Sloan Wainwright is one busy lady. From her work as a music mentor to a new generation of singers and songwriters, Wainwright is now finding herself back on stage performing for fans all across the country. Not to mention that she’s Nonie to six beautiful grandchildren. Wainwright sat down with Celebrity Parents Magazine to talk about music and making time for what really matters.
What do you have going on now, Sloan?
So much has changed for me in the last three years. I moved to upstate New York; I moved in with my beautiful partner Danny. I now live on top of a mountain. It was during the pandemic, so my illustrious performing career went on hold, and I turned towards my teaching which I’ve been doing since 1997. I work as a vocal, songwriting and performance coach — I call myself a music mentor. I’ve been traveling all over the country working at colleges and folk arts workshops. I also have an exciting new record that I put out called Red Maple Tree which came out in 2021 which reflects some songs for the times. I’m back on stage again, so now I’m juggling my performance and teaching and thinking about larger projects, one of which is a book of essays.
How have you found performing to be since Covid?
There’s a definite change. It’s been interesting to go to shows because we have to deal with masking and seeing what time of year it is or putting a cap on the number of people you can have. I take into consideration how I’m feeling and doing the whole meet and greet. If I’m feeling maskalicious and I feel to put one on, I will. It’s really a consciousness thing; I’m ready to move on but I know that you have to be careful. I have a very little granddaughter who is not vaccinated yet, so I’m totally in line with vaccinations and boosters but you have to have an awareness. I want to take care of myself so I can take care of the people around me.
But has the feeling changed as you’re performing now?
No. There’s that je ne sais quois, that thing that cannot be named, which is the energy, and it’s what happens for the person who is called to be on stage. It’s a certain kind of art form. And for me, I’ve been on stage for 45 years. So, standing on stage and having an energetic interchange with a group, no, that has not changed. It’s very joyous and dynamic.
Let’s talk about the new record and how it’s different from previous records?
Well, it was done during the pandemic and a lot of it was done remotely. It was astonishing to see how you can make a recording. Although I would drive down to Woodstock, NY to do a lot of my singing at Mark Dann’s studio, we were both extremely safe. A lot of the putting together of the record, such as layering tracks and a few select folks to join me, that was all done remotely.
It seems like you have so much going on.
I’m seeking balance. I’ve put together a pretty big job for myself these days. I work full-time as a music mentor. I owned a bakery/café in Main Street in Katonah for 26 years; it was called The Baker’s Café. That was when I was raising my family and playing my music. I had so much energy in my early 20s and 30s and into my early 40s. Now, it’s like how it was for me, then. I’m trying to balance my creativity with mentoring others. Songs are coming slowly but that’s okay. I’ve been writing songs my whole life – I know that they’re like a penny in my pocket. Even if sometimes I get nervous because I don’t know where it is, I know that it’s there and when the time is right, I can pull it out of my pocket, always carrying it with me.
But I’ve been called mostly to write stories. I’ve been learning about creative nonfiction essay writing. I have a beautiful teacher, Emily Weinstein, who is outstanding. I’ve found that writing stories is completely different from writing songs! My songwriting is much more poetic, kind of cryptic and hidden, because I love words and I love what it feels like stringing words together along with cadence and melody. And of course, I love using my voice. It’s almost like painting but writing creative nonfiction essay writing makes me feel like I’m really learning my own narrative, my truth. It’s been pretty stunning to learn about this. I’m kind of thinking, “You’ve got so far to go, girl.”
But you still have your penny.
That’s right, I’ve got my penny in my pocket! You know, you’re a creative; we go through our ups and downs. It can feel like you’re hanging on for your life because it’s scary.
So how do you encourage others with your teaching but still leave something for yourself?
I’m learning about that still. It’s time management. I really love being a vocal coach and I love listening to people sing and helping them understand what they’re doing. It’s a natural fit for me; I don’t know if it’s from my mother and father, but it’s wonderful for me to share information that I receive from my experience and witnessing others who are called to sing. I have a lot of joy around it. But one of the things that’s important about vocal coaching is that fit is important. I also have one day a week where I don’t clients.
I also have a lot of things coming up. I’m doing the Yosemite Songwriting Retreat and I’m doing the John Lennon Real Love Project, too. In the summer, I’ll be doing a lot of group teaching at various songwriting and music camps for adults. I’ll be going to Florida and Maryland doing a series of shows. But I’ll see how I do. For me, it’s a living thing, and it can expand and contract depending on how much I need to do.
Let’s talk about your family.
For some reason I thought I was divinely protected by having boy children. I’ve learned so much from my sons getting married and being in happy marriages, and then each having these incredible families of three. My older son Sam has three girls with his wife Nicole and my younger son Gabriel, and his wife Lindsey have three little boys. I missed out on the girl thing, and now I’m like, “Hee hee!” [rubbing hands together] I have great daughters-in-law; I mean really outstanding women. And then my granddaughters are off the chart amazing – three redheads, and aged 7, 6, and 5 months, and the grandsons are 8, 5, and a year and two months.
So how is Sloan as Grandma? Are you Grandma?
No, I’m Nonie. Nonie like Sloanie. People are like, “Are you Italian?” “No, I’m not!” I’m their Nonie and they love their Nonie. They know me, which is important to me. I never have enough time with them, especially since I moved away, so it’s a little heavy on my heart because they’re changing so quickly, so the onus is on me to get in my visits, and they have their Nonie time. But I feel so blessed. I never would have guessed that my life has expanded into this big beautiful explosion of children.
Do you think you would do a children’s album inspired by the grandbabies?
[laughs] Wow. I actually never thought about that, but I do have an idea for a kids’ book based on a story that my son Gabe told me. My daughter-in-law Nicole, her sister is a beautiful animation artist, so I’m talking to her about doing a short or a book, and then I would play the ukulele or do some singing.
For me, the most important thing are my two beautiful sons, my two outrageously gorgeous strong and courageous daughters-in-law, and my six grandkids. Family first, then fun, and then music.