She's So Boss // Kori Gardner Hammel of Mates of State

When I think back on the best job interview I've ever had, hands down I'd say back in 2007, that time after the Mates of State show, when we sat in a bar and talked about teaching Montessori school, parenting and old punk shows we'd seen in basements or sweaty record stores. Only I didn't know it was an interview. 

Kori Gardner Hammel

My oldest friend was playing a few shows with Mates of State as their bass player and I just happen to have been in NYC at the time, so of course I went to see her play. The husband and wife duo took to the stage at Joe's Pub on the East Side and I was blown away. Kori, the singer and piano player was visibly pregnant yet didn't seem to even break a sweat. I was in awe and thought she was the exactly the kind of mom I knew I wanted to be one day. No, no, I don't play music, but I loved that she was still doing what she loved and not letting 7 and a half months of pregnancy stop her from putting on a fantastic show.

Afterwards, we made our way to a bar down the street for the after party. We grabbed a booth and Kori and I instantly bonded. We talked about teaching Montessori school, parenting, living in San Francisco in the past and rock shows. It was one of those moments that we both knew we were making a fast friend that was going to last a long time. My friend that was playing bass with them, knew my childcare experience and that I had toured with bands for years selling merch, so she suggested that I start nannying for them. We chatted a little longer, exchanged phone numbers and said our goodbyes. Was this really goodbye with my new friends? 

A few days later I got a call that would change so much for me in my life. I was asked to come and live with Kori and Jason, caring for their child, while they recorded their next record. Next thing I know, I'm in CT, living in their guest room. It was great and they certainly made me feel like family right away. After the three weeks were up, I went home, Kori had her baby a few days later and six months passed before I saw them again and I was out on the road with Mates of State, as their tour nanny. By then, June was born and now six months old. We traveled all over the country together, bonding. It was one of the best summers of my life. 


In the seven years that Kori and I have been friends and business partners since 2010, she's taught me so much about motherhood and following your dreams. I learned from what I've seen her do that I can have my work that I'm passionate about and I can have motherhood. They live in this parallel world that can move forward in the same direction, at the same time, but you don't have to derail one to have the other. One grows from the other, but it doesn't have to be either/or. I know she's part of the reason I'm the kind of mother that I am for Tom Otis, part of the reason I have the drive that I have to follow my dreams. She's very much someone I can always count on in my life to give me honesty, wit and compassion, all rolled into one. 

I'm so excited to have you get to know Kori Gardner Hammel of Mates of State a little better as well. 

1. What does 7 AM look like to you? 
I was just saying to Jason that after all the years of being in rock and roll time I thought I'd never naturally wake up at 7:00. But I do now. The kids schedules have finally won over the rock schedule.

2. What's your favorite part of your day? 

3. How do you find "me" time when you are traveling with your full family most of the time? 
When we are on a tour bus I get the best "me" time in my bunk. I usually make the mistake of listening to music for way too long and before I know it I'm up until 3am. If we aren't on a bus, I go running. That's my "me" time. (And I get an occasional massage which is my biggest pampering vice)

4. With so many things going on with different channels of your work, how do you keep perspective? 
I'm forgetful and I doubt myself and I worry a lot. However, getting a good night sleep always gives me a clearer perspective. When it's been a rough day or I have too many things going on in my head or in my life, I just go to bed early. Also I like to write and mostly I like to write lists. I would say I create at least two long lists a day. Also I've started making my bed on a daily basis. This sounds so silly but when you climb into bed at night and it's there waiting for you all nice and neat, you know you must have accomplished at least something that day.

5. What is your favorite family tradition and what does it entail? 
This is going to sound not that spectacular but every Sunday night we watch Americas Funniest Videos with the whole family. I grew up thinking popcorn was the best food for a family to eat together and so we've continued the popcorn snarfing while watching the best reality show ever made (AFV). When the entire family is laughing there is no better situation.

6. What are your "can't leave home without" items? In your case "can't leave for tour without".
Running shoes, and my sponge of sea tea. It completely cures laryngitis. I don't know the translation but you can find it in Chinatown. These little seed pod looking things expand into gelatinous liquid when mixed with hot water. And they literally have saved my voice.

7. Favorite child friendly city that you've found while traveling? 
Chicago seems to be the most kid/family friendly big city (nice people, lots of parks, festivals always have the best kid tents). It seems like people bring their kids to our shows every time we are in Chicago-unless it's too late of course.

8. Advice for working moms?
Do what you love and love your kids.

Please be sure to follow Kori on Instagram​, Facebook and Twitter.


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