Family Affair

Even when they are on the road, the family of Wise Monkeys are at home together

by Lee Abraham

Sparkling daylight reflects off the singer’s sunglasses as she moves with a rock star’s perfect grace. She is as beautiful as the summer day. The sun is shining, live music is in the air, and hundreds of folks on the huge green lawn are dancing. Some are singing along. A little girl, no more than five years old is front row center, doing both, and having a great time. She’s had a lot of practice. After all, that’s her mom on stage. Even though the band is a couple thousand miles from home, at the end of the day when the motorhome heads off to the next gig, the family will make the trip together.

"It’s been really cool to have the kids with us," says Alley Stewart of Wise Monkey Orchestra. "They’ve been great and had a great time, and we’ve enjoyed having them on the past few tours. Basically the way we approach the whole thing is we’re all a big family." Literally. In addition to her husband, bass player Chad Stewart, and his brother Reed, the band’s manager, the four other band members and a soundman, Stewart’s two young kids travel with the band. So does her best friend, who doubles as a nanny. "She’s wonderful," says Stewart. "And now that I’ve had her, I don’t ever want to ever be without her."

Taking two kids on the road, crisscrossing the country for six weeks in a motorhome (the band travels in a separate motorhome) may seem like a big deal, but it’s nothing compared to what Stewart has done twice in the past - tour while pregnant. "It was really hard," says Stewart, "It’s one of those things where you look back on it and you say how the hell did I do that? At the time, it’s just your reality. It’s what you do, and you just make it happen. There’s good nights and there’s bad nights. There were nights when I was so exhausted and I was laying in bed five minutes before we were supposed to play and I was going, ‘How am I going to do this, you know? I just want to lay here and sleep." The challenge wasn’t only physical. "There’s also the nights that you just feel so fat and ugly because you feel so huge and bloated, that you’re like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ In reality though, it’s always worse in your head."

There were alo unexpected payoffs. "I think a lot of people were amazed by it," says Stewart. "I would see peoples’ faces when I was singing sometimes and they were just delighted! They would be like, ‘Look at that! Yeah!’ Women especially. So many times, women when they’re pregnant are treated like something from a glass menagerie. I always thought, and especially now that I’ve been through two pregnancies and done what I’ve done, that was rediculous."

She’s not the only one who feels that way. While pregnant, lots of women came up to Stewart after performances to show support. "That’s wonderful, things like that make you feel so good inside," says Stewart. "There’s a lot of women who are like, ‘I have a two year old, and I think what you are doing is great!’ But there’s always that fear also that there are going to be people like, ‘Ughh, I can’t believe what that girl is doing in a bar, singing with a band when she’s pregnant... she should be home knitting booties!’" "I always have those fears," admits Stewart, "because I love my kids so much and I don’t want to feel in any way like I’m not doing my job as a mother the best I possibly can... my goal is so -not- that, you know? My goal is just to be the best mom I can be. I think it’s a positive thing for the kids."

It’s no surprise that the motherhood theme finds its way into Stewart’s lyrics. Example - ‘Zane’s Tune,’ written for her young son, who will be celebrating his first birthday this summer. "I was about two weeks away from having him," says Stewart. "We were rehearsing, I was trying to write and it was all I could think about that day... -‘All this time I waited for you,’- -‘Dreaming about the color of your eyes-.’ I would just sit and think, ‘I wonder if he’s going to have Chad’s chin... I wonder if he’s going to have my nose?’ What’s he going to look like, you know? That’s what you do the last few months, you just kind of daydream about this little guy that’s going to be in your lives."