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Elska’s next steps: The New Victory Theater LabWorks Artist Residency program accepts Elska!

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When my daughter and I first experienced the colorful world of Elska we were taken by the intriguing story of a modern pioneer living on an arctic island containing a land of lost socks, an arctic fox and the Goobler. Elska is a magical character brought to life by Shelley Wollert and producer Allen Farmelo. In the performance of Elska’s first album, Middle of Nowhere, the audience is transported into Elska’s fantastical world in a theatrical way that taps into the most fantastic parts of a child’s imagination.

Recently, Elska received an amazing invitation to be a part of The New Victory Theater’s LabWorks artists’ residency program, guided by The New Victory Theater programming department under the leadership of Mary Rose Lloyd, the theater’s Director of Artistic Programming. Elska was one of just ten artistic teams to be offered expert support as well as the opportunity to use the theater’s state-of-the art facilities to develop a new performance piece as well as an accompanying album.

Jonathan Shmidt Chapman, Associate Director of Artistic Programming at the New Victory Theater noted, “We’re delighted to welcome Elska to the 2014-15 New Victory LabWorks Artist Residency Program. Elska is a unique and innovative artist, merging music and theatricality to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for family audiences. We are looking forward to providing space, support and feedback to Elska as the artists develop a totally new work, writing new content (music and narrative) and enhancing their musical stage show for a theater venue.”

I was so excited about this announcement that I wanted to catch up with Allen and Shelley for some Q&A about what their future plans are.

Kids Can Groove: Congratulations on your residency with The New Victory’s LabWorks program! What an incredible opportunity!

Shelley Wollert: This is truly an amazing opportunity for Elska to create a new piece and a new album with the mentorship at the New Victory Theater, which is cutting edge, so well respected and internationally known. It puts a tiny spotlight on Elska in that community which is really a nice introduction for us into the theater world. It’s just a great thing to be a part of and we’re super excited to get started.

Allen Farmelo: When I consider this opportunity in the broader context of how public funding for the arts has been consistently drying up in the US, I feel that what LabWorks is doing is not just visionary in the artistic sense but socio-economincally and politically ambitious and forward looking. I feel extremely honored to be a part of their mission to support performing arts for young audiences.

KCG: Can you explain what you will be doing during your residency? Will you be expanding upon Middle of Nowhere?

SW: What we’re doing at LabWorks is going to be creating an entirely new piece and a new album simultaneously.

AF: When we created Middle of Nowhere, we made an album and then created a live show to go with it. What we want to do now is create the music, the theatrical piece, the props, the production and the lighting
simultaneously. With LabWorks we have the opportunity to play and experiment in real-time with the added benefit of mentorship from directors, lighting techs, prop makers, set designers, producers, etc, who are very familiar with theatrical elements.

KCG: How did the transition to theater come about?

AF: The transition to theater grew out of our live show, Middle of Nowhere, which is based on our debut album of the same name. Over the past couple of years that we’ve been touring Middle of Nowhere we’ve had the opportunity to perform in clubs and in theaters, the latter of which provided a proper lighting setup, an expanded stage setup, and a seated audience. What we found is that the show really worked well in theaters. The children were transfixed and the parents were able to engage with the children more as true audience members, rather than as chaperones to what is often just a child-centric concert experience.

SW: To further underline what Allen is saying, instead of [Middle of Nowhere] being just purely a concert, our live performance is turning into something that is more of a story line, involving many theatrical elements that transports the audience to a setting that goes beyond a typical concert. When we heard about LabWorks we felt that was the perfect opportunity to allow us to grow in that area.

AF: We ended up showcasing at a booking conference called IPAY (International Performing Arts for Youth Conference) and while we were there we saw a broad range of international children’s performances. When we saw our musical act in that context and with a character and a script, we realized that we are more than just a musical act. What further solidified our thoughts was when we performed at the Alden Theater in Virginia because they billed our show as Elska performs “Middle of Nowhere” as if it was a theatrical piece rather than just a concert. That changed our paradigm up even more and we started really considering pursuing theater. The album title grew into a performance title and that changed our paradigm up. So when we heard about LabWorks it was the perfect fit for us.

