Eye Empire lead singer Donald Carpenter on the challenges of balancing work as a rock star with family.
Like a lot of guys, maybe you travel for work. Time away from your family is tough, and few careers make greater demands on a father’s time than traveling musician. GMP’s James Stafford caught up with Eye Empire’s lead singer Donald Carpenter, who is on a coast to coast tour supporting their latest album, Impact.
GMP: How old are your kids?
DC: My oldest son will be 12 here in the next year, and my two youngest boys will be 7 and 5.
GMP: Young family! How do you stay in touch when you’re on the road so much?
DC: We’re gone more than we’re home, you know, with Eye Empire. Skype and FaceTime are really efficient tools for keeping in touch, but I think other than that you just have to bring your kids into the discussion on what exactly it is that Daddy does. For me, music is such a blessing. It’s something that heals and brings people together, and that’s something I communicate with my boys. [I tell them] we have a purpose in life and that’s music, and we’re going to have to take the music to the people and that means Daddy is going to have to be away for a while.
GMP: Do they grasp the concept that dad’s a rock star?
DC: Oh, they’re little stars in training. They grasp it all, from the recording process to the writing process. They definitely like it, and it makes it easier that they have an interest in it.
GMP: I’m sure it’s still hard to be away so much.
DC: We’ve discussed a lot of times as a family that a lot of the time the problems that family groups have are due to stagnation and the fact that there isn’t that absence that makes the heart grow fonder. But we’re in this constant process of having to appreciate our time together, so not only do we take advantage of it more when we are together, but it’s something that we value a great deal when we’re apart. I think if you maintain the proper perspective [on time away] you can benefit from it and you can bring your family closer together.
GMP: Making the best of the time you have —
DC: Just being there in the now every day is important. You start to realize how much you miss out on influencing your children at such a young and impressionable age. Those are very valuable years. That’s when you really want to be there as a father. You want to go to those first little league games and all of these things that are a part of the developing psyche of your children.
GMP: Back to your rock stars in training for a second. When I was your boys’ age my father was a repairman, and I always that it was the coolest thing to follow him around with a toolbox. Do your kids gravitate toward the tools of your trade?
DC: Oh yeah, I think everybody does that, it’s natural. This isn’t exactly what we want for our children, but we hope that it will create some better opportunities for them.
GMP: Why don’t want your kids to follow you into the family business?
DC: Well, you know, this is a tough life, and it gets the best of the majority of people who try to go through it. A lot of times [the music business] tears people apart, tears families apart, and it’s very understandable why. It takes a special combination of people to make it work and for it to be healthy. A lot of times it’s not a very healthy life.
GMP: People have pretty strong opinions about what a rock star is. When you find yourself in parenting situations like little league games, birthday parties, etc., do you tend to overcompensate to make the other parents more comfortable?
DC: You know, it’s funny, because there’s so many stereotypes that affect people’s perceptions, and yeah, we’re definitely the guys who stand out at the little league field or in the deli line at the grocery store. For me, though, it’s had kind of the opposite effect. There’s a lot of dreamers out there who walk the “normal” path, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But people seem to look at us less with the stereotypes and more with, “There’s somebody who’s obviously providing for his family, and getting [his kids] involved in baseball and doing all these things and he still has the capacity to live a dream.” More often than not that turns into really good conversations, and it’s very humbling because honestly I think we feel more uncomfortable than they do.