MusicMusic Features

These Local Moms Balance Music and Parenthood

To celebrate Mother’s Day—which is Sunday, May 12; don’t forget to send flowers—we asked a few hard-working local musicians who also happen to be hard-working local mothers to reflect on balancing parenthood with music. Their insightful responses have been edited for length. Happy Mother’s Day to all Flagpole-reading moms!

Rachel Evans (Motion Sickness of Time Travel)

Flagpole: Tell us a little about you and your family.


Rachel and Oscar Evans

Rachel Evans: I’m 31 and mom to a 4-year-old boy, Oscar. My husband, Grant, is also a musician, and the two of us collaborate on music, as well as co-managing a boutique label. My time spent with my son is similar to, but obviously greater than, my time spent recording music, since time for both is spent mainly at home and in the evening after work hours. Lucky for me, my husband stays home with our son full-time, so they have an extremely strong bond. Oscar and I have a strong bond, too, just focused more on nights and weekends. I’ve got bath and bedtime duties. I love reading to him, and I get to at night. It’s probably my favorite thing we do together.

FP: How has your music career affected Oscar, and vice versa?

RE: I love the variety of books, music and films our son has already been exposed to. My husband and I have a huge cassette and VHS tape collection, in addition to CDs and vinyl. It warms my heart that he knows what the formats are and how to play them. He asked for his own record player for Christmas, so we found a small, portable unit, along with a copy of “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush, which he frequently asks me to sing to him as he falls asleep. We hope to continue to nurture a love for music and art in him that I feel has come naturally just from being around our gear and collections.

Our musical output has definitely been impacted. Going back to work after having him was difficult, and I expressed that over the course of many tracks I recorded over the first two years of his life. I certainly have taken a big step back from performing since he was born. Up until recently, I didn’t have much desire to do that. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I performed again live for the first time since I was pregnant.

FP: Is Oscar musical? Have you written music together?

RE: Oscar and I have recorded a few things together, which I have not shared or released yet. With my help, he played one of my synthesizers on the most recent Quiet Evenings release, Espions. I have a track with recordings of his voice I’ve been working with, too. As he gets older, I hope this continues. He definitely has a good ear when singing along, and already makes up the most adorable songs when he plays his own instruments. A little song he performed for us recently was so precious—about a baby turtle!

Vanessa Hay (Pylon Reenactment Society)

Flagpole: Tell us about you and your family.

Vanessa Hay: Women artists and musicians are sometimes expected to give up having a family. I had my family and worked a full-time job. It was great! Now that I am retired from my day job as a nurse, and my girls are grown, I have more time for art and music. I adore my current band. We are writing new material using Pylon as our guiding star.

[My children are] 25 and 32, and I love them both dearly. They have my back, and I have theirs. Hana has her own household, a dog, and is a member of the Classic City Rollergirls. Victoria commutes to classes at UNG, and has her own space downstairs. Both are independent young women, and I am super proud of them.

FP: How do you think your music career has affected your children?

VH: I made a decision when they were young to not make a big deal about any of it. It’s all just a part of life. Everyone is good at something or has a different interest. That is what makes the world go around. My girls were both different from birth, with their own gifts and personalities. I made sure they had sports, art supplies, music lessons, enrichment activities and too many toys around. This is a great town to expose your kids to both science and art.

FP: How did you balance music, work and family life?

VH: I was [a registered nurse] for 21 years. I went back to school after Pylon broke up the first time. It wasn’t a pretty sight around the house some days, with two kids, a full-time job, four cats, a bird and my mom living with us. I joked we were like the “Beverly Hillbillies” jalopy, held together with spit and duct tape, barely making it down the road. With the support of my husband, Bob Hay, and friends and family, we made it through those challenging times and still made it to swimming lessons, soccer, camp, went on inexpensive vacations, etc. It’s hard to be perfect at everything. I gave up on that! A couple of times, I ended up at work with mismatched socks and my top or pants on backwards.

FP: Are your kids musical?

VH: They both took string lessons through the UGA string program in elementary school, and both had guitar lessons from Vanda Guthrie. I used a song titled “River” that Hana wrote for the recording project Supercluster. She also played cello on our song “Brave Tree.” For Green Thrift Grocery, who were quite good, she played bass. Currently, I don’t know what she is up to musically, but she still paints. Victoria hasn’t ever been a performer, but the musical experience was good for her brain.

Karica Smith (Seline Haze)

Flagpole: Tell us about you and your family.


Karica Smith with Hazel and DJ

Karica Smith: I make hip-hop music to ultimately motivate, inspire and [encourage people to] empathize with someone like me. Everyone gives me Lauryn Hill and Noname references all the time. I do admire them, as well. Tend to your garden and follow your dreams, no matter the circumstance.