Wollert-Farmelo Press Photo July 20143

KCG: Have either of you done theater before?

SW: I have a degree in performing arts and a background in acting. I was an apprentice at a really great theater called the Actor’s Theater of Louisville in Kentucky which had a really strong acting program. I also studied in London and in college, as well, so for me bringing Elska into the theater is such a return to my roots as a performer.

AF: Shelley is maybe being modest in this regard. She has a long history as an actress, and also played Joan of Arc in a solo show called The Passion Project which was reviewed positively in The NewYork Times. It was one of the most amazing deconstructed multimedia pieces I’ve ever seen. I saw Shelley perform there before I even knew her and it blew me away.

KCG: That must have been a very emotional performance I imagine. 

SW: Very. The Joan of Arc show itself was physically intense as well which is something I’ve been drawn to as a performer. Just recently, I did an acting intensive at Brooklyn College in a technique that was created by a French master director named Jacques Lecoq. I threw myself into this class and it was physically and mentally demanding and so amazing. Right now, as an actor, and with the LabWorks opportunity, I’m ready to really push myself to grow and to really reach my own physical potential.

KCG: I’m curious what your approach to this production will be like in the theater because you will be developing a story and the music at the same time which is a different creative process than they way you approached the production of Middle of Nowhere.

AF: We have an interesting challenge ahead of us. We don’t want to make musical theater in the traditional sense of a broadway musical, we want to do something different. For our current live performance, Shelley performs as Elska based on a script she wrote which weaves the songs from the album together. During our residency with LabWorks, I see us going even further into the sounds of Elska’s life and the actual soundscape that she exists in, which is based on Iceland. I think young minds are very open to a sound based experience so we would like to blend sound design and actual songwriting into something that ignites their imagination rather than filling it entirely, as one might with songs that advance the plot in musical theater.

Instead, what we envision is that Elska makes music in her life and she’s going to create moments of that on stage where she would be out on the island, naturally, and then the children will fall into that moment with her. What is interesting about performing for young audiences is that they can’t hold a plot line for very long, so there’s this ratio of plot to ambience that you get to play with. I’m most interested in creating magical moments that are wonderful and memorable rather than a traditional theater piece with various scenes, acts and a whole narrative arc. The opportunity to create music that isn’t necessarily advancing a plot or a story but creating a feeling or a mood is a greater challenge that I’m looking forward to. In the last record, we did some of this with songs like “Arctic Fox” where we created sounds that imitated a fox’s whiskers moving around. We used bells for the “Elska Express” and you can hear the train in the background, too, so there is a bit of sound design there which we currently incorporate into the live performance of Middle of Nowhere.

KCG: I remember the video for “Arctic Fox” had sounds that were perfectly timed with Elska’s facial gestures. It really feels like a whole piece.

SW: Exactly. For me, movement and sound should not be separate from one another. There is an acting method called Viewpoints that was adapted for stage by a director named Anne Bogart. One of the Viewpoints, according to the method, is called kinesthetic response. Basically, when something happens it causes a reaction. If a door slams on stage, a person appears to sit down at the exact same moment, or when a bell rings, Elska’s head is compelled to move at the same time because of that kinetic force and that action and reaction that happens. When we create this piece, and I perform this piece, it’s really important that my full physical body is tuned into these sounds and the angles of the stage so that it can be completely aligned. This also relates back to something I learned from my acting class in the Jacques Lecoq method which was the theory of le jeu which means play. An actor who can play is an actor who is interesting to watch, and we know this with children as well. A child who is playing and is in that imaginary space is totally engaged in that moment. When Allen and I are at LabWorks, one of the cards I’m going to have on the wall will say le jeu. From play, from engagement, and from these actions and reactions that we’re creating, we’re going to be in this new world that will be exciting to watch.

