Bringing up baby… on the road

Anyone who’s toured as a performer knows that amid the joys of being on stage and the camaraderie with fellow musicians, there are the pangs of guilt and loneliness from missing loved ones. The birth of a child is often a make-or-break moment for young professionals in the music biz, and not everyone can bear regular separation with a growing family.

Of course this is even more difficult for young mothers in our business, as bluegrass and acoustic music rarely afford the sort of comfort and luxury travel that make traveling with an infant or young child convenient. A devoted dad, and often grandparents or other close family, are crucial to making that work.

But what of young families where both mom and dad travel the road playing music? Sure, that may not be a common occurrence, but imagine the extra stresses that involves. Until recently, perhaps the most visible example has been Kristin and Wayne Benson. Kristen tours with The Grascals, and Wayne with IIIrd Tyme Out. Their son, Hogan, was born in 2006 when both parents had less demanding tour schedules, but as opportunities with busier bands came along for both of them, they had more issues to consider than most young parents.

Now facing a similar set of challenges are Travis Book, bass player and vocalist with The Infamous Stringdusters, and Sarah Siskind, who records and performs as a singer-songwriter. They welcomed their first child, Ruby, on January 31, and like all new parents, have had to adjust their lives and schedules to this new reality.

We asked Travis to share a few words about how they are working their new little bundle of joy into the family business, and how she is responding to having music around all the time.

Travis Book with his daughter Ruby“When Ruby was in the womb, we continued to do what we did. That is to say I played a lot of guitar and sang around the house, and Sarah wrote and played shows. Ruby particularly liked acoustic guitars, I presume because of the resonance and would even move to the rhythm when Sarah was onstage. Sarah was also at a Stringdusters show when she was 7 months pregnant with Ruby, and every time I sang she’d start moving around a bunch.

A few hours out of the womb I started playing for her; we took a Tacoma Papoose with us to the hospital. I wanted to sing her her first song, and as soon as I started singing, she craned her head and squinted her eyes, trying to make out the origin of the sound.

Now that she’s a month old, we’re falling into some patterns and Sarah’s starting to plan tour dates in the spring. It’s hard being away from home, she’s changing so fast, but iPhones make it easy to get constant photo updates and do ‘face time’ when we have internet. I can’t imagine what it must have been like pre-cellphone era…

As Sarah resumes her solo touring, she’s keeping it mellow, doing opening slots or doing duo shows (with me both supporting and backing her) close to home, and she has an amazing assistant, Amanda, who is proving to be crucial.

We plan to bring her along with us, whatever we do. Our parenting style is to educate through experience and we figure, the more she gets used to music, socializing, travel and new people, the easier it will be for her through the rest of her life. We aren’t changing our lifestyle, just modifying it to include our little buddy. I don’t know if she’ll grow up to be a picker, but she’ll definitely have every opportunity to do so. She has very passionate parents, so whatever she’s into, it’ll probably be all the way!

You can meet Ruby at our Virginia Duo shows, April 18 at Ashland Coffee and Tea and April 25 at Harrisonburg’s Clementine Cafe. She’ll also be with Sarah when she opens for Martin Sexton at The Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville on March 16, and we’ll bring her with us to Floyd Fest in July. If we’re there, she’ll be there with us!”

Ruby sounds like a very fortunate young lady to have such creative and talented parents.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.