I’ve been playing music for many years, first as a solo performer, then with a band. But recently, to my genuine surprise and utter delight, I have also started to perform with my entire family. That is, my partner David and our three kids Murray, Hazel and Roanna who are all still at school. I didn’t plan it, I never expected it, but somehow it has happened.
We were on stage recently and a lovely man came up to chat to us as he was getting himself some CDs at the end of the show. “How did you get your kids to be so into music?”, he asked, “How did you make them want to perform with you?”. He had a young daughter, and he was hoping he could do the same.
I get asked that quite a lot, and my stock answer is “I didn’t do it, it just happened.”
But then I got to thinking – perhaps our family lifestyle has made it possible, even quite likely, for family music to emerge.
So in case it is helpful to other families out there, I am going to share how we approached music within the family from when the kids were born until now. In fact even before that, because I was on a folk festival tour while pregnant with Murray which means he was exposed to my songs in the womb.
While the kids were young I stopped touring and playing live, but I never stopped playing at home. My guitar was always visible in the lounge room of our house, and I would often pick it up to play and sing. The kids would pull themselves up from crawling to standing using my knee – upon which sat a guitar. Their tiny fingers often fiddled with the strings while I was playing, and I let them.
I sang to all three kids constantly, just because that is who I am and that is what I do. I made up little songs about everything – their favourite animals, monsters, funny stories, bedtime songs.
When the kids started school and began to express an interest in learning an instrument, I supported them to do that. And I allowed them to abandon that instrument when they’d had enough. I encouraged, but never forced, them to practice. Still do (and don’t).
Music making always happens in the family area of the house. Away from the television (which is never left on in the background). We don’t have a dedicated ‘Music Room’, the whole house is a music room!
I often sit and write songs in public. Before she had left primary school Hazel had started writing songs too (in her bedroom with the door shut, but I could still hear them).
Everyone is allowed to sing at the dinner table, but not an entire song. Yes, we eat family meals together.
Competition for the family music space has become so great that we have had to make up some rules: if you are playing in the lounge room, everyone is allowed to join in, but they have to join in with what you are doing (you can’t ACDC solo over the top of a folk song).
We all LOVE singing and playing music. We all LOVE making up harmonies together. And so it is an easy step to do that in public, on a stage. It’s fun, and that’s all there is to it.