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KCG: It sounds really magical. I can just see the theater as being part of the scenery. The audience is going to be teleported to another place for the duration of the show.

AF: It’s funny because I’ve always been interested in making albums that were worlds unto themselves. My favorite records, from front to back, are the ones where you feel like you’re in one unified world, and that’s what we’ve tried to do with Elska. For the new piece, we want to make sure that our work continues to feel like one unified world.

KCG: How do you see LabWorks supporting you throughout the development process?

AF: With LabWorks we have the support of a community of really excellent and pretty experimental theater makers. When you see a lot of the work they present, domestically and internationally, some of it is very abstract, very avant-garde theater which is a really good fit for us because we want to push Elska further into abstraction. The question we want to explore is how to do that more elegantly and more imaginatively. We always think of Elska like Legos. It’s an open-ended toy and we’re expecting a child to take that toy and turn it into something. We want to present building blocks for the imagination. We’ve been really cognizant of that with the development of the plot in Middle of Nowhere. I’ve seen 2 and 3-year-olds completely engaged in Elska just absolutely dive in and start creating their own stories, their own plots, their own bits, and so we’re cognizant of not handing a closed-off narrative, but one that is open and leaves the child with possibilities and questions. Rather than pondering a completed plot, we are inviting them in and encouraging them to create that plot themselves to some degree.

SW: Exactly. Allen and I are both excited by things that are a bit absurd and not literal, so we’ll be pursuing those types of ideas. When I think about the song “Winter Bear,” or an actual polar bear, there are many ways you could create a polar bear on stage. I am excited to talk with the talented people at The New Victory Theater and discover how to bring an imaginary character like this onto the stage in new ways.

KCG: Since the debut of Middle of Nowhere, you have devoted a lot of time to developing Elska and Elska’s world. How will you maintain your vision while also incorporating feedback from the LabWorks panel of experts?

AF: That’s a good question, because when a creative team partners with a larger entity one wonders whether creative autonomy will be minimized at all. But, I have one-hundred percent confidence that working with The New Victory Theater is going to add integrity to what we do and help our next piece become more like Elska than it already is. It’s time for us to go further into our instincts and gut feelings about this vision we had, time to develop Elska into something even more unique. Their expertise and level of professionalism, knowledge, depth and dedication to theater for youth is a total gift for us. We’re the company creating the work and they’re the theater providing support for us to do our work and further realize our vision. The beauty of the LabWorks residency is that we have total creative autonomy over our work while being educated on techniques that will help us get closer to what we really want our next piece to be.

SW: It will be interesting to get The New Victory Theater’s input on that. Through LabWorks, we are going to be given professional development opportunities to meet with their technical team and education department to talk about those aspects of Elska. They have an incredibly robust and talented panel of experts that I am excited to learn from.

KCG: As you prepare to enter into a more theatrical space, do you feel a greater responsibility to deliver a compelling performance? Are the stakes higher now? 

AF: With the new piece we are trying to create a lot of new things, so in that sense I feel a growing responsibility to the audience to provide excellence across a bunch of mediums. At the same time, I am also cautious about creating based on the audience’s reactions to our work. I always say the greatest enemy of creative work is the imagined audience because if you create based on an imagined response you aren’t listening to your own vision. I prefer to make sure that I have a responsibility to the work itself. As a producer, I am very interested in creating something that is functioning and beautiful on its own terms. While I do keep the audience in mind, I also want to come at the work without a set of expectations that I believe other people would have.

With Middle of Nowhere, we give the audience a sense of really being inside Elska’s world by creating an imaginary world and now we’re getting ready to make an imaginary world in three dimensions because theater does that amazing thing of putting a real person in front of you.

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As the adventures of Elska advance into greater heights, fans will still be able to catch the current production of Middle of Nowhere as it continues to tour over the next year.

To find out more about the magic of Elska, visit her online where you can find her touring schedule, view videos and get to know some of the characters that also play an important role in bringing Elska’s story to life.

To find out more about the incredible LabWorks residency program visit New Victory LabWorks.

