Video Premiere: “Grand March from Aida” – Dog On Fleas

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Baby it’s cold outside and with each weather report comes the call of yet another battle against nature. Fear not, for Dog On Fleas has come to offer a reprieve! In their video for “Grand March from Aida,” a “triumphal march” takes place as a procession of creatures strut, scurry and float across the screen. There’s even a surprise guest in the mix (Gustafer Yellowgold fans, I’m looking at you)! And what would a triumphal march be without the right ensemble? Thanks to the Backyard Dorkestra, the animal parade is given some regality while being accompanied by a a melange of instruments, including an accordion, kazoo, bassoon, flugelhorn, violin, sousaphone and glockenspiel, to name a few.

“Grand March from Aida” was originally written by Giuseppe Verde for his opera, Aida, and can be found on the Fleas’ eighth album, Buy One Get One Flea, which officially releases today! While the song is completely instrumental, it stays with you, leaving you no choice but to grab a kazoo and create your own grand parade. So sound the alarms, raise a ruckus, stomp around, heat things up and join in the celebration!

Buy One Get One Flea is available for purchase via CdBaby.

For more Dog on Fleas goodness, don’t miss their one-hour Rumpus Room concert this weekend. Details below:

Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live (ch. 78) features a special Dog on Fleas Rumpus Room. The concert will be airing 4X this weekend:
Friday Feb 21 –  6pPST/9pEST
Saturday Feb 22 –  9 am EST / 6 am PST, 5 pm EST/ 2 pm PST
Sunday Feb 23 – 12pEST/9aPST

Happy Valentine’s Day! Playlist + videos + free downloads = Love

Happy Valentine’s Day! And like any other holiday, or really any day, your ears deserve musical treats. So, below you will find a Spotify playlist containing some tracks we are spinning. Since not all of the songs are on Spotify, you can find additional tracks below the playlist in the form of videos, links, and FREE DOWNLOADS!

There’s a whole lotta love here so get ready to turn it up!

Dog On Fleas – “I must be a genius” from Buy One Get One Flea

Dean Jones, check. Trombone, check. Adorable furry friend, check! I’m sold!
Bonus: The good people of Dog On Fleas would like to share their love with fans of all ages by offering a flea, er, free download. If you download this track in February, and send Dog On Fleas a message with your email address, they will send you a bonus track!! As in… buy one, get one flea. Or you can go to their Facebook page and message them (and like them while you are there). 

Laura Doherty – “In a Heartbeat” 
I love the disco break in the middle of this song. The beats are good, Laura’s voice is gorgeous and the photos breathe love.

Alex Mitnick of Alex & The Kaleidescope Band has been a dad for almost a year now. In awe of his son, Miles, Alex was inspired to write the song “Feelin’ Fine” to celebrate Miles’ first Valentine’s Day. It’s also a sneak peek into Alex’s upcoming album entitled Love Songs For My Baby. As a special gift for Valentine’s Day, Alex is also offering a free download of this song.

Mariana Iranzi – “Valentine’s Day Song”
A bi-lingual valentine’s song with bold color, fun puppets and a beautiful translation.
Lyrics translation:
“I have a heart so big like the sun
beats like a drum
I have a heart without sorrow nor resentment
sing like the nightingale
I have a heart open like a flower
dance with emotion
I have a heart full of hope
I want to give you all my love”

Poochamungas – Valentine’s Day
I unfortunately can’t embed the player here but I can tell you that the song is a fun one and the tone accurately expresses the experience of spending time making cards on Valentine’s Day. http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_19910031

Interview with Dean Jones

“Recording can be tricky, but I think my strength as a producer is to get the musicians together and have them PLAY. PLAY PLAY PLAY. Not work.” – Dean Jones

222157_1064956471577_9924_nThe creative process can be such a vulnerable place and as an artist it helps to have someone in your corner supporting you through your creative endeavors. Welcome Dean Jones! Musical maestro, Dean Jones, of the kindie band, Dog On Fleas, has played a major role in the production of many kindie releases over the past few years, including The Okee Dokee Brothers Can You Canoe? which won him a 2013 Grammy award for Best Children’s album.

