There is an air of impossibility about two musicians touring with their baby. If you don’t travel with a caregiver, the logistics aren’t concrete: There needs to be a lot of breathing room along with a dedication to adaptation. You need to be able to say, “I guess we’ll both do solo sets.” It’s important for us to remain expectation-less about how a show is going to go or how our child is going to respond to the energy of a venue or the people.
Other parents we meet will say, “You’re very brave.” People who don’t have kids often remark, “I thought life was supposed to be over when you have children.” They also say, “It’s good to know it’s not.” Everyone asks, “What does the baby do while you play?” There are as many answers to that question as there are shows.
By the time we had our child, going on the road to perform had become a natural part of our lives. I’d been hopping on the road spinning around the country since I was old enough to drive, and Hawk was always touring with his band. We met playing music, traveled together soon thereafter, and quickly set the pace for a life of future adventuring (read: Bellagio-fountain-hopping, neo-Nazi-protest-protesting, being kicked out of casinos for dancing, sleeping in bank parking lots). Long before Amilio ever saw the world, we dreamt of traveling the country in a motor home, playing shows and finding that special somewhere to call home. We moved in together knowing we’d save some money and soon hit the road. A week later, we found out we were going to have a baby.
Little by little, the initial shock wore off, we thawed out, woke up, came to, and realized our vision could adapt. Wouldn’t it be cool for our kid to say, “When I was young, my parents took me on tour with them all over the country”?
Our immediate (and admittedly somewhat panicked) states of mind had us thinking we’d better buy a house and settle down, post haste. For a few days in August we stared at each other with serious faces (the kind of faces people who are going to be parents make) and discussed making down payments, finding a house in the country, or taking over the family business. Little by little, the initial shock wore off, we thawed out, woke up, came to, and realized our vision could adapt. Wouldn’t it be cool for our kid to say, “When I was young, my parents took me on tour with them all over the country”? Our plans expanded to fit the pending little one.
We decided to start traveling as soon as the baby was “ready.” We didn’t know when “ready” would be. We guessed he might be strong and sturdy enough by the time he was six months old, so we circled a date in October and watched my tum expand (which is nothing like watching grass grow, paint dry, or water boil).
We had a calm, centered birth at home. Afterward, we sat around the living room drinking tea and talking about the experience. Our midwife Sheryl swept her gaze around the room, smiled (more to herself than us), and said, “All these instruments remind me of when I first started attending home births in the ’70s. How wonderful for Amilio to grow up around music.” Her observation strengthened our resolve.
Like most babies, Lio loved music from the get-go. Playing his dad’s latest album (which Lio had been there for practically every moment of the making of, in utero) made him coo and instantly relax. He clearly favored and recognized the tunes he’d heard so many times in the womb. We’d shot a video a couple weeks before the baby was born, and had played the song “It Isn’t Mine” probably fifteen times between the video shoot and band rehearsal for the album release. Now, this is Lio’s favorite song. Hawk plays it, and he just… stops. Stares. Smiles. This is his song.
Lio loves drums. He loves messing around on keyboards and pianos. And he’s absolutely fascinated with watching drummers and guitar players. Seeing Lio as a music lover in training also helped us realize our decision to take him on the road could be incredibly formative.
We weren’t quite getting the full picture of what shows would be like on the road, where we wouldn’t have the support of relatives and where the number of people and unfamiliarity would turn baby-holding into a mom-or-dad-only scenario — both the baby’s preference, and ours.
We did a few show-and-baby test-runs, traveling to Colorado when he was just a couple months old for Blank-Tape Records Fest, then playing a handful of shows closer to home near Des Moines. The shows cast some light on the unpredictability of simultaneous child rearing and show playing, but we were lucky in that we almost always had family in the audience who were eager to hold the baby while we played. We weren’t quite getting the full picture of what shows would be like on the road, where we wouldn’t have the support of relatives and where the number of people and unfamiliarity would turn baby-holding into a mom-or-dad-only scenario — both the baby’s preference, and ours.
We started booking shows for our east coast tour a few months after Lio was born. Instead of the web of bars we’d been accustomed to planning tours around, we turned our focus to look toward house shows, galleries, cafes, art spaces, collectives and DIY venues, coffee shops, record and book stores, and other all-ages venues and clubs. I told the contacts we had a small son. People were very receptive. We booked almost thirty shows from Iowa up to Maine, and down the coast to South Carolina.
Fast-forward a little over a year: we gave away or sold everything we owned, put the important stuff in a friend’s garage, bolted the baby’s car seat down for extra safety, and fashioned a crib out of the motor home couch. I sewed little motor-home curtains, and Hawk caulked (try saying that one) extra waterproof layers onto the roof and windows. As the midwest weather turned chilly, we set sail in The Big Ship, headed east.
You can read the rest of Katey and Adam’s tale about touring the country with their infant son Lio in tow tomorrow at 10am PST!