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Artists from the DMV and Beyond Reflect on Motherhood

‘Being a Single Mother with Three Kids Who Didn’t Speak Much English Was the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done’

Mothers and mother figures in our lives make an indelible impression. For many of us, these powerful women embody strength, resilience, and unconditional love – while creating a better world in the process.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Alchemical Records connected with artists from across the DMV and beyond who balance double duty in their responsibility as mothers and creatives with grace. Learn the one word the artists use to describe motherhood, how their music has been influenced by their parenting role, advice to their younger self, and what a perfect Mother’s Day looks like – well, at least as perfect as can be.

Krista O’Connell: Singer-Songwriter with Roots in Folk, Country, and Blues

Based in Arlington, VA

Krista O'Connell and her son
Krista O'Connell with her son / Photo courtesy of the artist

Please introduce us to your little one.

I have one happy, busy, and determined 14-month-old son.

Describe motherhood in one word.

Joyful.

How has your art been influenced by motherhood?

Songwriting is a place for me to explore my deepest feelings, and motherhood is now entwined in all of them. I’m working on a song that I started writing during midnight feeds for my son. I also wrote a song for my first pregnancy, which ended in miscarriage (“January Moon”). On the negative side of things, taking care of a baby has given me less time, energy, and freedom to perform. But on the positive side, I love singing lullabies to my son, playing guitar for him, and helping him strum the ukulele or bang the piano.

If you could give your younger self advice in terms of parenting, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid — you have a great partner and will rise to the physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy and early parenthood.

What song captures motherhood for you?

“The Mother” by Brandi Carlile, of course. It’s so beautiful and captures the world-changing love and nuance of parenthood.

What would an “as perfect as can be” Mother’s Day look like for you?

No plans yet. I’d love to cuddle and sleep in (a true luxury), enjoy brunch and mimosas at home, go on a quiet family walk, and then grab an afternoon cappuccino from a local coffee shop.

Connect with Krista O’Connell on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify

Shacara Rogers: Vocalist, Songwriter, and Vocal Coach; CEO of BNatural Health and Wellness

Based in Washington, D.C.

Shacara Rogers and family.
Shacara Rogers with her family / Photo courtesy of the artist

Please introduce us to your children.

I have two children and one on the way. Ages 7, 5, and due in June 2023.

Describe motherhood in one word.

Transformative.

How has your art been influenced by motherhood?

My art has been influenced by motherhood in many ways. Not only have my children inspired some of the songs I have written, but they have caused me to get more serious about my life and my calling. In turn, this has steered the very direction of my career and art solely toward my ministry concerning Jesus Christ.

If you could give your younger self advice in terms of parenting, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self that patience is key and to remember that these children have not been here long enough to know better. I would also tell myself to cherish every moment because these days will one day be long gone.

What song captures motherhood for you?

The song that captures motherhood for me is one that I’d written and released on my album 16 Moments, called “Yes I Will.” It was inspired by my first-born son, Cadence.

What would an “as perfect as can be” Mother’s Day look like for you?

I will be singing in my hometown at the church that I grew up in for a “throwback” worship experience with some friends and church family that I have not seen in years. An “as perfect as can be day” for me would look like having my husband and children with me, sharing laughs, hugs and snuggles, good vegan food and treats, and relaxing together.

Connect with Shacara Rogers on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify. Learn more about BNatural Health and Wellness here.

Velu Ochoa: Vocalist for DeSanguashington and La Marvela, Booking Agent, Manager at Sun + Sky Entertainment and ERA Coalition

Based in Springfield, VA

Velu Ochoa and her son. / Photo courtesy of the artist.
Velu Ochoa with her son / Photo courtesy of the artist

Please introduce us to your little one.

I have one child, and he is 4-months old.

Describe motherhood in one word.

Surrender.

How has your art been influenced by motherhood?

I am new to motherhood, so I am still trying to figure out that part. For the moment, I am focusing on myself and working on new music. I am also planning on releasing my first song as a soloist, which I recorded during pregnancy, and I am working on another song that is dedicated to the new love in my life, my son. 

 If you could give your younger self advice in terms of parenting, what would it be?

