Photo by Peter Coombs
Sue Fabisch writes what she knows and she knows motherhood. A longtime singer-songwriter and stage veteran, Fabisch started Mommy Music Inc after reading of a famous songwriter’s contempt for female songwriters. From there, her songs found focus in a one woman show which grew into Motherhood the Musical which opens March 30th at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre. Fabisch spoke with Our Town about Veggie Tales, her show’s success and of course balancing career and motherhood.
Our Town What are your musical influences?
Sue Fabisch Well, I love me some Barbra Streisand! How I wished I could sing like that. Hence, the switch to songwriting! And I think Bette Midler had a huge impact on me as well. I just loved her ballsy in-your-face attitude. Believe it or not, I was also influenced by the songs in all the Veggie Tales videos (that I had to watch over and over and over again with the kids!) They're really well crafted songs, very silly, very catchy and really smart lyrically. So Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Larry the Cucumber. Yep, those are my musical influences.
OT You started your company in part as a response to a songwriter who disparaged housewives.
SF This famous songwriter talked about looking for songs for other artists. When his team couldn't find the perfect song, out of desperation, they turned to the 'housewife pile,’ a box in the corner where he would throw songs mailed in from housewives who thought they could write. Here was a guy, who had made it in the music business, passing judgement on me and my talent because I chose to stay at home and raise kids? Um, no thank you. I have a degree in music and I can write a song and breastfeed at the same time, dude! Can you do that???
OT So why aren’t moms taken seriously?
SF Oh man, I wish I knew! When I first started putting out Mom songs two things happened: Audiences loved it and the music professionals hated it. They would call it "niche" and "cute". They would send me condescending emails saying things like "too bad it's just not commercial." Yet as I stood there and watched the audience, I saw huge amounts of laughter. So I just ignored them and kept going.
OT Has your show faced similar marginalization?
SF Well, the title kind of puts it out there that we're targeting moms, but when I see men in the audience (and this is worldwide) they are laughing just as hard. The comments afterwards are usually "Oh, I remember my wife saying that" or "My daughter is going through that right now". So I do believe that men are relating. The question is: Will men actually admit (in public) that they enjoyed the show?
OT What makes motherhood an apt topic for a musical?
SF Well, where else can I talk about the dreaded laundry pile and an exciting trip to Costco all in one show? Where else can I make fun of my husband and not get in trouble? Actually, my husband does say that without him, I'd have no material, so I guess I owe it all to him. (Or at least that's what he thinks!)
OT Did events from your life as a mom make their way into the show?
SF The entire show is based on my life and my stories with my kids. When I was doing the workshop in Nashville, my son Daniel was helping me at rehearsals and every ten minutes he would say "you put that in there?”
OT How did it transform from initial idea to fully realized musical?
SF When I was pregnant with my first child 16 years ago, I did a one-woman cabaret show in NYC called It's All In The Delivery, songs about impending motherhood. Eventually, I moved to Nashville to write songs, and I would sing at things like the American Payroll Association meeting and the La Leche League Luncheon. I knew which songs worked because I had tested them for years. When I switched it to the current 4-woman format and it really took off. I knew I was on to something because for the first time in my 20-year career, the paying audience was filled with people who didn't know me! I like to say that after 20 years of paying my dues, God said "ok, you've worked hard enough" and all the stars lined up.
OT What’s been the most fulfilling part of creating this show?
SF The best part has been that I get to share the journey with my kids and my parents. I love the fact that my kids get to see all the hard work paying off. And I love that I'm using my college degree in music that my parents said I would never use!
OT What’s been the biggest struggle?
SF The biggest struggle is always the same: What am I making for dinner tonight?
Purchase tickets for "Motherhood The Musical" through ticketmaster or by calling (800) 982-2787.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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