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ON STAGE | with Jorja Chalmers

MUSIC - Australian musician, song writer and saxophonist for Brian Ferry, former Roxy Music founder, Jorja tells me about her tour in the US and Sweden, how she and her husband practice in the house after the girls bedtime and how more focused she is after becoming a mother twice. She is beautiful, cool and sweet and a neighbour of mine! Lucky me! Enjoy and tell me what you think ;)

photo: Karolina Paczkowska

Tell us about you. where were you born? what you do?

where do you work and live?

Hello, My name is Jorja Chalmers. I was born in Sydney, Australia and i've called London my home for the last 12 years. I play Sax and Keys for Bryan Ferry and also write my own songs.

When did you start thinking ‘I am ready to be a mum’?

I always thought i'd wait until i was in my mid 30's but realised i was way to impulsive to wait that long. I like the idea of juggling lots and being busy. I also figured that i would need lots of energy if i was going to maintain my career and have kids at the same time..

When did you find out you were expecting and how old were you?

We starting trying when i was 29 and got pregnant pretty quickly. I'd just finished a five month stretch of touring, got engaged to my long term boyfriend and had an urge to give myself an excuse to stay at home for a while..

How long did you work for during your pregnancy and after how long did you start to work again?

For both babies, I gigged up until the week before I gave birth.. complete with heels and all! Its a miracle my waters break! It was quite character building being on a tour bus at 8 months pregnant touring Germany for a month. I would get up to pee about 6 times a night and my band mates would still be partying downstairs in the lounge. I also had A LOT of snacks in my bunk..

I was lucky enough to have a 4 month break after the 2nd baby.. with the 1st I was out for work apart from a few gigs for around 14 months.. it was really hard not having that income but I loved the time with Olive.

And how much control did you have over when you stopped working and started again? Did you get maternity pay? There was no maternity pay.. but i received statutory allowance.

Did you have plans in place for your return to work?

My boss, Bryan decided to stop touring for a few months while i had the baby so i was lucky to have that support. I also brought my sister over from Australia to be my nanny when i toured scandinavia for 3 weeks. Audrey, my second was only 4 months but it was great to have her on the road and they go with the flow at that age.

Pregnancy, birth and postnatal experience: training, shows and feelings.

I just got on with it to be honest. It was important for me as a freelancer to save as much money as possible before the birth. I also felt like it was better to put on a brave face otherwise people would start to worry. I didn't exactly the same job as before i was pregnant so apart from the belly, everything was the same for everyone else. For me it was very tiring but my husband, family and friends were there to help.

I had two very difference birth experiences.. Olive was triple induced and was a long, and exhausting natural birth. It was a stressful time anyway as i got the keys to our recently purchased house on the same day i went into hospital. We moved when she was a week old and i remember feeling comletely overwhelmed but totally focused on the baby. I was lucky enough to have great support from my husband and family.

The second birth was so fast! Audrey was born on my husbands 40th bday and i'd only just finished icing the brithday cake when my waters broke.. she was born a few hours later. I felt less battered after Audrey because it was so much shorter. I hate being in hospitals so it was a relief to be there for only 24 hours.

I think its important as an artist to keep working and i'm lucky because i get to do this great job and know its only for a few weeks spread out through the year. It makes the time at home more precious and i get to keep an identity and work on my craft. Having children has only sharpened my ambition and focus as a songwriter and performer.

How much support did you have for combining motherhood with work? (From partners, parents, friends, collegues, society, government institutions etc.)

My husband is amazing! When I'm away he takes the reigns with the kids and it feels like an equal partnership where we support each other with each's musical pursuits. I've just given him the challenge of flying to the US alone with the girls to meet me on tour and its been so great to have them with me and its something he felt nervous about but has handled it brilliantly. I don't think we give our husbands enough recognition..

If you feel you could have used more support/ less interfering, what would you have wanted?

I think in hindsight I wasn't thinking clearly after i had my first and put off looking for work and getting myself out there.. Maybe I needed a break, I'm not sure. By the time I had the second I was more established in my job and they waited for me to have a short break and then I got straight back to it which I preferred. I work for 3 months then I'm a stay at home mum for the rest of the year so its an ideal work/ leisure balance.

Have you got any practical tip, web link, for mothers like you for example maternity pay, support groups etc...? Please add it here.

I was terrified at the prospect of being home alone so i joined the local NCT mailing list and met some lovely mums that i'm still great friends with now. You spend so much time loitering in parks and the like.. its nice to have people you can talk to. Its also great to see the friendships blossom between your children, too.

I would also say you can find time in the day to work on your craft if you really want to. We put the girls down at around 8pm then will often work on music writing/ practing until around 11. It feels so much better than sitting in front of the tv and helps to keep me sane!

Jorja Chalmers Musician

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