I have a 5-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Hazel, and an almost 6-month-old son, Dedric Jr. (DJ). My daughter is a nice, energetic young lady. She loves art, playing and music, as well. My son is a happy child. He smiles bright. I love my kids very much. I’d do anything for them.

FP: How do you think your music career has affected your children?

KS: My daughter has been so inspired. She gets so excited to hear me perform. She’s been to a show of mine, and was ecstatic. [I enjoy] showing her to take care of herself through music. You don’t have to just work a nine-to-five—you can also make time for you, and chase your dreams. It’s all doable. I’m very open and honest in my music for a reason, and it’s also a great source of therapy for not only me and my listeners, but for my seeds, as well. They find it enjoyable and amazing that I’m even pursuing music at all.

FP: Are your kids musical?

KS: I have my daughter on an intro of a song I put out last year, “Focused.” We do plan on making a lot of music in the future.

FP: Anyone going to follow in your footsteps?

KS: My daughter also likes to rap, but prefers singing. She has a caring nature, so I wouldn’t be surprised if veterinarian and singer were her two future titles. I also performed up until I was almost nine months pregnant with my son DJ. My son’s father and my boyfriend, Dedric Knowles, is a fellow musician. It’s in the genes for him.

Dana Downs (Cosmo Jr.)

Flagpole: Tell us about you and your family.

Dana Downs: I’m an Army brat who grew up all over the U.S. and Europe. My family is from Georgia, and both of my parents are UGA grads, so I ended up in Athens and also graduated from UGA, as did my daughter, Ella Grace. My first band was a new wave/punk outfit called the Tone-Tones, and our first gig ever was opening for the B-52s at the Georgia Theatre in 1979. My current band is Cosmo Jr., and we have kind of a swampy, post-punk, Broadway, jazzy sound. Our pirate opera Sisters in Arms was released last year.

My daughter is 28, and has been living in NYC for five years. She is my favorite person, and we travel together as often as we can. Every year since she was 5, we go together somewhere we’ve never been before. Travel is the best gift you can give a child. She is a hard-working, appreciative woman of the world, and is my absolute pride and joy.


Dana and Ella Grace Downs

FP: How do you think your music career has affected your daughter?

DD: My musical life has never been anything but positive for my daughter. She always came first, and I never had any conflicts with her activities and my performances. I worked many different jobs—bartender, writer, merch rep and others—but have always been very lucky to have great friends to help me out whenever I needed. My bosses, friends and bandmates all helped me to raise a smart, kind and loving daughter. I know she is proud of what I do, and she has always supported me. I am beyond proud of her, and am so blessed to have Ella Grace as my daughter.

FP: Is Ella Grace a musician?

DD: EG plays drums and had her first band in middle school, but now she is a sommelier living her best life in New York City. I miss her, but she is happy there, so I’m happy, too!

Nicole Bechill (Shehehe)

Flagpole: Tell us about yourself and your family.

Nicole Bechill: I’ve been in Athens for 10 years. I had no intention of joining a band, but this town has a way of inspiring you to get creative musically. I have a bachelor’s in fine art, and had planned on working creatively with photography, mixed media and painting, while my husband’s creative outlet was playing drums. A year after arriving in Athens, I found myself a somewhat timid singer in a punk band with my now-husband, and this is where my creative outlet has lived happily ever since.

My daughter, Ramona, will be 3 years old this month. Ramona is amazing. I keep thinking there will be a time when I am less impressed, but watching a human being grow, develop a personality and learn is absolutely fascinating and wonderful to me. That being said, being a parent has been the most humbling experience of my life so far. It’s really hard sometimes. There were tasks pre-child that seemed so easy that are now so very challenging.

FP: How has your music career affected Ramona, and vice versa?

NB: Ramona is totally aware of what band practice is. She often imitates someone using a microphone, and is starting to play around on instruments that we have around the house. She has also gotten used to traveling, since we often take her with us for smaller, three-day tours. I try to include Ramona, and as she gets older, it gets easier. I’m looking forward to a summer festival we are playing in Illinois, where she can attend, because we are playing early in the day. Most of the time, we play shows past her bedtime, so she actually has only seen us a few times.

Pre-Ramona, we were much more carefree with touring—staying with whoever we met at the show and offered us a place to crash. Those days are over, and sometimes not missed. We hope to get an RV sometime in the near future to create a very stable environment for the band, babysitter and Ramona, and maybe start going on longer tours again.

Ramona’s arrival has been great for overall band health. Now, on tour, we typically wake up early and go to a park or museum. There are fewer hangovers, and much more unity. In December, we had a long drive back from Florida after a gig, and Ramona wasn’t having the car seat after four hours of driving. We spontaneously sang Christmas songs for another hour, because it made her happy and distracted her from the long ride. Things like that would never happen before Ramona.

FP: Is Ramona going to follow in your footsteps?

NB: I hope she will find something that she can be passionate about. I don’t know if she will follow in my footsteps, but I’m excited to see what she finds value in.