Dads Who Rock! Father’s Day Q&A featuring Keeth Monta Apgar of The Harmonica Pocket

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Keeth Monta Apgar, master songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for the Northwest-based group, The Harmonica Pocket, delivers rich vocals in harmony with his wife, Nala Walla.

TheHarmonicaPocketSundropsRecently, The Harmonica Pocket released their fourth third full-length children’s album called Sundrops. The recording of the album, as well as previous albums, took place in a solar powered studio on a tiny island in Puget Sound, Washington, where they live.

Prior to the release of their third album, Apple Apple, Keeth and Nala welcomed their first child, Montana, into the world. As a result, many of the songs reflect the experiences and bond they have as a family while also celebrating the natural world that surrounds them on their little island.

Below Keeth shares his thoughts on Father’s Day, and how he is inspired through creative play and his 4-year-old’s wonderfully magical imagination.

Stay tuned for a new video from The Harmonica Pocket, and keep up with the band through their official site, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can listen to and purchase Sundrops through iTunes, and Amazon.

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KCG: What are you planning to do for Father’s Day?
KA: Kick back.  Hang with my family.  Eat some food.  Play a little, dream a little, live a little.

KCG: What is the best thing about being a dad?
KA: For me the best thing about being a father is getting down on my belly and playing.  I love entering the magical, non-linear world of kids and there is nothing more magical than a 4 year-old’s imagination.  This creative play is very inspiring to me as an artist and as a grownup.

KCG: What is the hardest thing about being a dad (especially if you are a touring artist)?
KA: As I type, my son Montana approaches me and says “What are you doing, Papa?”  I show him the computer screen with multiple windows open and point to the day’s to-do list.  He looks it all over briefly and says “Work is play,” as he heads out the screen door. Yup.

The hardest thing about being a father is carving out time to be with my family, to be present and enjoy the moment and not be thinking about the varied tasks screaming for my attention. It’s maddening and I know I do not hold a monopoly on this aspect of parenthood.  Kids are only young for a short time and then they’re off to live their own lives. I’m definitely aware that the childhood clock is ticking, and want to be as present as I can manage.

KCG: How often do you play music/sing with your son?
KA: In our tiny, one-room house we have instruments everywhere.  They hang on the walls and are overflowing various baskets and crates, ready to bust out at any moment.  I’ve found when musical instruments are handy, they get played the most.  We sing and bang and toot almost everyday—some of these improvisations end up turning into songs on our albums.

KCG: Do your kids join you during performances?
KA: Our son was on stage in utero. After he was born we would tour with a nanny who would hang with him during shows.

One day, just after his 2nd birthday, the nanny bailed on us two hours before the show.  When we arrived at the venue I set up an extra mic for him and set his ukulele on a chair.  Twenty minutes before showtime he woke up from his nap and I told him he was going to play a show with us.  He walked right up to his chair and sat down, ready to play.  We laughed and told him we still had some time to use the potty and get ready for the show.  He rocked it, and has been on stage with us ever since.

Dads Who Rock! Father’s Day Q&A featuring Jon Babu from Here Comes Trouble

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Happy Father’s Day!
I hope you’ve been enjoying my Q&A features over the past week with Dads Who Rock. It’s been fun to hear everyone’s experience and point of view and how they integrate music into their families lives, as well as how they find a balance between musical and parental lifestyles.
Today’s feature is the first of several I will be publishing to close out the holiday. Jon Babu, along with his wife, Kelly Donohue, are in the DC-based kindie band, Here Comes Trouble. Kelly’s soulful voice leads the group while Jon’s drumming keeps up a wicked beat to give the band their punchy sound. 
Jon is an outstanding jazz drummer, in addition to being a tax attorney and a kids’ musician. He was trained at New England Conservatory of Music  (both he and his wife, Kelly, received double undergraduate degrees in English from Tufts University and in Jazz Performance from NEC). They worked and studied with such jazz greats as Ran Blake, Dominique Eade and Bob Moses. Babu has extensive experience with the sticks and has performed and recorded with a number of bands, toured Germany with a jazz trio and headlined with the hip hop group Red Time, gaining a diverse palette of experience that filters into the jazzy/funky/punk inspired sounds of Here Comes Trouble.

