Parent Profile 01-Nov-2010
Music is the perfect way to express her joyful experiences of parenting, says singer and songwriter Nadia Sunde, whose work as a radio presenter and producer with ABC Coast FM has given her a high profile on both the Sunshine and Gold Coasts. Nadia’s indie music background includes touring on the Australian folk circuit as lead singer and bass player in popular folk/roots group Spot the Dog, and she’s now moving in a fresh direction, her creative journey enriched by motherhood.
Having also worked as an early childhood music educator and facilitator of Kindermusik programs, Nadia’s now also mum to Asher, 6, and Mia, 4. The family home is a creative hub where music and song are a natural expression of their lives together, and these magical, everyday moments have inspired her first children’s album, Homespun. One of the album’s standout tracks, The Goat and the Goose, came third in the prestigious 2009 International Songwriting Competition (Children’s Song category), and Nadia continues to win over kids and adults alike with her quirky lyrics, infectious enthusiasm, and captivating performances.
Where do you live and why? We live on the southern Gold Coast. It’s home, it’s where I’m meant to be. It’s such a beautiful place, because you’re able to access these incredible waterways and estuaries and the ocean, but the forest is so close. The hinterland of the Gold Coast is not far from the beaches, and you can explore all aspects of the Coast without it ever feeling like an effort. We enjoy bushwalking and we enjoy the creeks and the ocean as well. It ‘s really important to my husband and I that we’re able to access those natural environments and make that a part of our lifestyle with our children.
Tell us about your family home. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to live in a house that had a secret passageway. It might have been the magic of C.S. Lewis that inspired my ambition, but I never really thought it would happen — that is, until I found the house we live in now! Her name is ‘Esmeralda’ and she’s a quirky A-frame cottage, perched on the side of a hill, backing onto a beautiful reserve and only a two-minute walk to the beach. I’d love her even if she didn’t have a secret passageway, which she does, hidden inside the roofline of the upstairs bedrooms. To enter you have to sneak through a little door tucked away inside...you guessed it...the wardrobe. My children delight in taking honoured guests through this magical cave, bejewelled in boxed Christmas decorations, next season’s clothes, camping mattresses and stored suitcases!
Describe your journey as a mother. Motherhood is the biggest, craziest, most challenging and rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. I said to a friend, after my second child was born, that becoming a mother again has reached my roots even further into the earth. It would take a lot to blow me over now. I love the clarity, confusion, and confidence that comes with being a mother. I think I should explain this statement. Clarity: I know more about myself and what I want from my life. I also know what I want for my family. Confusion: things do not always go as you’d planned or expected, but sometimes, better things come instead. Confidence: I brought two beautiful children into this world. Step aside, I’m-a on-a my way! Rooooar!
What qualities do you love most about each of your children? My son, Asher, has the most amazing empathy that is actually beyond his years. His level of empathy is outstanding. He’s incredibly kind and generous and happy, and he’s funny. He’s got a really good sense of humour and he’s a really creative person — he’s always dancing, he’s always got a tune that’s seeping out of him. He embraces his creativity and he’s not intimidated to be creative in front of other people. I would really like to see that quality nurtured.
My daughter, Mia, is an incredibly strong person, so she knows what she wants, but she’s very polite in how she goes about expressing that. She has a great level of empathy as well, and she’s very caring of other people. When someone has hurt themselves or is feeling sad about something, she wants to be able to nurture them and offer them support and understanding, and that’s a lovely thing to see in someone so young. She’s also very creative.
Has motherhood influenced your musical direction? Music has been my long-term companion. Taking a break from performing while my children were babies meant I had the freedom to create music without expectation. I began to write from the inspiration of my family life — rainy days spent in a nest of blankets, dancing in the kitchen, train rides and friendship. I love that motherhood has brought me to my path as a children’s songwriter and performer. This is what I was always meant to be doing. I’m in my bliss.