I am always telling myself to take it easy and slow. Motherhood is an experience that carries so many emotions at the same time. In my own personal experience, it is exhausting in so many ways: lack of sleep, your body is in a lot of pain, healing your birth wounds, physical and mental stress, figuring out for the first time how to care for your child with your partner. Yet, at the same time, exhilarating in so many other ways: watching your baby grow in front of your eyes and the immense love that you feel for that new human life.

Society offers a very skewed and biased version of what motherhood is, oftentimes leaving out of the conversation the struggles that all moms go through… From post-partum depression, to hives caused by stress, to hair loss, insomnia, and more.

In American society, specifically, there is this expectation that one should no longer participate in adult life unless specifically mentioned that children are allowed in said activity, or that you should suffer in silence while having no emotional or physical support. Or get up and start work with no time to heal or rest. And it’s quite shameful, especially in today’s political climate, where women are being forced into becoming moms or dying while trying. 

I hope in the future, American society is more welcoming when it comes to mothers and that at the federal level, more rights for mothers are a reality, including parental leave.

What song captures motherhood for you?

I have been listening to Marta Gómez and her children’s music. One of my favorite songs Interpreted by her is “CANCION DEL BEBE,” which was originally written by Luis Pescetti.

What would an “as perfect as can be” Mother’s Day look like for you?

We are just spending it as a family. If the weather is nice, we may go for a stroll. 

Connect with Velu Ochoa on Instagram; DeSanguashington on Instagram and Facebook; and La Marvela on Instagram and Facebook.

Rachel Burns: Pop/Soul Singer-Songwriter, Breast Cancer Survivor, Co-Founder of #CancerCulture

Based in Washington, D.C.

Rachel Burns with her daughters. / Photo courtesy of the artist
Rachel Burns with her daughters / Photo courtesy of the artist

Please introduce us to your children.

I have two daughters, ages 13 and 10.

Describe motherhood in one word.

Purpose.

How has your art been influenced by motherhood?

Motherhood for me has been unique as I was diagnosed with breast cancer right after my second daughter was born. Being a young mother with cancer affected me deeply personally, gave me a new perspective on life, and changed me as a musician, as I started to write my own songs for the first time. My songs are mostly humorous, but they also have kernels of truth and wisdom. After a lifetime of singing and interpreting love songs, I found I wanted to write life songs-and songs that made you laugh.

I am very close to both of my daughters-they are the lights of my life and gave me purpose to heal when I was sick. With every song I write, I have them in mind and also the thought that I may not be here forever-and if I am not, they can listen, laugh, and learn something too from my songs. 

Each song is for the generations that follow me and for the generations before me that couldn’t use their voice. As an artist, cancer also taught me that life is short-there is never a better time than now to pursue my passions and use my voice fearlessly. In doing so, I try to be a role model for my girls, who see me being creative, never giving up, pushing through my limitations, and fulfilling goals despite the setbacks life gave me.

If you could give your younger self advice in terms of parenting, what would it be?

Drop the parenting books, use your instincts. No one is a perfect Mom, so stop putting pressure on yourself to get everything right. Get a babysitter/nanny-you don’t have to do it all-sometimes you have to lean out rather than lean in. I am a recovering workaholic, so I wish I had dedicated more of my workload to others so I could have had even more time with the kids and have downtime for myself to rest and renew so I didn’t run myself down.

What song captures motherhood for you?

“In My Life” by the Beatles.

What would an “as perfect as can be” Mother’s Day look like for you?

I love just being with my family on that day, having a BBQ together, and relaxing. I am happiest when I am with my daughters, my husband, and of course, my Mom who lives close by, and is very special to me as well!

Connect with Rachel Burns on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify. Learn more about #CancerCulture here.

Stephanie Mathias: Electric Violin Soloist and Creator of Singers and Strings Event Music LLC, Singer-Songwriter, Pianist, Mental Health Advocate

Based in Woodbridge, VA

Stephanie Mathias with her family. / Photo courtesy of the artist.
Stephanie Mathias with her family / Photo courtesy of the artist

Please introduce us to your children.

I have two children: 9-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.

Describe motherhood in one word.

