Andrea McEwan with Eva-Maria and Caspar
Totally worth it

Sometimes you meet people, and you fall in love with them immediately. Because they’re clever, special and really heartwarming at the same time. This appened to me when I met Andrea McEwan, who was born and raised in Australia. She is an actress, singer, musician and songwriter – all in one. And of course, mother of Eva-Maria and Caspar. How did this lady end up in Berlin, what is Kikeriki and where did she get all her nice furniture from? She told us all this and way more, when we visited her in her Kreuzberg apartment.

Manchmal trifft man Menschen, in die man sich gleich ein bisschen verliebt. Weil sie so clever, so besonders und so herzenswarm sind. So ging es mir, als ich Andrea McEwan traf. Geboren und aufgewachsen ist Andrea in Australien, sie ist Schauspielerin, Sängerin, Musikerin und Komponistin. Und natürlich Mutter von Eva-Maria und Caspar. Was hat diese tolle Frau nach Berlin gebracht, was ist Kikeriki und woher hat sie all die schönen Möbel? Darüber – und über noch viel mehr, sprachen wir mit ihr, als wir sie in ihrer Kreuzberger Wohnung besuchten.
Dieses Interview ist vorerst nur auf Englisch verfügbar.

Andrea you’re from Australia, how did you end up in this grey city?

I came to Berlin in 2003 to visit my sister. I was single at the time and had just missed out on a big job, so I was ready to go wherever the wind blew me.  Fate, it seems, had another plan in mind.  When boarding my connecting flight from London to Berlin, I spotted the most beautiful man I had ever seen.  I started praying that somehow I would end up in his row.  That wasn’t to be.  But I did end up in the row directly in front of him and was aware of his presence the entire flight.  When we landed, I reached up to lift down my incredibly overweight hang-luggage from the locker and he asked if I needed help.  Without meaning to,  I blurted out an abrupt „No, I’m fine“, and made my way to baggage claim with sunken spirits thinking I had really blown it.  He stood beside me at baggage claim and I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to him.  Time passed.  All the other passengers picked up their luggage and left.  More time passed.   We were the only ones left standing without luggage.  As it turned out, our bags did pop out out of the chute the minute this Berlin local had scribbled down his number.  So: Love!  Love was why I ended up in this grey city…

Then you and your husband moved to London, and back to Berlin – why?

We originally moved to London because it was so much easier for me to find work there as an actress and it was a place I had always wanted to live.  Martin happily came, although it wasn’t really the kind of place he could build a long-term career.  Why did we move back? I suppose it came to it’s own natural conclusion – we had enough of the pace and the lack of space.  Martin was offered a great job in Berlin and at the same time I was leaving London anyways to go on tour.

So now Berlin, and from Schöneberg into this nice place in Kreuzberg. I love the way you decorated the apartment, where did you get all this nice vintage furniture from?

When we moved back we had Martin’s old childhood kitchen table, an antique upright suitcase and a few pieces that his grandmother had left behind.  That’s it! Pretty much everything in our flat came from Ebay Kleinanzeigen.  Back then, it was nowhere near as fashionable or well-known as it is these days so everything was ridiculously cheap.  Now, sellers know there’s a great demand for mid-century furniture – everything is triple the price and it’s snapped up before you even have a chance to make an inquiry.  I love the exchange though, that you get with ebay Kleinanzeigen.  Everybody we bought something off had their own story and stories to share about their particular piece of furniture.  I always felt quite humbled when I took something home.  And lucky to be able to continue it’s story. All the artwork in the flat is my own, by the way. And I am happy to do pieces for people!

You worked as an actress and wrote songs for Katie Melua, now you’re doing music for children – tell me more about Kikeriki and how the project came together!

Kikeriki is cool indie-pop music for kids aged 2 to 10.  It is the brainchild of myself and an old childhood friend of mine, Sarah Godden, a Melbourne-based singer/songwriter and producer.  She had been working for 14 years in the music industry, writing and producing, and I had had my own experience performing and writing under a UK-based record label. Then we both had kids. It became clear to us that there wasn’t a whole lot of good music out there for kids.  Music that didn’t drive parents crazy.  From the beginning, the music I danced around to with Eva and Caspar wasn’t kids music at all – Feist, The Beatles, Queen, the Ting-Tings…. Obviously in kid’s music, lyrics have to be simplified but other than that, there really is no reason why songs shouldn’t be as musically sophisticated and well-produced as „grown-up“ tracks. So that’s Kikeriki! Cool kid’s music, that is equally fun for parents.

Did your style change when you became a mother? Your wardrobe looks so clean and empty compared to mine, what’s your secret?