How do you encourage your children musically? Music is a natural part of our everyday rhythm. We dance and sing loudly together, make up songs and ‘jam’ on whatever we can find. Mia made very musical pancakes this morning with a spatula and the frying pan. We also subscribe to the School of Spontaneous Song. All you have to do is make up a song from whatever pops into your head (It’s amazing how often four-year-olds are contemplating ‘poo-poo’ and ‘bum-bums’!). So many of our friends are professional musicians that most of the music we listen to comes from them. I get a huge kick out of being able to say to my children, “Hey, that’s Uncle Michael we’re listening to.” It demystifies the art of music-making and offers them the confidence to try it themselves, which they do — loudly, often, and with wild abandon. Just like Mama.
What does a typical day involve? My work is varied, diverse and incredibly exciting. On any given day I could be presenting radio on ABC Coast FM, performing to a festival crowd of 5000 people, conducting a music teacher training workshop, singing to children in a hospital ward, planning a Queensland tour for my adult ensemble, co-writing a song with a beloved musical friend, or getting interviewed by someone from Kids on the Coast. Lucky me!
With all the activity, adrenalin and change, I’m in danger of getting run-down. This year I’ve learnt how to look after myself and find balance in the small moments — walking on the beach with my family, playing card games with my kids, gazing at them when they don’t know I’m looking, precious time alone with my husband, good food, and good friends.
How do you balance your career with raising children? Late last year my husband and I committed ourselves to following our creative path and making it financially sustainable. This was a terrifying prospect. It’s been 12 months and the gamble is paying off. Jeff and I both work from home, so we share the responsibilities of parenting and house management. I could not be as musically active if I did not have the support of my beautiful husband. He is amazing.
What do you enjoy most about performing for children? Children are generous, open-hearted, loving, funny, expressive, intelligent and creative people. Their parents are pretty great too. I am the luckiest girl in the world to share my music with them. Whether I perform to a crowd of 10 or 1000, I feel that what I’m doing is valuable and worthwhile. The rewards are immeasurable. I had a mother say to me recently: “Your music plays such a big part in our daily life. Thank you so much.” It doesn’t come much better than that, unless you’re two years old and all you can do to show your gratitude is hug me round the knees. I love that too.
What parenting advice can you share with our readers? Laugh with your children. Don’t take it all too seriously. Sometimes you can get bogged down in the day-to-day of what needs to happen and what needs to be done. Some days it doesn’t matter if the sink fills up with dishes. Some days you just need to let that stuff go and just be in the moment with your kids.
What’s your greatest achievement so far? I have an exceptionally happy home life. That is my greatest achievement and one that I share with my husband, Jeff. Everything is easier when the person with whom you share your life understands and respects where you’re coming from and where you’re heading. I’m so grateful for him, my gorgeous children and the beautiful life we share.
Where do you see yourself in five years– personally and professionally? In five years from now, I will still be fit, healthy and enjoying family life. I’ll have produced two more albums for children, accompanying DVDs, five more children’s books, and be commissioned to write music for ABC and BBC Kids TV, have co-written and recorded two albums with my adult trio, Burton, Sunde and Fix, be living on the Coast, be enjoying my work at ABC Coast FM, be performing at international and national music festivals and loving my life as much as I do now. Hey presto manifesto!
Nadia’s favourite things:
Song: Mavis Staples’s new album You Are Not Alone is a big hit at our house, in particular the song I Belong to the Band. We all sing along to that one.
Food : I love summer eating. Anything eaten outdoors always tastes better. We love salad and barbeque the best.
Family activity : We own a funky old 1980’s pop-out caravan that we love to get away in. I love the psychedelic green vinyl flooring, but I love the brown tartan curtains less.
Holiday destination: Angourie in northern NSW is a beautiful place to holiday with kids. There are lots of rock pools, caves, beaches and bush walks to explore. If you’re keen for more of a drive, I recommend Crescent Head. It has a shallow tidal creek that my children learnt how to swim in.
Beach: I love to walk along Tugun and Currumbin beaches with my dog Pepe. He stops at every single blade of grass and then, when you’re quite sure that the well is dry, he stops at every post. It’s a good thing he’s cute.
To find out more about Nadia’s music and her 2011 performances, visit www.nadiasunde.com