Melissa Errico has been wowing audiences for years in movies and on television and Broadway. Now the sippie-cup set will get to enjoy what The New York Times has called the “voice of enchantment”. Tony-nominated actress Errico’s first album of children’s music, Lullabies and Wildflowers, was just released by Velour Music Group as a second birthday present for her daughter, Victoria.
“The music is not just for kids,” says the New York mom, who is married to tennis pro Patrick McEnroe, “I wanted to make a record not just about being a new mother, but about the continuum of motherhood and all that goes with it.”
Errico has been a mainstay on the musical theater scene since she took some time off from Yale to tour as Cosette in Les Miserables. But her first performance, she recalls, was as a singing cockroach for a Girl Scout musical. It was only a few years later, when her parents took her to see On Your Toes at the Virginia Theater for her 12th birthday, that she realized she wanted to perform for a living. “I remember it so clearly,” she says. “I started crying as I loved what I was seeing so much.” Exactly 10 years later she returned to that same theater — to star in My Fair Lady.
When she became pregnant in her mid-30s, she didn’t exactly feel that she could have danced all night. “At the beginning, I was nauseated and sick, and I felt so isolated,” Errico says.
Fortunately, she met and bonded with a few other pregnant women in her prenatal yoga class. “They were stay-at-home moms, investment bankers, alternative moms — busy New York women whom I wouldn’t necessarily meet easily on the street or at Whole Foods,” Errico notes.
The women exchanged e-mail addresses and soon formed a parenting group, calling themselves “The Bowery Babes”. Not just any mothers’ group, The Bowery Babes, which quickly grew from 30 email addresses to several hundred, harnessed their mom-power to make the Lower East Side, Soho, and Chinatown more child-friendly, forming story times in independent bookstores, organizing parenting workshops, and lobbying for greener downtown playgrounds.
The women and their newborns also became a driving force behind Lullabies and Wildflowers. Errico had already released a well-regarded solo album, Blue Like That, in 2003. Then, when Victoria was about a year old, Errico was meeting with a record producer about a second solo album. “But all I could talk about was my baby and the Bowery Babes,” she recalls.
Further inspiration came from her father, a doctor who is also a classical pianist. One afternoon he played a concert in her apartment for some members of her mothers’ group. “We put babies under and around the piano and we sang lullabies while my father played, and the children loved it,” she says.
Errico decided to record songs that would capture that world and the soft rhythm of motherhood. “I wanted to make an album that shows how scary, beautiful, exhausting and prideful it is to be a mother. I thought of songs that would take us back to our own mothers, and included classics like ‘Mockingbird’, which is Victoria’s favorite song, and ‘Rockabye Baby’.” Errico also included Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Little Sparrow”, which her mother sang to her nearly every night when she was young.
The album features an original tune, “Gentle Child”, which Errico wrote one night after she put Victoria to bed. “I wanted to capture that feeling of holding a baby under your chin and, as they snuggle into you, the way they smell and how it feels,” she explains.
Errico met her husband when she was in kindergarten and he was her older brother’s best friend. “We both have this same vivid memory of staring at each other by the water fountain outside the science room. He jokes that it was so inappropriate because he was a nine-year old who had this crush on a little kid,” she says, laughing.
Errico and McEnroe met up with each other again when she was 25 and he was 30. “He came to my brother’s concert [rocker and recording artist Mike Errico, who also appears on Lullabies and Wildflowers] and we stayed out incredibly late talking over burgers at the Corner Bistro,” she says.
As two very busy New York professionals, Errico and McEnroe are fortunate enough to have a nanny, but they face many of the same challenges as other working parents. They try to make sure that at least one of them is home with Victoria as much as possible. “Our schedules are erratic so we try and work around them,” Errico says. ‘I plan appointments around Victoria’s naps — I don’t know what I’ll do when she stops napping! It’s difficult, it’s challenging, but the way Victoria looks at me, I wouldn’t do it any other way.”