Rox in Sox 2014 Playlist: Children’s Book and Music Festival

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S is for summer and songs and SOX as in Rox in Sox, an Oregon-based children’s music and literature festival. In its second year, Rox in Sox will once again present an all-star lineup of kindie musicians for FREE. This is an incredible opportunity for those in the area. And if you are thinking about a weekend getaway, this is an excellent reason for you to check the Pacific Northwest off your bucket list of places to visit.

Great Day – The Not-Its!
Inner Rock Child – Mista Cookie Jar
Wired – Recess Monkey
Gotta Be Me – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Man Gave Names To All The Animals – Aaron Nigel Smith
Mr. Rabbit – Red Yarn

Check this out: Ice Cream for a Good Cause!

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It’s summer that usually means cruising around listening to awesome music and cooling off with delicious frozen treats. Growing up, it also meant sliding down our slip n’ slide (which was officially called “Wet Banana“).

What you may or may not be aware of is that July is National Ice Cream Month! To honor this special holiday month, there is a “sweet” Kindie compilation for you to enjoy which was produced, designed and curated by Groovy David (David Brownstein), Mista Cookie Jar (C.J. Pizarro) and Trevor Goober of The Zing Zangs.

The Ice Cream Sundae Project contains songs about ice cream and desserts by top Kindie artists. The proceeds from the purchase of the album will go directly to Feeding America, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to feed the hungry through a nationwide network of food banks.

According to Brownstein, “Most people don’t know that [July is National Ice Cream Month], so I thought it could be a fun idea to create a compilation album of all the dessert flavor songs out there. But as I started working on the idea with Trevor and later Cookie, I felt there could be a broader theme. That awareness of these “dessert” songs could bring attention to families in need of real food services.”

There is an awesome mix of talent here all participating in a good cause!

The album can be downloaded via CDBaby.

You can learn more about The Ice Cream Sundae Project here.

Track Listing

  1. Groovy David – Ice Cream Sunday
  2. Yosi Levin – Just Desserts
  3. Joanie Leeds – Ice Cream
  4. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band – Who Stole the Cookies?
  5. Danny Weinkauf – Ice Cream (Healthy Eating)
  6. Rocknoceros – Cannoli Adjustment
  7. Jambo – Ice Cream Soup
  8. Todd and Cookie – Ice Cream Time Machine
  9. The Zing Zangs – Whip Cream
  10. Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could – Ice Cream Girl
  11. Bari Koral Family Rock Band – Anna and the Cupcakes
  12. Sugar Free Allstars – Ice Cream Truck
  13. Charity and the JAMband – Cake
  14. David Tobocman – Ice Cream on a Hot Dog
  15. Caspar Babypants – A Thousand Tiny Donuts

Videos

 

View this: “Haircut” – The Not-Its!

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This new video by Seattle band The Not-Its! makes me want both my Betamax and my MTV back. Only this Seattle quintet can make a totally rockin’ retro video feel in-fashion. “Haircut” is one of our favorite songs from their upcoming album, Raise Your Hand, due out July 15, 2014.

Who wants more Not-Its!? We do!

Keep up to date by following the band via their Facebook Page and considering singing up for their newsletter.

Looking for ways to empower your kiddos this summer? The Not-Its! talk about KidQuakes in this interview. Learn more here.

FREE DOWNLOAD: “Love Bug” – Raffi

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Raffi is coming out with a new album on July 15, 2014. That’s huge! Especially since it’s his first new kids’ CD in 12 years.

The album is called Love Bug and you can download the title track as a gift in advance of the album’s release. I’m just gonna put this out there…I become a child again when I hear Raffi sing (read: I sing like a 5-year-old). Raffi is still a charmer and I can’t help but join in the chorus with the other kids featured in his songs. His soothing voice brings me back to my childhood, and brings back memories of when my daughter was an infant and Raffi’s music dominated every audio device we owned. And when no audio equipment was available, it was demanded that my voice carry his tunes. I was totally ok with that!