Dean lives in the Hudson Valley, which is also the headquarters of his “lovely straw bale recording studio” called No Parking Studio. In addition to producing, Dean spends time collaborating with fellow kindie musicians, providing support and lending his talents on a variety of instruments ranging from brass (trumpet, trombone) to the keys (or “ivories” as he puts it in Joanie Leeds’ song “Bandwagon“).

Earlier this year, Dean released his third solo album titled When The World Was New, which will definitely be on our list of favorites for 2013. Its sound is an eclectic blend of funk, disco and folk and Dean’s voice has a warm quality to it that softly glides through each song.

Dean is a busy man so when he agreed to participate in an interview with me, I was very grateful. In the following interview, Dean provides insight into his philosophy as a producer, as well as some inspiring advice on how thinking can be the enemy. Read on and then read my review which also contains a sampler of free songs from the album.

Kids Can Groove: Were you a singer/musician before you started producing?

Dean Jones: Yes, I’ve been playing in bands, and making up my own bands for a long time. All kinds of bands, usually strange and hard to explain. I’ve also worked with a lot of different kinds of artists, writing and playing music for puppet shows, shadow plays, art exhibits, and some other spectacular things. I love collaborating!

KCG: What made you decide to get into producing?

DJ: Well, I had a partner in crime for many years named Warren Perrins. We bought some recording equipment and just started recording our own bands because we thought we could figure it out ourselves. It took us a long time to really figure it out, though! But, ever since then I’ve really loved the challenge of recording and producing my own music, as well as other people’s music.

KCG: Who was the first children’s artist you worked with (production wise)?

DJ: Oh, well, first I started recording my own songs and then that turned into my band called Dog on Fleas. We’ve recorded 7 CDs. And next up was my great great great uncle, Uncle Rock. Actually, we’re not related, but he is great.

KCG: How did you get into children’s music?

DJ: I have had a bunch of bands (the Falling Wallendas, Harmonica Virgins, For Sale by Owner Orchestra, to name a few) and I’ve always written music that appealed to kids, but it was never called children’s music. All my bands have been very theatrical, ridiculous, childish, and fun. Eventually, a friend of mine pointed out that I was really writing music that kids like, so why not make a CD for kids. And, Dog on Fleas was born.

KCG: What have you learned from your first collaboration/production up til now?

DJ: Oh ho ho ho. So much I can’t tell you. I think the most important thing is that music is communication. If you are feeling uptight, tired or nervous, that’s part of what will be communicated. I think it’s really good to be clear about what you want to be communicating, and to whom, and then look at the big picture!!! You want it to sound fun; You have to be having fun. Recording can be tricky, but I think my strength as a producer is to get the musicians together and have them PLAY. PLAY PLAY PLAY. Not work.

KCG: You have worked with an array of genres plus you are an artist yourself. What is your working philosophy?

DJ: Oh, I just answered that in the last bit. I can say more. I like to create a working environment (even though I said it’s not work!) that encourages experimentation. Relaxed and fun, and you can try something and maybe fail at it, but it’s not a loss. Every song can turn out a million different ways. It’s a great challenge to draw out the essence of a song.

KCG: How do you stay true to yourself as a singer/songwriter while maintaining an objective point of view as a producer?

DJ: I try not to think. Thinking is the enemy. Oh, that also answers the previous 2 questions too.

KCG: How do you find time to record your own songs?

DJ: I have to go right now, I don’t have time to answer that.

KCG: How does the process of writing and producing your own music compare to doing that for others?

DJ: Sometimes I have to tell an artist that what they’ve just written and recorded is a really great song and sometimes they doubt themselves. My job is to keep them going in the right direction and making sure they know what their strengths and weaknesses are. It’s pretty much the same producing myself. Sometimes I don’t know if what I’m doing is any good. I have to play my music for other people and trust their opinions. I really believe in trusting, trusting, trusting and not overthinking. Just doing something is better than thinking about it.

