Driving force for band and family
One year ago when EASY Magazine first profiled Kerrie Armstrong, she was just kicking off the music career of her son T-Ray and three other friends as part of the music group Cover Drive. Fast forward to the present. The group is a chart-topping success in Britain with a No. 1 single, several Top Ten Billboard singles, over 14 million views on YouTube, and a nomination for a Soul Train Music Award, and later this year they’ll be touring with Kelly Clarkson.
Could Kerrie have scripted all the success?
“I couldn’t have planned it if I tried,” she says.
The last year might have been a whirlwind time for the band, but the group’s success so far was just as much a surprise for its manager Kerrie.
“This wasn’t my plan, and I like to map out plans for my artistes,” says Kerrie. “Clearly this was God’s plan because literally they were like three years ahead of me. They opened for Rihanna here. Their first single went to the Top 10 in the UK, the second one went to No. 1. It’s really been phenomenal. “
What has been equally phenomenal with Kerrie is that she has been able to oversee the success of Cover Drive while, from overseas, trying to maintain her family with her husband Ray and their two younger sons.
But somehow she’s managed to keep it all together – the bicoastal juggling act she’s been on – without letting any balls drop.
“I’ve travelled so much, but I think God wanted to me to do it so the band could stay grounded – and I speak to them honestly and frankly,” said Kerrie. “This business is such that you can have people around you who are willing to not tell you the truth. So I’ve had to be vigilant with who is around them. Even in terms of sticking to budget of $150 pounds a week – each person gets that. They’re so grateful now that I kept them to that. When the record advance is gone and the publishing advance is gone, there is no money.”
Now that the band is enjoying some much deserved downtime in Barbados and working on their second album, Kerrie is just relishing being home on familiar soil.
“It’s good to be home. It’s so nice to be in the kitchen cooking. I’m so into the mundane,” she says, laughing. “I just want to change pampers and teach my son to call me Mummy instead of looking at me and saying, ‘Dadda’. He’s going to be two in November and he’s already a little musician. But he’s still a Daddy’s boy.”
Parenting did not take a break during the months she was away as Skype became a favourite tool of communication. But when the band hits the road to go on tour, Kerrie has decided to remain in Barbados with her two younger children, 11-year-old Chase and 22-month-old Steele.
“The band is going on tour with Kelly Clarkson next month, and Ray is going with them,” said Kerrie. “Ray said, ‘Let’s all go on tour’, but I decided against it.”
A big reason for her decision was her son Chase, whom she is homeschooling.
“My middle son Chase has Tourette’s [syndrome] and ADHD, so we’re homeschooling him now – so that’s a new adventure,” she adds. “He is extremely impulsive, and after he took the 11-Plus we decided to do this. We got approval from the Ministry [of Education] to homeschool him. At first I was, like, how am I going to teach him? But I’ve been doing this curriculum called Time For Learning, which has been great. Suddenly I have this new-found confidence so he’s actually been responsive and he’s happy.
“I’m definitely learning a lot; [there’s] something to learn every day. Ray, my husband, is his [physical education] teacher, and we’re just kind of making it all work.”
Coping with Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD is nothing new for Kerrie, because she’s had to deal with it in her older son.
“My older son T-Ray has ADHD and Tourette’s and music is a release for him,” she revealed. “His symptoms have calmed down tremendously. As he went through adolescence his motor tics settled. He’s got way more control of them and he understands to avoid stress. You would never know he has these issues because he can drum and he can play four instruments. He is helping me so much with my second son.”
For Kerrie, her major accomplishment hasn’t been just the success of Cover Drive; it has been keeping her family intact, while living apart from her husband and younger children.
“We had no clue what this was going to be about,” Kerrie says candidly. “We had 18 years of marriage under our belt. But certainly the amount of time away from each other hasn’t been easy, but it helps when you have a lot in common. Ray and I have those core values in common — we believe in God, we believe in family and having those kids [Cover Drive] in common kept us together.”
Kerrie also revealed that for Ray it was important that he was a father in every sense of the word to his children.
“Ray didn’t have his dad around . . . . His dad died when he was 11, and his parents weren’t married,” Kerrie said. “So it’s important for him to be a dad and a role model for his kids.”
In terms of their personal relationship, Kerrie says because they are working together it has made coping with the distance easier.
“First of all, I’m helping our son but hopefully this is something that will secure the future for us all,” Kerrie says. “Ray has had to give up his business and maintain the family and our home, but the only thing that he complained about is sex. But somehow we were able to make it work. My parents, my dad and stepmum in New York, would call Ray and encourage him. Amanda Reifer would call and encourage Ray. It made the sacrifice even easier.”
Kerrie revealed that being apart from each other is something that happened five years into their marriage.
“We got married very young and things weren’t working,” Kerrie said. “We separated in our fifth year of marriage and we were separated for three years and I moved to the States with my older son. Three years apart, you’re living separate lives. After three years we got back together and kind of continued this journey. I feel like that is what encourages people not to lose hope. We’ve been through a lot and are still happily standing. I’m actually proud of that.”
Between keeping her family together and the band’s success, Kerrie actually has a lot to be proud of. But she is particularly proud of the members of Cover Drive for staying grounded and humble.
“Everything was happening at such an alarming pace. But when you see them, everything is still the same – no drugs, no alcohol, no craziness and I love that. It’s so easy in this business to get caught up in all that. But they love what they’re doing because they are living a dream. They know that they’ve been blessed and it’s a huge opportunity and they have to use it wisely.”