Raffi tells us that everybody’s got a “Love Bug” deep inside them, which is naturally where the hugs come from. Oh Raffi! :)

To get the free download of “Love Bug,” follow this link: http://www.childhonouring.org/lovebugnewcd.html.

Love Bug is now available for pre-order through Amazon and iTunes.

Interview: Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – It’s the Year of the Weird!

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo_Solo_photo credit Ian Ibbertson

June 24, 2014 marked the official release of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo‘s latest album, The Perfect Quirk, and his first book, Weirdo Calhoun and the Odd Men Out. In honor of these two releases, Skidoo is running a contest called Year of the Weird which encourages kids to get wildly creative by creating a destiny for an imaginary friend named Pickles and Weirdo Calhoun.

Skidoo is a kid hop (kids + hip hop) virtuoso known for his wicked lyrical abilities. His rhymes flow with conviction and heart, consistently encouraging kids to embrace their unique qualities and be proud of who they are. In the following interview, Skidoo shares his thoughts on being weird and following your heart. As a parent and a writer, I found Skidoo’s thoughts to be extremely inspiring and I trust that you will too.


KCG: Can you explain for my audience what the Year of the Weird is?

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo: It is the celebration of the beautiful mutants we all are. It’s the resistance fight against Madison Avenue created mainstream normality blandness. It’s the belief that weird is not the exception to the rule, it’s the only reality, whether people want to admit it or not. It’s also the art explosion of my new CD, The Perfect Quirk, and my new book, Weirdo Calhoun and the Odd Men Out, with which I hope to spread wonderful weirdness across the globe. And it’s the name of a contest I’m holding where kids can win a GOLDEN TICKET that gives free access to any 23 Skidoo show ever, for life. Go to www.secretagent23skidoo.com for details…..

KCG: Why is this a special theme and how did you come up with it?

The etymology of “weird” has its origin in the Old English word “wyrd”, which was a noun that means “fate or destiny”. I want to help kids understand that their weirdness is their destiny, and that they can ride it like a tidal wave of awesomeness to great spiritual riches.

KCG: What does being weird/the perfect quirk mean to you? In your music, it seems to have always equated to being beautiful, celebrating who you are and that we are all different and special in our own way. 15004_6PAN_1TRAY_STANDARD

Weird means interesting, authentic, unexpected. It means not basing how you act, look and create on what others are doing or expect from you. It’s good to be aware of other’s opinions, but not to let them dominate your natural self.

KCG: Your consistent theme has been an advocate for accepting yourself and reinforcing the value in loving yourself, i.e. “Gotta Be Me,” from your album Easy, encourages kids to be their own best friend. How have you modeled/reinforced that for your daughter Saki (aka MC Fireworks)?

I try to teach by action, and I live my life as a stubborn weirdo. I also have written about 5 songs for her that she gets up in front of crowds and repeats over and over, show to show, and has since she was five. So, a sort of positive brainwashing program, I suppose.

KCG: Do you consider yourself weird (unique)?

Indeed, and I was identified as a weirdo as far back as I can remember. The unique mix of my heart and intellect result in me having a different perspective on things pretty often. My own personal facet of the gem that is temporal existence. As a kid trying to fit in, it sucked, but as a professional artist trying to stand out, it’s perfect.

KCG: Are there times where you still feel like an outsider or rebellious? In “Gotta Be You,” from your last release, Make Believers, I recall you saying — “a misfit always been different, that’s probably why I became a musician,” for example.

Yup. I am naturally rebellious against any institution or establishment that seeks to normalize or homogenize the people that belong to it. Humans are naturally complex, quirky and unpredictable, and trying to treat them any other way only dilutes the beauty that we came here to experience. And from fashion choices to how I speak and carry myself, I continue to stand out. Sorta on purpose by now probably.

KCG: I like how you express passion and ambition in the face of adversity with the lyrics “While they were making fun/ Cupid was shooting his arrow in my heart ’cause I love to rap/ Years later/ My songs are like thunderclaps…” (“3 Pointed Back,” The Perfect Quirk). 

