Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Interview: Kevin Kammeraad

Author, Illustrator, music producer, Kevin Kammeraad, (pictured here with his toothy pal, Jacob) reads, writes, draws, sings, presents at schools & enjoys Spinach Dip. I wonder if he dances?

He's produced wonderful books & CD's including: The Tomato Collection, & most recently A Curious Glimpse of Michigan.

1) My kids & I love The Tomato Collection. How did the CD & book come to life?

When I was in college (studying film and video production) my grandmother gave me a journal as a Christmas present. I didn’t consider myself a writer so the first thing I wrote was “This is my new book. I don’t know what I’m going to write in it but I guess I’ll know when it’s done.” I continued to fill up five journals, around 700 pages. The process of writing and illustrating the book, and also producing the music, took me about five and a half years. It wasn’t until about three years into making the book that I started thinking about the idea of turning the poems into songs. I had no real plan and asked my friend Andy ( to consider writing the music for the first song. Slowly, the album began to unfold and really took on a life of its own.
2) You had 53 musicians play on that disc. Wasn't that a bit cramped in the studio? How did you coordinate it? There was no real format or structure other than simply figuring it out as we went. I asked different people to work on different songs in hopes that it would be diverse. There was between one and eight musicians in the studio at a time. Mark Rehl, our audio engineer and co-producer, was able to make the logistics work in the studio.

3) My kids fave song is "The Couch." They want to know if this is your personal couch, or can it be found anywhere else. The idea for that poem/song came from my friend Bill. I was talking with him one day and he suggested I “write a poem about a couch who eats people.” So, it’s based on his couch. (I think, although I never really asked him what couch he was referring to!)

4) You've got a new CD & book about Michigan. Why Michigan? Why not Wisconsin? Don't you like cheese? I love cheese. Who doesn’t love cheese? I guess if you’re lactose intolerant you wouldn’t care for it. The project unfolded from an opportunity presented to us from or friends, EDCO Publishing. We’ve know them for a few years now and they produce Michigan based books and curriculum. The idea was simply to create a “fun poetry book about Michigan.” We then followed suit like The Tomato Collection and turned all the poems into songs. Even though the book and CD are about Michigan, we tried to produce them to have a universal appeal and quirkiness to them.

5) There are 49 tracks on A Curious Glimpse of Michigan CD. Which are your favorites? Why? I produced this album with Ryan Hipp ( and he and I worked with over 40 musicians on this project; so it’s hard to choose. It was a lot of fun collaborating with Danny Adlerman on one track and ScribbleMonster on fourteen of them. A lot of the musicians from The Tomato Collection were involved again as well as new friends. Our goal, like The Tomato Collection CD, was to include various styles of music and instruments, and also to create it to appeal to all ages. A few favorites I guess would be the sound clips available at The Pokey Pup:

6) Did the CD turn out the way you hoped it would?

With The Tomato Collection there were only a few poems that I didn’t know what to do with musically. On that project, the page numbers of the book match the track numbers of the CD. When we began to work on the Michigan songs, I originally thought only half of the poems would “work” as songs. So the plan at first was only going to be doing half the poems and create a shorter CD. As it unfolded though, once again the music took on a life of its own. Jim (ScribbleMonster) in particular really challenged us to make this a full length CD and contributed many ideas of how to accomplish that.

While working on the CD, various patterns began to develop. The first is that we have 15 short facts about Michigan stated at the start of the book. For the CD, they are spread throughout the music. Also spread throughout are each of the state symbols and the four seasons. We also came up with an a cappella opening and ending as well as welcome and farewell tracks. We were really excited with this revolving dynamic.

So yes, it turned out even better than I had hoped!

7) I noticed you've connected with various folks in the kids music scene who contribute to your CD's. Do you feel kids musicians have a strong sense of camaraderie? Absolutely! I really enjoy connecting with others in this business and sharing insights, etc. I’m great friends with Danny Adlerman (a good friend of yours too I know) and also Jim Dague of ScribbleMonster. Both of those guys are very encouraging, inspiring, and great to know. Instead of “going it alone” we often share ideas, insights, connections, etc. In particular, the three of us do both music and books so we really connected ( Roger Day is another great guy we’ve gotten to know well. My son loves Roger’s song, Mosquito Burrito. I’ve been working on a project called The Orange Turtle Album which includes songs from all of these guys.

I look forward to future collaboration projects and I’m always up for bouncing ideas around with other artists. I love “swapping CDs” with others.

8) Where do you get your poem/song ideas? Is there a process you use? There’s no process for me other than writing down an idea as soon as I get it. From there it either develops or stays somewhere in a mess of paperwork in my office in hopes that it someday will become a finished poem or song. Some ideas develop quickly, some very slowly. I love bouncing ideas around with people and seeing what other perspectives people may have. Most ideas for me come from real life events, day dreaming, or simply wondering.

9) Do you have a message for parents? For kids? When I visit schools my hope is mainly for kids to have a lot of fun and to get them excited about their own creativity. I emphasize that the writing process and creation of poems, art, music, etc. takes time. I simply try to make books and music that people of all ages will enjoy and hope to empower their own creativity. So my message would be “enjoy your imagination and eats lots of spinach dip.”

10) What music do you enjoy when not producing kids music? I listen to a variety of things but I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to the music scene today, or at all for that matter! Ask Bill Childs, Danny, or Jim and they’ll tell you I really don’t have a clue on “who’s who” and “what’s what.” It’s rather embarrassing actually. I mainly listen to WYCE ( here in Grand Rapids which is our eclectic independent radio station. I love the fact that it isn’t at all commercially driven.

11) What's next for you?

I just finished the illustrations (and did a little of the signing) for Danny Adlerman’s upcoming CD “Listen UP!” ( It’s an all-ages rock-n-roll album that has a great variety of good vibes. I’m really excited for it to be released. For the past five years we’ve been working on a songbook for The Tomato Collection (for music teachers mainly). Someday we’ll get that wrapped up! And someday, I’d like to do another book of general poetry. Other than that I’m having fun with my wife and son and eating lots of tortilla chips.

Thanks, Kevin! Pass the tortilla chips. Mmmm...good dip!
We are enjoying your CD's and books at home.
Check out Kevin's school appearances, music & books:

1 comment:

Jason Paul Kazarian said...

What caught my eye about this was I too was once in college and studying video production. Sometimes things written for children are better then college text books. For example, I used the following as a reference in a master's paper:

Guthrie, Donna and Bentley, Nancy, 1995, The Young Producer's Video Book: How to Write, Direct, and Shoot Your Own Video, The Millbrook Press, Brookfield, CT.

So creative efforts by kids or for kids seems to work wonders!
Jason Paul Kazarian