Beautiful.

How has your art been influenced by motherhood?

Motherhood has inspired me to push the limits of my comfort zone to be a better person for my children, and to follow my dreams to be a happier person for my children. 

If you could give your younger self advice in terms of parenting, what would it be?

Don’t set expectations of what your children should do or be like, or what your parenting style will be. Follow the needs of your individual child and the guidance of God and your intuition as a parent. And when it comes to teaching your child, lead with kindness. 

What song captures motherhood for you?

My own song “Sweet Baby” sums it up very well.

What would an “as perfect as can be” Mother’s Day look like for you?

Aside from going to church, I just want a lazy day at home with my family (eating leftovers so I don’t have to cook, and my favorite dessert: cheesecake).

Connect with Stephanie Mathias on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify; and Singers and Strings Event Music LLC on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Holly Montgomery: Americana Artist and Bassist

Based in Falls Church, Virginia

Holly Montgomery Headshot
Holly Montgomery / Photo courtesy of Piper Ferguson

Please introduce us to your children.

I have three children; I adopted them from Kazakhstan at the ages of 9, 13, and 15. They are now 32, 34, and 35. Hard to believe!

Describe motherhood in one word.

Unbreakable.

How has your art been influenced by motherhood?

Honestly, the way that my art has been influenced the most is that I try to live my art in a way that shows them that they don’t have to stop living their passion just because of their age or stage of life. But you do have to be willing to be flexible and open to what’s out there.

If you could give your younger self advice in terms of parenting, what would it be?

Be way more careful and listen to your instincts about who you choose to co-parent with. Being a single mother with three kids who didn’t speak much English was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it meant not playing music for many years.

What song captures motherhood for you?

I wrote a song called “For My Son,” and it was about this moment in time when my son was in despair about so many things not going right, and he wasn’t able to hear anything I could say. So I wrote the song with the idea of trying to find the big picture down the road and how much I believe in him.

What would an “as perfect as can be” Mother’s Day look like for you?

I don’t currently have any plans for Mother’s Day as my kids all live not in my city. My son is getting married in June, so that’s about as perfect a day as I can imagine! But for a perfect Mother’s Day, I sure would love to have them together and spend a day picnicking in the park, with maybe a canoe ride down a river and a campfire afterwards.

Connect with Holly Montgomery on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify.

Lily Vakili: Lead Singer of Vakili Band, Biotech Lawyer, Advocate for Individuals Living with Disabilities

Based in Montclair, New Jersey

Lily Vakili. / Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff
Lily Vakili / Photo courtesy of Jacob Blickenstaff

Please introduce us to your children.

I have three children.

Describe motherhood in one word.

Complex.

How has your art been influenced by motherhood?

Profoundly. Motherhood, as I’ve experienced it, requires great attention to detail and nuance. That practice – done every day in the caring for and raising of vulnerable human beings dependent on you for sustenance (both physical and emotional) – is deeply embedded in my artwork. 

If you could give your younger self advice in terms of parenting, what would it be?

I can’t even begin….

What song captures motherhood for you?

Vakili Band’s “She Wants What.”

What would an “as perfect as can be” Mother’s Day look like for you?

I’m totally in favor of honoring all mother goddesses – all those, however they identify, who care for, nurture, clothe, teach, feed, and love those in need of mothering, but I don’t need the commercialized version of Mother’s Day. I know my children love me, as I loved my mother and told her so (and as my children tell me so), in ways more lasting than a card or flowers or brunch (not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things). 

Even the woman who originated the day, Anna Jarvis, as an honor to her mother (who promoted women’s friendship and support societies), rejected the way the day became so commercialized. So, a perfect day, as with any other day, is to be in the company of those I love, to see them happy, healthy, hopeful and loving, and then, perhaps, to go for a long and solitary walk, through the city, into the woods, out to the ocean, sit at its shore and dream of creation.

Connect with Vakili Band on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify.

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14. Be sure to show the mothers and mother figures in your life some love.

Cynthia Gross

Cynthia Gross is a freelance writer and award-winning spiritual pop artist based in Maryland. With more than a decade of experience as an executive ghostwriter, she understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.

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