What would you say to kids who want to be creative but might feel insecure because of peer pressure or just simply unsure how to engage that part of themselves?

First off, don’t worry if your first attempts at creativity seem stupid or you feel you can’t do it…..That’s how every great artist started. I have notebooks full of rhymes I hated while I was writing them. Just try to have fun with it, and if you keep at it, eventually you’ll develop the skill to do something original and great. And if other people make fun of you or try to make you feel bad, just remember that later, you’ll have skills and an art that makes you feel amazing, and they’ll have nothing but the ability to make fun of things. Unless they become famous stand-up comics. Then I guess it works out for everyone!

KCG: What message do you have for kids to own their quirks and not fall into the popularity trap? For example, when you say “Yup I’m weird I love it I’m as weird as can be!” (“Gotta Be Me”)

Listen to your heart. It’s hard to do, but if you learn how to feel the difference between not doing something because you’re afraid and not doing something because it’s not the right thing for you to do, that will help you find the path. Also, give things more than one chance. If you feel like you want to try something new, do it at least 3 times with heart before you give up on it. And remember that most kids want to be popular because they’re scared that they’re not worthy enough by being themselves, so they want to fit in with a group to seem bigger and stronger. Animals do it too.

KCG: What helps you write/think creatively? Do you have rituals you follow that inspire your own writing?

Yup. I get good sleep, meditate, sometimes chant mantras to Ganesha, the Hindu god of writing and the remover of obstacles and Saraswati, the goddess of playing music, flow and wisdom. And walking always help break through any writers block.

KCG: What is the creative/writing process like for you – coming up with the topic for a rap, creating and then recording it?

Coming up with it is vague, nebulous and magical. Writing it is structured, workday stuff, but if I do it right, I’m more energized than tired at the end of the day. Recording it is a little tense and emotional, but mindblowingly awesome and transformative. Like childbirth.

KCG: What have you learned since your first album and how have you evolved as a kid hop artist?

I keep experimenting with the complexity. I am constantly figuring out the difference between simplifying and dumbing down. And my stage show is getting WAY better! Purple suits, tophats, motown dance moves…We’re stepping it up!

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo LiveCrowdRocking_photo credit Ian Ibbetson

KCG: Your music and lyrics are tight and flow really well together. What is your work ethic like? Do you hold yourself to a higher standard with every new release? 

I think I did until Make Believers. Then I realized that it’s not a competition with myself, it’s just a challenge of channeling what I have in my head and heart into the final product clearly. I don’t need to be better than I was, I need to be as good as I am, ya dig?

weirdoKCG: Why did you decide to write a book and not turn one of your existing songs into a book?

I still might turn one of my songs into a book, “Last Dragon” perhaps, but I just like to write new stuff, and I wanted the story to be a bit longer than my songs are. I feel like in a song, the whole verse has to make sense, but in a book, every page has to make sense by itself. So I’m experimenting with a new form, and it’s fun. And it turned out awesome, so I’m stoked.

KCG: From my daughter: What is it like to rap?  

It’s like shooting perfectly formed shapes out of your mouth that explode like fireworks and fall onto the crowd like nice cool rain on a hot day. Saki’s answer: It’s like a combination of yelling, singing and talking, but with more rhythm.

KCG: What are the most frustrating and most inspiring parts of what you do?

The most frustrating is that almost nobody knows about what we do, but everyone knows about the latest Disney movie. The most inspiring part is having a kid quote your lyrics back to you out of the blue, when you can tell they totally understand what you were thinking when you wrote them.

KCG:  There has always been a strong family tie-in with what you do. “Time Machine” is a beautiful letter to Saki. I especially love what you wrote to her in The Perfect Quirk’s liner notes: “I feel so lucky that even without a time machine, I still get to meet the future you.” Have you always written rhymes with Saki? Has she come up with her own creative endings to your stories? The Year of the Weird contest seems like such an awesome opportunity for families to experience together.

