A New Portland Podcast Talks Motherhood vs. Music

On Midnight Lightning, singer-songwriter Laura Veirs interviews fellow musicians about juggling career and parenthood.

By Tiara Darnell December 28, 2017 Published in the January 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

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Clockwise from top left: Annalisa Tornfelt, LaRhonda Steele, Rosanne Cash, and Corin Tucker join Laura Veirs on Midnight Lightning.

Laura Veirs is a musician and a mom, identities that don’t often maintain a clean separation. The local singer-songwriter, who releases her 10th solo album in April, pushes back at the notion that she has been able to find “balance” between her career and motherhood, describing it as “more like juggling.”

“My life is very rich with the experience of being a parent and an artist,” she says. “And when they overlap it’s cool. A lot of times they don’t, but they inform each other in really cool ways.”

Which is where her new weekly podcast, Midnight Lightning—the title comes from a Jimi Hendrix album, and also evokes the witching hour of new parenthood—comes in. In this 14-episode season, Veirs explores the lives of musicians who are also parents, and the challenges they encounter raising their families while making music, composing songs, going on tour, promoting albums, and doing media interviews (like this one), examining how that experience differs for better or worse for artists around the globe.

The debut kicks off with legendary bass guitarist Carol Kaye, who raised three children as a single mom while also establishing herself as a fixture in the Los Angeles jazz scene in the 1950s and 1960s. The conversation is rich with stories about Kaye’s life as a musician in a male-dominated field, but with a focus on how she maintained family life. “How did you work for 12 hours a day, come pop in for dinner, go back to the studio day in and day out, year after year, decade after decade, and keep your sanity? I wanted to ask [her] those kinds of questions,” says Veirs. Kaye’s advice? “I’d take my kids to the recording days, just to show them, ‘Hey, this is what I do.’ I was always up front, and that seemed to help the kids.”

Veirs has a running list of more than 100 musician moms she wants to interview, including Solange and Rhiannon Giddens (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops). Already on the books? Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, Swedish singer-songwriter Amanda Bergman, and Portland-based blues singer LaRhonda Steele.

It goes without saying that these issues aren’t specific to women, and Veirs—who is married to Grammy-nominated producer Tucker Martine—is hoping Midnight Lightning can broaden its line of inquiry after the first season. If the podcast gets the audience and fans help fund the show, she hopes to use season two to highlight male musicians and fatherhood. Stay tuned.

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