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Ryan Miller is lead singer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist for the band Guster. He is a film composer, having worked on Tig, In a World…, The Kings of Summer,  Safety Not Guaranteed,  and several other films. He also hosts the popular digital series “Makin’ Friends with Ryan Miller.”

Ryan lives in Vermont with his two kids and wife Angela, who is Profile Editor for Parent.co. 

Ryan, how long have you been making music?

You mean professionally?

In general.

I got a guitar from my 12th birthday. I’m 42. So I guess I’ve been playing instruments for 30 years.

Tell a little about making music at Tufts, because that’s when it really started happening for you.


It was just myself, Adam – Adam sings, plays guitar –  and Brian who brought bongos. He didn’t have drums because we were in dorm rooms.

That’s what we started doing. We wrote songs for a Battle of the Bands our first year, Freshman year. We didn’t get in.

It just started as a stupid thing in college.We were writing songs so we could play together. We didn’t know a bass player or even know any drummers, so unconventional instrumentation came out of it. We were all going to school, and then we made a record. We were playing, and we were busking in Harvard Square. We were young, cute, and so we would make money. And then we were starting to play off campus a little bit. We played a Harvard party. That just sort of slowly unfolded.

Junior year we made a record with a real record producer in Boston who made cool Boston records at that time. And we got a manager but he was like, “yeah, nobody wants to sign you. Keep making records.”

That was our first sort of light bulb – that guy who said “I can’t get you signed” or whatever. So then we just started sending records to fans. We’d call them “reps” and they became sort of a street team.

We were playing other colleges, tiny little New England schools. They overpay, so over the course of four years; we were able to accumulate enough money to get an apartment after graduation. So we were like, “fuck it,  maybe we’ll just like do this and see what happens.”

It’s different now probably, but the gap between being able to quit your day job and make a living at least for a musician, is huge. You can’t quit your day job until you make enough money. You can’t make enough money until you quit your day job.

But we were at college, so we were just able to bootstrap our training wheels to get the band up and running so by the time we graduated we were like, “we’re a band.” We never had jobs. No one worked a bullshit job. Our days, every day, were like, “let’s go write.” We were writing music. We were playing shows. So that’s just what happened.

The first day we got out of college, we went to Chicago.

I didn’t know about that – that you went straight to Chicago, playing with the band.

We had five shows in Chicago the weekend that we graduated. “All right, I guess we’re going to be musicians,” which is really kind of crazy. My degree is in religious studies, Brian’s degree is in psychology, and Adam’s degree is in American Studies…

We were selling our records out of our guitar cases, sleeping on floors, playing parties, but it was also growing.  So we would play 50 people, and we’d go back and there would be 150 people. You could see what was happening in New York and in Boston.

Millions of other things happened between now and then. But that was really how it all started. And no help from any management, just us doing it totally bootstrap.

Do you think you could do that today? Do you think that’s still viable?

It’s almost more viable in a way. Back then there was no Kickstarter. There was no internet.

No cell phone.

We maybe had an email address when we graduated from college; this was ’95. We were mailing CDs in Fruit Loop boxes. Maybe we had a cell phone at that time?

Probably not.

I mean now, there’s billions of ways to make this happen. You can have house concerts,  all that shit exists.

But you don’t feel like, in some ways, if it’s almost too easy it some of the creative friction is lost? 

There’s just way more noise out there. Everybody can make a record. It cost us $10,000 to make that first record. I remember when he gave us the budget on a piece of paper and slid it across the table. Our faces were just like, “what?!”

But now you can make a record for $200. Everybody can make a record. I was thinking about it today.

Does any of that relate to your latest album Evermotion

We worked really hard on that for four months. We went on tour and made something I’m proud of. That by itself should be celebrated. We made a good record and people like it and the tour went on, it was awesome. But in some ways just being able to make another one is success, because the goals have changed so much.

