Melodies of Motherhood: Stories of North Carolina’s Working Musician Mothers with Laurelyn Dossett

May 11, 2019

Melodies of Motherhood 

Stories of North Carolina’s Working Musician Mothers 

Story by Carly Jones, N.C. Arts Council Music Director

As a little girl who grew up playing house in tree forts while also staging living room concerts with a hairbrush as a microphone, I was taught by the world around me that these two paths were mutually exclusive. Later, as I ventured into my twenties majoring in music and pursuing a career in the arts, I was told by a mentor of mine, “You can have it all – you just can’t have it all at once.” Times are changing. Recently, I have worked with several artists who have been able to balance motherhood and a creative career. Many young artists, like myself, who hope to one day have families of our own, marvel at the women who somehow manage to balance it all. In this limited Mother’s Day series, you’ll hear from North Carolina musicians who are inspiring examples of women who have embraced motherhood and their artistry and are defying the odds.

Laurelyn Dossett

Stokes County, N.C.

Composer/Songwriter, Americana

Name and age of your child/children: 

Emilia, 30

Rosalie, 28

Sophie, 25

What is your child's favorite song? 

They are all three voracious music fans and listen to lots of different genres and eras of music. One of them has a “Keep on the Sunny Side” tattoo, so that probably says something. 

What do your children think of your own music?

A lot of my work is writing and performing music for plays, so they have grown up exposed to theater and music as story-telling. I think they have all enjoyed that and they remain supportive of whatever crazy project I may be working on!

What’s the coolest part about being both a musician and a mother?

Being the mother of Emilia, Rosalie and Sophia is just the coolest thing ever. They are smart and funny and beautiful and loving - they are such bright lights! Being a musician is also wonderful. I get to do two things I love.

What challenges have you faced being both a musician and a mother? 

I am not sure my challenges were much different than those of any other working mother, except for perhaps the ridiculous yet prevalent notion that doing music as a job isn’t really “work.” That attitude seems to be changing and that is good for everyone, not just mothers.  

How does being a mother change the way you approach your music and your career?

I was a mother before I was a musician, and in some ways that fact informs everything about my music. I try to write music that tells true stories, songs that connect us to ourselves and to one another.  I try to write from an open heart, and this old heart of mine is open because it has had a lot of practice loving my girls.

What advice would you give young musicians who would like to one day also be mothers? 

The same that I would give young musicians who want to be fathers! If you are ready to love a little human deeper and wider than you can imagine and keep doing that for the rest of your days, go for it. Being a successful parent and a successful musician require similar skills:  creativity, open-heartedness, discipline, vision, tenacity, a supportive network, a sense of humor and the ability to stay up all night!

About the Artist

Laurelyn Dossett has partnered with Preston Lane on six plays featuring regional folklore and original music: Brother Wolf, Beautiful Star: An Appalachian Nativity, Bloody Blackbeard, Providence Gap, Snow Queen and Radiunt Abundunt. Commissioned by the NC Symphony, she composed and performed “The Gathering: A Winter’s Tale in Six Songs” in 2011. A song from Brother Wolf, “Anna Lee,” was featured on Levon Helm’s Grammy-winning record Dirt Farmer; her song “Leaving Eden” is the title track of the Grammy-nominated recording by the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She collaborated with playwright Mike Wiley on a new play called Leaving Eden, which premiered at Playmakers Rep in April 2018. She has received the Betty Cone Medal of Arts and the NC Arts Council Fellowship for songwriting. She lives in Stokes County.