Michael Todd: This is what Chris and Stefanie of the band Big Harp hear on their record.
(Fade into “White Hat.”)
MT: This is what they hear in their tour van.
Stefanie Drootin Senseney: Sorry, we’re having a little minor breakdown here.
MT: It’s not exactly musical, but you can’t blame Chris and Stefanie’s son and daughter for crying.
Stefanie Drootin-Senseney, along with her husband Chris, packed a van on June 30 for the long trip from Stefanie’s birthplace of California to the couple’s adopted home of Omaha. They came all the way back to Nebraska to play a show as Big Harp, Saddle Creek Records' newest signee, perhaps to their children’s dismay.
SDR: Both of our children have ended up being difficult car babies. Neither of them love it. We have a 2-year-old, and he just despised the car, would scream in the car, so it’s kind of a long drive from anywhere.
MT: But for a band with a debut album coming out Sept. 13, the run up to release date demands a few thousand more miles on the odometer. Still, updates on Twitter such as “Big Harp is knee deep in baby barf” don’t comprise the beginning of a barrage of self-promotion. Which is just the way they want it.
SDR: We like it a lot because it’s our lives, you know, our kids are our lives. But it’s different, you don’t stay out late partying or drinking. You play the show, and you get home, and they wake up at six or seven in the morning, so you get up then. And you have to take more stops on the road. It’s a longer process, but it’s fun. It’s a big road trip with your kids.
MT: The road trip doesn’t end any time soon either. Big Harp plays The Slowdown this Friday. (Fade in a song at low volume.) After that, Stefanie will help run the Omaha Girls Rock! Camp, which she founded and now directs.
(Fade into “All Bets Are Off.”)
That means a week of empowering girls through the independent music experience, cultivating confidence, self-reliance and original thinking. Then, once the camp ends, the couple will have about two days to get back to Los Angeles to play a show at The Satellite.
And although music may bring people together, working together can also bring a certain strain to relationships. Add to that the long hours of driving and the demand to play well at every show, and it seems Chris and Stefanie have a little more to deal with than a minor breakdown from one of their children. Thankfully, as Stefanie says, there’s not much of a power struggle between her and Chris when it comes to music.
SDR: We don’t really have to worry too much about it. He’s somebody who has always given me the same respect as he would any other male or female for that matter. So the power, it’s just a non-issue, it’s just so equal and even.
MT: And when it comes to the kids, Chris said he and his wife don’t play particular parts. They both just chip in wherever’s necessary.
Chris Senseney: Whatever we do, nobody has a strict role or job or that kind of thing. We just try to get through everything.
MT: The road to Big Harp’s signing with Saddle Creek Records began when the two hit it off as a couple. Although they had met previously, Chris’ band at the time, Art in Manila, opened up for Stefanie’s band, The Good Life, on a tour together.
As Stefanie said, one thing just led to another. They had a baby boy, a wedding and a baby girl. Then they formed the band, and the two found three or four days in their busy schedule to record their debut, titled White Hat, with friend and fellow Omaha music scene member Pierre de Reeder of the band Rilo Kiley.
CS: We prepared the record. It was pretty last-minute, though. It wasn’t a long period of coming up with a record, and it wasn’t like we were writing for a record. It was just songs.
MT: Now, at the end of one road trip, the two have some time to rest, though Stefanie’s going to be working hard on the Omaha Girls Rock! Camp. Stefanie said the camp is still in need of some loaner guitars, guitar amps and PAs. If you have any gear to spare, contact the camp at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The girls who have signed up and will use that gear will write songs they will eventually perform at the Slowdown themselves on July 16, a big end date for a camp that’s been some time in the making.
But Chris and Stefanie won’t have much time to appreciate their accomplishments in Nebraska as it’s back on the road with the kids soon after that. They don’t know if the drive will be quite as long, quite as arduous as the ones they’ve done before, but as Chris sings, one thing is for sure.
(Fade into “Steady Hand Behind the Wheel.”)
Michael Todd is a summer intern for Hear Nebraska. He would probably be all right with long hours in the car with children because his favorite TV show is Phineas and Ferb, which means he has a kid's sense of humor. Reach him at email@example.com.