Even like huge bands, like Faith No More, or My Morning Jacket, make a record, but the following week, but there’re a million new things.  The albums come and go. It’s harder to cut through the noise with that constant influx.

You can’t take anything for granted. It’s about taking value in your work and maybe figuring out how to monetize it in a way that you’re not just suffering to whatever level you need money.

That reminds me of how we’re moving into a freelance economy based around short term work. Even for jobs that used to be exclusively done by career professionals. In a way, successful creatives like yourself at the forefront of figuring out how to make a living in the “freelance economy,” for lack of a better term. All our kids will live in that economy. 

But that’s just not how I thought my life was going to work, and it hasn’t for the most part in some ways.

It’s sort of scary, but it’s sort of cool. Yeah, those big jobs people used to take just to have health insurance…. I don’t even know many people that have those jobs.

Not anymore, no. More and more, people are going to have to hustle to make their thing happen.

I don’t know what’s better. Would you want to go out there in the freelance world, where you’re not proven so you’re only going to make $200, and that’s your job for two weeks? You know what I mean? It’s scary, but you have to. That’s the thing.

You’ve got to bet on yourself. That’s what I go back to and I think that’s sort of the legacy of the band and the thing that I really take away from all this. We were just like, “well, fuck, we’re going to do it. We’re going to make this happen”…and so we kind of did. To my kids I’m going to be saying “do it,” do whatever you want to do, go do it until it doesn’t make sense anymore.

I’m not going to be an advocate for the safe thing, but I don’t even know if those safe harbors exist anymore.

Barely. For some people they do – for now. 

It’s all ‘grass is greener’ stuff. With composing, I feel very much on the upswing and there’s still so much more to explore. But it takes incredible effort and skill and you’ve got to be in the right place, and you’ve got to nail it, and then you’ve got to follow up.

And there’s a billion more dudes underneath you, and if you fucking fail, if you falter for one second, you’ll get eaten and somebody else will take your spot. There’s no tenured professor version of what I do where you put your feet up and you’re like, “yeah, I got it.”

So you have to really love what you do. When you get the jobs, then it’s just like, “oh, I really love this and I’m good at it and I’m hungry…” but I’ve been hungry and ambitious for my entire professional life. So I get to play music.

I’ve always felt that parents who follow their dreams – or rather, work really, really hard to manifest their dreams – are the best role models as parents. Up to a point I guess. 

Well, yeah, I think there’s the practical part of it, which is you actually have to be there for your kids. Now that my daughter’s 7,  when she says “daddy, I don’t want you to leave,” I explain “daddy’s home a lot more than most dads.”

In aggregate I’m home in a similar way that maybe like a 9-5 dad from 1975 would be.

But I love that they come downstairs and see me working in my studio and they see me on the TV show or they hear a song on the radio. And I love the fact that they see Angela (Ryan’s wife) with her headphones on, writing and working too.

Exactly. That part of it feels good in that they actually see us kind of doing real work. That parenting kind of feels really great. And it’s like, when I say, “yeah, you should be free and follow your heart,” it’s like, I did, Colin did, Angela did.

That’s such a cool way of being a parent. These are people who are providing for their families by being creative. That’s so much fucking cooler than just some dude that moves a couple of numbers around on a spreadsheet and now he’s got a boat or whatever.

And also, by the way, unfortunately his job is actually at risk too. Anybody who moves numbers around on a spreadsheet will be replaced by software in a decade.

Oh yeah, for sure. That’s not to demean anybody’s who in a non-creative job or whatever, it just happens to be that Angela and I are sort of creative people. I’ve made my living entirely from being creative, so I think it’s cool, and if my kids wanted to go be bank…not bankers…but you know, if they wanted to do something that wasn’t quote “creative” I have no problem with that whatsoever.

It’s just such a weird conversation to have with your kids though, because for most people it’s like, “don’t be a musician. Get a safe practical job. Because as your parent I love you and I worry about you being about to support yourself.” 