Yeah, I’m her ghost writer, but it always starts with me asking her a lot of questions about whatever the topic is, so I can represent her viewpoint correctly. And she’s written one song completely by herself, called “Rocket Science“, which is on the album Science Fair. She doesn’t have the passion for writing that I have, but she’s incredibly good at it when she does it. And yes, the contest is an amazing opportunity for families to collaborate on something creatively! Go do it! You can do anything you want….write a song, a story, a poem, make a sculpture, film a movie, do an interpretive dance, make a Tibetan sand painting…seriously, the weirder, the better.

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and Family_photo credit Mike Belleme_high res

Check this out: Just Say Hi! – Brady Rymer And The Little Band That Could

Just Say Hi cover
Get those boogie shoes ready everybody! Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Just Say Hi!, the latest release from Brady Rymer And The Little Band That Could, keeps the sweet sounds of rock n’ roll alive with a spirited set of what might be Rymer’s most personal songs to date. And by spirited, I mean full-on no stoppin’ this boppin’ blazing train of good times. Like the famous rock n’ roll icons of yesteryears (Springsteen, Mellencamp, Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles), Rymer has rhythm and blues running through his veins. Collectively, this talented troupe makes each song sound like a celebration.

Music, specifically rock n’ roll, has played a major role in Rymer’s upbringing and he directly pays tribute to this genre in many of his songs, whether he’s singing about being raised on rock n’ roll music, playing “Stairway to Heaven” in his garage after school, or learning a piano rag with Grandma Helen. The joy of being with family and friends is interwoven throughout the album as well. “Get This Party Started,” cruises down memory lane with a young Rymer listening to Elvis in the backseat of his parents’ Oldsmobile, to the present day where a glance in the rear view mirror reveals his own children hoppin’ and boppin’ in the backseat to Beyoncè’s Single Ladies song.

Nominated for a Grammy in 2009, Rymer has always been able to connect to the emotional side of his audience, empathetically trying to relate to what they might be feeling and then seeking to uplift their spirits through empowering messages and words of kindness. Just Say Hi! is bookended by two songs that support these messages. Starting with the title track, Rymer encourages kids to just say hi (even if they are uncomfortable, i.e. being a new kid in school). as a way to start building friendships while the last track, “Light of Love,” encourages listeners to connect with each other through the simple act of smiling at one another: Everywhere you go and everything you do/ Every single person that you run into/ Give ‘em a smile big & bright/ And shine your little light of love.

Just Say Hi! offers many opportunities for you to shake, rattle and roll. The songs we are spinning the most right now are the breezy, “I Spin” and “Getting Your Ya-Ya’s Out,” the perfect answer to burning off a sugar rush. Although, you might want to listen to the former before the latter. Despite it’s action-oriented name, “I Spin,” is a slower number that will help everyone begin to wind down.

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Brady with Moppit the monster.

Other standout tracks include “Home,” a rhythmic dance song infused with comforting images that reinforce the saying “Home is where the heart is,” and “Tomorrow’s People,” a reggae tune featuring a supergroup of kindie musicians. Reminiscent of “We Are The World,” the voices of Laurie Berkner and Susie Lampert (The Laurie Berkner Band), Elizabeth Mitchell and her husband Daniel Little (You Are My Flower), and Drew Holloway and Jack Forman (Recess Monkey) highlight the power of music to effect change, as well as offer hope and gratitude.

Rymer is a glowing light within the children’s genre. While there has always been a charismatic sound to his music, Just Say Hi! seems to take a more unfettered approach, providing insight into Rymer as an individual and a musician. Each song is delivered with fervency and infectious enthusiasm, or, as my 5-year-old said, “Brady sings his songs with a heart full of joy.” That just about sums it up! There is positively no way your family won’t be moved by the soul and sincerity found within this album.

Just Say Hi! is available at Amazon and iTunes. Connect with Brady via Facebook and Twitter and make sure to check his official site for tour dates. A special nod also goes to Katie Gastley for the artwork on the album and creation of Moppit the friendly blue monster you see in the photos above.

 

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