it all, and am easily distracted, I want to please everyone, say yes to everything and yet I'm a hopeless multi-tasker, I am chronically tardy, always running behind, and very slow at everything.
London really hates for me to be on the computer, or on the phone. I'll never forget when she kicked the phone out of my hand at 9 weeks old while she was breastfeeding. These little ones sense when we are divided and need our full attention, This makes many parts of my creative jobs and commitments very difficult. It is also the reason it's taken me four weeks to finish this interview, but this is okay, I am in the wild west, some days we are surviving, but she will only be a baby once, it is precious and all too fast. And yet if I don't create, I think I might die. My family and my creativity are both so sacred and dear to me and my existence, I can not and will not live without one or the other.
So instead of balance, I adopt the "time and a season" mentality, we just can't do everything, or everything well all at the same time. So I just know that it will be very imperfect. Sometimes I slip back into my old mode. I will not get everything done, my house is kind of a disaster, I may miss a deadline, disappoint a few people, some days she may wear her jammies all day, me too likely, she will walk her little feet across my wet oil painting, but I'll just take a picture, wash off said feet and fix it. But we still paint, write songs, cook, dance in the living room, make movies and webisodes, sew and work on endless projects, posting lots of instagrams along the way, fly around the country creating loads of ruckus in the sky, all with a baby on the hip, and it's awesomely hard.
Geez this answer is awfully long, but last thing I swear; If there is anything I have learned, it is to get help, ask for it, pray for it, pay for it, accept it, get a babysitter or an assistant to help a few hours a week, rely on God, on my husband, take the help of mom or a friend... My pride often says I can do this on my own, but reality and happiness says, oh no you can't! Asking for help is not a weakness. Oh and make hay while the baby sleeps! Naps are super important. Ultimately all my challenges are bringing me to surrender and live in the moment. ... Shoot, Did any of this make sense?! Too much to say about this one.
[#5] What is a family tradition that you love sharing with your kids?
I was brought up on music, listening to the classics and the greatest songs of all time. Bands like the Beach boys and America, the Carpenters, or singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Carole King were the soundtrack to my childhood. My parents played their records on an old turn table, we went on family drives through the desert to listen to oldies on the radio on Sunday nights, we jumped on the trampoline while we danced to songs on an old juke box sitting on our patio. We made mixtapes and playlists for each other. Instead of watching TV, we listened to the stereo.
My mom and dad always told us who sang every song, we all have become music trivia junkies. Other than our faith, Music was kind of like the glue that held us together as a family.
I recorded two EP's and was on the road during the majority of my pregnancy, she came out a rock n' roll baby, it's in her blood. She bops to the beat and has favorite songs and excellent taste for a one year old. I don't expect London to follow in my footsteps, she doesn't need to sing or play the piano, but I do want to pass on to her the love of music that my parents gave to me. It made for a really happy and fun life!
[#6] If you could give us a peek inside your home - what image would you share and why?
a. I love this particular picture of London, I had just had my house cleaned after returning from Canada while filming a hallmark movie, and our home was a bit of a disaster. She was just 11 months and taking her first steps. I posted this caption of the moment: "I was sitting in the office and looked over to see this little lady deep in concentration, practicing and perfecting standing and walking by herself, arms stretched out like she's about to walk a tight rope. Coolest thing ever to watch a little human grown and develop. Secondly, the picture documents that my house is finally clean, been juggling a lot of stuff lately and have been in disarray... but pretty close to the top of my list is a clean house. Never lasts long with a curious toddler... but hey, wouldn't have it any other way".
b. oh and this is the before picture. This picture was taken with in the same week, before I cleaned the house. There wasn't a clean space in sight to actually take a pretty picture, so in my state of chaos and exhaustion and lack of motivation to get it under control, I just decided to put it out there. What I was feeling in the moment. It was kind of liberating...
Share a photo you wouldn't typically post on Instagram but depicts
Since then my house really resembles this photo: the caption reads " #imreallylearningtoletgo " It's amazing how in just a few short months I have lost complete control of the castle, London now reigns as Queen. I am a clean person, I grew up in a clean house, with a clean mom, and I just kind of obsess over it, and with working at home it is difficult for me to create in chaos, but again, parenthood is teaching me surrender, to let go of perfection, to let go of things that just aren't that important. It's not that I have given up, I still try to keep it clean-ish, but I don't follow her around with a broom and a rag, trying to contain and control her every little move. These days I let her run around in a diaper to make her messes, I let her explore, unravel the toilet paper, empty all the tupperware from the cabinets, throw her smushed blueberries on the floor, empty out the DVD cases, press the buttons on the copy machine and rip old papers to tiny shreds. I just can't micromanage her, I try to teach, but she's little, she is curious, she is learning and so am I, neither of us can be denied this experience.