I never ask my daughter what she wants to do. I mean this is so far down the line for me, but I’m just not one of those people that are like, “what are they going to do?”

I’m so glad I’m not in this culture where it’s all about what school they get into. I don’t know if I care. I went to a good school and I’m glad that I did, but it’s like maybe they go to school, maybe they don’t. When I was thinking about what kind of kids I want them to turn into…I just want them to be kind. I want them to be happy.

I’m so curious to see what kind of people they’re going to become and not what their job is going to be.

Even though, for me, my job is so tied into who I am. And for a lot of my friends it is because they’re really following their passion for who they are as people. I hope that that’s kind of the big picture thing, not, “what are you going to do when you grow up?” It’s like, just be rad. Be free, and yeah, you want to dance, then dance. That’s the gas I’m trying to throw on the fire.

It’s trying to make them just be really free and open expressers of who they are, and less about practicalities of how it’s all going to filter out. Because if you’re just smart and rad, then you can always find a job.

You know, I couldn’t agree more. Absolutely. Do you want another cup of coffee or anything?

No, I’m going to go get food after this. Do you want another one? You get free refills. You can just snap your fingers.

Have you seen that waitress? She would not like that. By the way, how are you guys navigating having more of your work based across the country, in L.A.?

What happens is that I will go off on these sort of satellite missions. I had this kind of real talk with Angela the other day about how touring would kind of slow down, and there’s going to be this gap happening between less touring and focusing on the composer thing,

I’m feeling this as a provider for my family. The only answer is for me is to go and spend time there. And it’s just like, okay then that’s what I have to do. And so if I have to spend this time away from my kids and I have to go there for 2 weeks and come back for a week, or if I got a job that was a TV job and I have to be there for 2 or 3 months, and then they had to come and visit and I have to come home on weekends.

The reality is I’ve been living on a bus for my entire professional life anyway.

Would you move there?

My parents just bought a house here.  If there was any thought of us leaving…as soon as I told my parents to move here, that was it. And Angela, there’s no way she would leave here.

I’ve been here (Vermont) long enough that this is now part of me. I definitely wouldn’t be happy living in New York again if I could snap my fingers. No way I would go back to New York and live there entirely. In L.A., I think it’s probably more doable, but it’s just practically, it’s just like schools and money and traffic and my wife hates it and so that’s not really an answer. There’s no real answer.

Well, yeah, that’s the thing. I feel like a lot of parents don’t take risks in their life because they’re worried about how it’ll impact their kid, which is completely understandable. But on the other hand, if you’re already wired to say, “I’m going to find a way to make this thing work, and I’m going keep working at it until it actually works,” you can probably find a way to make it work with the kids, too.

Well, that’s the thing. I mean, that’s the example of what kind of example are you setting for your kids too? I mean, I get it, you’re like I don’t want to drag them around, but you want them to have inspiring parents who follow their dreams as their best selves. I understand you have to make choices in all these parts of your life. But what if you become half the person that you could have been?

So that’s the balance we’re trying to figure out. With my wife and I we try and mitigate it in these different ways. It’s like, “I’ve got to go do this. It’s going to be harder for you. So I’m going to try to get you the help you need. Your mom can come and we’ll hire help where we need to. ”

We always try to have the big picture in mind of this whole thing. The good thing is that all of this feels very really virtuous in terms of what we’re  pursuing. Doing something we love that’s creative.

And makes other people happy.

Makes other people happy. Working with really good people. Hopefully working on cool, good projects and challenging myself and all this stuff. I haven’t taken that cynical job of doing Barney music or something where’s it’s just a job or whatever. That would be harder.

I think all this stuff feels really virtuous in terms of it serving a greater thing, so it’s worked out so far. It’s a very unconventional, as our therapist says, it’s a very unconventional life that we’ve carved out for ourselves, but I think you’re right. I think everybody’s life is kind of becoming more unconventional.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.

Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"

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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)


Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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