1) How did you get into producing kids music?
I have always been into music of all kinds, but when I got these kids, see, and they started listening to music too, well, something went all kablooey in my head. There was MY music - Beatles, Stones, Who, Grateful Dead, Clapton - you know, GOOD music - and there was THEIR music. It was EASY for them to listen to mine, but painful for me to listen to theirs! So I began to think: There wasn't kids music when I was a kid. There was music that was good for everyone, and part of everyone was kids. I had to do something about that. The scape has changed a lot in the last ten years and I have been happy and proud to have been part of it.
2) Your books are based on original & traditional children's songs, why was woodchuck chosen for publication?
We don't think of which comes first...the whole chicken and egg thing aren't material to us, 'cause you can go nuts trying to argue things that don't matter. Sometimes a song comes first. Sometimes the book comes first. In the end it's all about expression of ideas. So long as we have something to say we will say it - with literacy, with music, and with art. We chose Woodchuck because we thought others would find it as much fun as we did.
3) This book is illustrated by a dozen artists! That's wild! How did you manage it?
It seemed like a challenge at the time, and I love a good challenge. It was as difficult as you imagine, too, but here's a little secret: I'd do it again in a heartbeat. In fact...nah, never mind. That'd be telling.
4) Earlier books were published by Charlsbridge & newer books are self published. Why & what are the advantages of self publishing?
The earliest books were published by Whispering Coyote Press. Then Charlesbridge bought WCP, and they did in fact come out with Rock-a-bye Baby, but by then we had already produced One Size Fits All (my CD) and then Songs for America's Children (our response to the September 11th attacks) on our own. We published the book in order to give all the money away to people who needed it more than we did, but it also turned out to be a proving ground for our ability to not only produce but market and distribute on our own. The biggest advantage is that we are totally responsible for every aspect of the project from start to finish. The biggest disadvantage is that we are totally responsible for every aspect of the project from start to finish.
5) Let's talk about the new CD, "Listen UP!" What should we be expecting?
This album will be a real breakthrough in a lot of ways. It's completely different musically from One Size Fits All, yet it shares some commonalities: For one thing, every song is different from one another. You won't hear the last tune and think it sounds like the first tune. Each track is also quite different from what appeared on the first CD. I do believe in pushing the envelope, and requiring a little something from the audience. My music isn't merely background music. Don't get me wrong - you can certainly use it that way, but you can also actually LISTEN to it and get something out of it. Finally, there is something on it for younger audiences, but it is also suited to those who grew up with One Size Fits All, who are now five years older and looking for good music they can continue to grow with. It's a genuine family album.
6) Where do you get your song ideas & lyrics? Is there a process?
7) What are your thoughts about independent kids music scene? Are there any folks that you admire?
There's this guy named Yosi I'm into. I am happy to say though the scene is growing with others who share a vision! I can't say I love everything by everybody, but Kevin Kammeraad is someone who has never produced anything other than quality music. He's an amazing talent and his works are right for everyone, period, no matter who you are or what you like. I am also appreciative of the efforts of Justin Roberts, Dan Zanes, Jim "Scribbleman" Dague, as well as both Vincent and Spook Handy, who is bringing folk back to kids. Thanks for that, Spook.
8) What kind of music are you into?
Man I am into everything now and again. For the most part, you can always find classic rock on my radio, in my CD player, or on the hard drive, but I also am into folk, as well as classical, and lately have been thinking about some genres of music that predate rock by just a few years as I really like transitional periods...they're interesting. I like blues, and especially 70's R&B quite a bit. Bluegrass and swing can both be fun, too, when I am...dare I say it..."In the Mood" (sorry).
9) Do you perform or produce music other than kids?
Funny you should ask. I am a wannabee rock and roll star. Well, not really star, I don't care about the stardom, but I like playing my big people rock as much as my stuff for younger audiences. Sometimes more as it's therapeutic. My first album for big folks, called The BAR, will be out soon and it features Jim Babjak of The Smithereens and Kurt Reil of The Grip Weeds.
10) What's next on the horizon for you?
Well, more books and music! First of course is the release of Listen UP! Spring 2007 will see the publication of Oh No, Domino! written and illustrated by my wife Kim and featuring a new song by me on CD. Fall 2007 will see a new book Kim and I co-wrote, illustrated by Megan Halsey, called Mommy's Having a Watermelon! It's our first chapter book. Meanwhile I have also started on my next two children's CDs, so I reckon I'll be busy for a little while.