Yes, it did change! For a long time, especially after Eva’s birth, I lost interest in my appearance and the way I dressed. I just threw on whatever was lying about. Also, I suppose, my old style and wardrobe no longer reflected the person I had become. I quickly realised though that even making a little effort in the morning made me feel so much better. My clothes tend to be looser since having kids and quality is a lot more important to me – I notice fabrics and cuts a lot more. I’ve still kept my leopard print jumpsuit though and a few pairs of high-heeled chucks – some things you should just never part with!
And for the wardrobe: the key for me was paring down – eliminating all the clothes I no longer liked and just keeping a staple collection of trusty favourites.  I am hopeless in the mornings.  I couldn’t bear to have to wade through clothes to find something to wear.

Two babies in three years – be honest: how stressful was the first year with the two of them? And how about the step from having one child, to having two?

When Caspar was really little, I did think to myself: this is not too bad at all, because newborns sleep a lot! It was a bit tricky logistically – trying to figure out how to get child number 1 to kindergarten at the same time as child number 2 needed a feed. We got a buggyboard, so that we could transport them both, but Eva was even to young to stand up the whole time so we made her a reign and she sat down on it with her legs up on the pram frame! When I had Caspar I was much more aware of my lack of support network.  I’m not sure why, but I needed my old friends around me a lot more when there were two.  Having two kids the level of chaos definitely triples.  And you are a lot more restricted on what you can do. But to be honest, it wasn’t as crazy as I thought it would be.  It was totally worth it to see them both growing together and getting to know each other.  When Caspar was born, we all felt like he had always been there.  Like we had already met him somehow.

Eva and Caspar are only 20 months apart – are they really close already?

Yes they are. They really are best mates.  Caspar is totally in awe of Eva, so he tends to give in if there is a conflict of interest!  In return, he gets the assurance that there will never be a dull moment. Eva is like a little mother to Caspar and very protective of him.

That’s so cute… How about your relationship – any tips, how to survive as a couple with two kids?

I think the most important thing is to keep laughing, to remind yourself not to take everything too seriously.  Also, I found it important to learn not to blame Martin for the bad day I was having or the bad mood I was in.  Sometimes, when your partner walks through the door at night it is the only meaningful contact you’ve had with an adult all day, so it’s hard not to. Also don’t let go of what you were both passionate about before you had kids. It is difficult, but try and keep a little pot of your own on the boil. You will be grateful when you are ready to come back to it. Hmm what else…. Don’t stop complimenting each other or buying gifts for no reason. Get a good box-set that you can both tune-out to, a good baby-sitter and go out dancing every now and then. Even though you’ll probably have to get up 2 hours after you get home!

Do you know what it’s like to have kids in Australia? What are the main differences to Germany?

From what I can tell, German mothers have a very natural approach.  They prefer unprocessed and unpackaged organic food, natural fibres, wooden toys and really try to keep the interference of popular culture to a mimimum. There’s a lot of pre-packaged baby food in Australia for convenience, although Australians too do prefer organic produce. Popular culture and television is also very much a part of every day life so the toys kids play with are usually based on what tv show they are watching at the time. Because the weather in Australia is warm most of the year, kids are always outside. As such such kids fashion is a lot more laid back – a little more fun, a little less functional! And they wear bare feet a lot. When I first took Eva outside after bringing her home from the hospital, I couldn’t get over how many complete strangers came up to me and told me off because of what I had chosen to dress her in. Learning how to dress Eva and Caspar in the winter months was pretty difficult! And remembering all the different sets of shoes, oh my god!

What’s your favourite thing to do with the kids?

We love going to see the animals at Hasenheide.  I still can’t believe that there is a little zoo in an urban park!

What’s the most annoying part of motherhood?

Let me try:
The mornings
Being constantly needed
Rarely being alone
Having no first name any more – even other parents call me Eva’s Mama!
The constant washing
The sound of my own voice
Becoming a little bit invisible to all men besides my husband (and Caspar!)
Only ever managing two sips of coffee before it goes cold
Having a hurricane of thoughts inside my head most of the time

And what’s the best part?

Ooohh too many!
The mornings
Being constantly needed
Rarely being alone
That deep sleepy smell you inhale when you kiss your kids goodnight
Carrying sleeping babies in from the car at night
Having someone believe that you have all the answers
Having permission to act like a child yourself
Coming home
Discovering your own strength and gaining a new respect for your body and what it is capable of

Thank you so much, Andrea!

You should support Kikeriki! They are on Facebook, and Vimeo, too!

Andrea Mc Ewan with Eva-Maria (3) und Caspar (2), December 2013
Pictures: Julia Luka Lila Nitzschke
Interview: Isabel Robles Salgado
Editorial Support: Xandi Frohne