Together Jon and Kelly have two kids: 10-year-old Jack and 6-year-old Nora. In addition to being a kids’ musician, Jon also leads a double life as a tax attorney at an accounting firm in Bethesda, MD.  It was when their son Jack was about 5-years-old that Jon and Kelly realized that their kids knew nothing of their parents’ musical background. After a disappointing search for quality children’s entertainment for Jack’s fifth birthday party, they decided to do something about it and formed Here Comes Trouble in 2010. Together with some musician friends, they wrote and rehearsed a full set of original songs just in time for their Jack’s party, and Here Comes Trouble was off and running from that point onward.

Here Comes Trouble’s debut album, Goo On My Shoe, was recently released and is available for download and purchase through their official site. Keep up with the band through their Facebook page.
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Below Jon offers some Father’s Day insight, as well as episode one of a drumming essentials tutorial recorded in honor of keeping Jack, as well as other young drummers inspired to keep up with their craft. Jon’s expert advice starts with one of the most iconic skills, stick twirling, followed by a demonstration of him crushing it on his own kit with the kids jumpin’ on a trampoline behind him. Another iconic picture…of work/life balance!
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KCG: What does being a Dad mean to you?
JB: I’ve always wanted to be a dad – long before I considered being a musician.  It is the most important thing I do in this world.
KCG: What is the best thing about being a dad?

JB: I think I have the best kids in the world, and I know them in a way that no one else can (it is not always easy – ask me another time and my answer may be different!). They’re really fun, cool people and I get to see them at their best and their worst, and I love having the relationship with them that I do.

KCG: How has your work as a musician/artist been impacted by your role as a father? Also, if you are a touring musician, how does that affect the time you spend with your family?
JB: When I got out of college I was ready to move to New York, sleep in someone’s closet, and play as much music as possible until I could do it as a career. Now, the idea of committing that much time to performing doesn’t seem realistic, in my opinion. I do miss performing, especially at a higher level than I can reach these days. I know people maintain touring schedules and parenting duties, but for me I don’t know how I could do that with young kids (…unless they were out there with me – maybe I need to work on that plan!). On the other hand, whenever I get a chance to play music with people these days, whether it’s with my wife and our band (Here Comes Trouble), or some of the other folks I play with, I have the BEST time. I appreciate every chance I have to get out and play with people, now that I don’t do it as often as I used to.

KCG: What are your plans for Father’s Day?
JB: This is a big weekend for me – my birthday is on Saturday, so it is a double whammy. I’ll be turning…well, I’ll be over 32.  🙂  I will probably grill something for dinner – cooking is one of those household duties that I really like to do. Preparing food for your family and having them actually like it is a real treat!  We will probably watch a Science Fiction movie as well, if there are any left that we can watch as a family. I have really indoctrinated our kids into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy world, so that they are really into those movies. My wife is not a big Sci-Fi fan, so she is not terribly happy with this development…

KCG: What is one of the most memorable moments you’ve had as a Dad?
JB: We went snow tubing this winter.  Before we got there, both kids were whining and complaining about going – probably because it was my wife’s idea and they never want to admit she has any good ideas.  By the time we left the mountain, we had to drag the kids back to the car because they had so much fun.  They were both asleep before we’d even gotten on the highway to come home.  I love those kinds of days – when no one is in a good mood and then everyone turns it around and has a great time.  That was a really fun day.

KCG: How often to do you play music with your kids? Do they perform with you?
JB: Both kids go in and out of phases with music.  Our son has been playing saxophone and we’ve been trying to think of ways to get him in on some of our songs with Here Comes Trouble.  But now he’s talking about giving it up and trying something else.  Both kids have good voices, so they sang on our last CD.  The video I sent is in part my attempt to get them interested in the drums, since we have drums and cymbals lying all over our house and it would be great if they would use them!  I remember taking guitar lessons when I was 7, and within a month I lost interest because it wasn’t fun.  So this video is meant to try to get our kids and other kids to pick up some drumsticks and do something fun with them, rather than focusing immediately on rudiments and sight reading.  That stuff is important, but we need to learn about showmanship and have some fun too!