Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Joanie Leeds Rocks!

I met Joanie at Kindiefest this past weekend. We spoke briefly about music, kids & radio. The next day I popped in her latest disc I'm A Rock Star & was immediately energized by the opening guitar riff, followed by the very well crafted, hook-laden pop rock styling. Tunes like "Jump, Jump", "I Like Jazz" & the fully Spanish "En Espanol" showcase Joanie's engaging singing & songwriting. Kids are bound to feel like rock stars singing along whole-heartedly. So, I called Joanie & said, "this is great!"

1) How did you get to be a "rock star" & how does it feel?

I feel like every move I've made over the course of my life has been preparing me for "rock stardom". When I was born, my parents told me that the nurse said instead of crying like all the other babies, it sounded like I was singing in the nursery. That must have planted a seed in their brains because at the ripe old age of two, my parents gave me Suzuki piano lessons. I started singing lessons by middle school and learned how to play guitar in 10th grade and never looked back. Once I graduated college with my first "grown up" CD in hand, I realized playing the NYC clubs like The Bitter End and The Living Room wasn't quite doing it for me so I switched gears and started writing and playing for kids. I have to tell you, I have lived the life in the music clubs and I have never felt more like a rock star as I do when I'm singing for kids and their families. It's really the best feeling in the whole world and I'm so grateful to my amazing fans!

2) What are some of your musical influences (as a kid & adult)?

I grew up in Miami Florida listening to 105.9 Classic Rock station but mixed in with Broadway show tunes my palate was pretty eclectic. My favorite music was the music my dad liked: Dylan, Grateful Dead, Cream, Beatles and Rolling Stones. In high school and college along with my love of Phish and any other jam band, I was all about chick singers: Indigo Girls, Alanis Morissette, Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco. These days I listen to more indie rock: New Pornographers, The Mountain Goats, Wilco, Felice Brothers, The National, The Weepies, The Decemberists and Regina Spektor. I worked at the music club The Bitter End for a few years after college and I found my influences playing there. I think as a young kid I just knew who the famous people were and I didn't realize that many of the very best musicians are unsigned, unknown and playing to audiences of 20. I learned that lesson really fast and these independent artists changed my entire thinking. Dan Zanes is my biggest musical influence in the kids world. I started out playing folk music so his style really resonates with me. I got a chance to meet him at Kindiefest this past weekend and told him how much his music means to me! I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

3) Tell us about your love of sunglasses? What's that all about?

I'm from Miami so having beach access is as normal as having yellow cabs whiz by in my new home, NYC. Some of the best memories I have as a kid was riding my bike past the mangroves on our way to Matheson Hammocks Park. We used to picnic there, sit by the sand and go swimming. I just love wearing sunglasses, it reminds me of home. I wrote "Sunglasses" in Central Park while sitting with my friend Jess and Briana. I brought my guitar and said to them, I am going to have written a song about sunglasses within the hour. It took me about 30 minutes and then I played it for most of Sheeps Meadow.

4) My kid wants to know 'do you really have an Elf in your room?'

Ha ha. No I don't have an elf in my room though I wish I did if it meant I'd have someone help clean up my messes. This song came from a true story going way back to when my little brother Jonathan was really little. He had an imaginary friend, "The Elf", whom he would blame EVERYTHING on. If something was messy, "The Elf did it". If something was broken, "The Elf did it" I'm 6 years older than him so I wouldn't let anything slide back then but we went with this one because I found it fascinating. Also, when he blamed things on the elf, at least my mom knew I didn't do anything wrong. The elf was genius! I even went so far as to make a stuffed elf toy (looking very much like the lucky charms character) out of paper and cotton balls which I kept in his room for full effect. Luckily a few years later he learned about accountability, now he is in law school!

5) Finally! Someone understands the need for more cowbell. Do kids really like cowbells?

This SNL skit had me on the floor a few years back but when the iPhone application came out, that's I got the idea to write "More Cowbell" the song. People go crazy over cowbells and I think I understand why. It's a pretty loud bell that you hit with a stick, plus cows more often than not get to use them exclusively. I love playing guitar and piano but I secretly want to be a drummer so this song gives me a chance to rock the bell!

6) Your first album is more intimate & this one is more rockin'. Is this a new direction?

My songs from 'City Kid' were written for the kids I play music with at nursery school in a solo setting. I wanted to write mostly "doing" songs so the kids would have easy direction in class along with having fun, of course. I find when playing solo giving the kids something to do works better than singing a story song. After playing more with my band, it was clear that with a drummer involved, I had more options because kids can just dance. For 'I'm A Rock Star', I aimed to write story songs in every possible genre for my audience that was now a few years older. I co-produced with an awesome team from Nashville, Zodlounge Music, and together we came out with an incredible CD. I really love it.

7) What's next on the drawing board?

In the September of 2009 while recording with Zodlounge in Nashville, I was selecting the songs for 'I'm A Rock Star' from my list. I had 24 originals ready to go but this time wanted to go with a shorter CD, better for kids attention spans. I put 13 songs on 'I'm A Rock Star' and the rest will be on the next CD set to release in early spring, 2011. We already recorded most of the basic tracks in the summer of 2009 and I am heading into the studio next week to start recording my vocals. It's a CD (untitled) all about animals. The story behind this animal themed CD is I was asked to write a bunch of songs for a DVD project in focusing on endangered animals in early 2009. Because of that, my repertoire is very "animal heavy". This came in handy when I played two concerts at The Bronx Zoo last month! The CD will have 10 originals and 4 cover songs and a re-mixed previously released song from 'City Kid'. You'll find some folk, rock and blues on this one, I'm psyched! There is a cool
video on YouTube of my recording experience from these two albums where you can get a sneak peak of some new songs!

Keep on rockin', Joanie!


Sylvia said...

genealogy*"To know her is to love her"!
Joanie's music is the rock of all ages!!!

Bobby C. Wells said... Music for real hip kids

Like Totally! said...

Hello! I am the director of the kids band "Like Totally!" from Athens, Ga. Would you be interested in reviewing our debut album? If so we can send you a physical copy or a link to a free digital download! Thanks!

Jenny Woodward aka "The Lady Scientist"