KCG: You are a multi-talented artist and bring World accents into many of the arrangements/albums you are featured on, as well as your own, using a broad range of instruments and even incorporating a foreign (French) language. It makes for some really interesting, eclectic sounds. Are you self-taught or have you taken lessons?

DJ: I did take piano lessons when I was 8 years old for about 6 years, I think. I have always been a ravenous collector of instruments, sounds and music from around the world. I have tons and tons of instruments. And records. And sticks and rocks and pringles cans, and anything you could blow into or bang on. The area I live in, near Woodstock NY, is full of amazing musicians from all over the world. In the 70s and 80s there was a school called the Creative Music Studio here that Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Dave Holland, and so many other great jazz musicians, and I guess, World musicians taught. A lot of people came here to study jazz, but there was so much emphasis on just improvising with whomever you were with, and a lot of exploration of music styles from around the world. Many of the students of that school stayed here and hence there’s much more awareness of music from different parts of the world. I play with a lot of those folks in various bands.

KCG: How did the theme for When the World Was New come up for you?

DJ: I was in my backyard thinking about recording a new album OUTSIDE, just in my yard with an acoustic guitar and whatever else I could have out there. And then one of my neighbors started using a really loud leaf blower. IN THE SPRING!! That’s absurd!!!!! So I changed directions and wrote the song “Absurd” about how absurd we humans are. And then it got me on a new path, thinking about evolution, where we are and how we got there. It’s somewhat serious, but also silly. I think people are pretty ridiculous, so there’s lots to write about. I know I’m kind of ridiculous.

KCG: It has some complex concepts which I think are fascinating for a children’s album. Did you think about how your audience would receive it?

DJ: Yes, at times I wondered if it was going to be a children’s album. I had to ask for help on that. I give kids a lot of credit for being smart and open-minded. Most of the songs on this record are asking questions, not providing answers. I like sparking thoughts and feelings.

KCG: So you are a dad, producer, singer-songwriter and a member of Dog on Fleas. How do you manage to balance it all?

DJ: It’s hard. I love it. But I always have projects hanging over my head. I mostly have to take my kids out in the woods or away from home so I don’t get sucked in to the business end of the music business. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that I’m terrible at Facebook and all that. I just can’t do everything. I’m always writing new songs for new albums when I should be promoting the album that’s just released.

KCG: If you weren’t involved with music, what would you be doing?

DJ: Maybe being a forest ranger. Or millionaire philanthropist.

KCG: What is your favorite way to spend time with family?

DJ: Hiking, climbing, picking wild blueberries, and singing.

Do/Have any books influence(d) you or your music/songwriting?

DJ: Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown. I like the little world she created in that book. I like to create little worlds in song. It’s hard to talk about art and music for me. I like Paul Klee’s paintings. They are not so tied to this world, but evoking something. %&** I guess I am influenced by lots of things. Just feeling tiny sparks of energy wherever they show up.

Check this Out: When the World Was New – Dean Jones

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Kids have so many questions and one of the things that I love  is getting asked a question that makes me go “hmmmm….” and then talking through the possible answers to that question. I am fascinated by the way our mind works and watching my daughter take in and process the world around her is a bit like magic. I tend to forget that so much of what I see and experience on a daily basis is something that she is experiencing for the first time. Music is one of the main mediums that provoke these questions which is why I am so pleased to talk about Dean Jones‘ new album, When the World was New.

When the World Was New, is a unique album which explores evolution, mother nature, the absurdity of human nature, community and of course, music. Jones illustrates how these elements coincide as he pensively wanders (and wonders) over topics such as how life was at the beginning of time in the title track, “When the World Was New.” I particularly love the lyrics “Well they always had music/ and they drew with sticks/ there was time for leisure/ and they could get their kicks without the tick tock tick of time.” “A Sparrow’s Soul,” a song that explores the circle of life and poses the lovely question “Does a caterpillar have a heart/ Does it quietly sing?” These questions spawned a long conversation between my bug loving 4 1/2 year old who once brought home about 10 caterpillars from the playground. Editor’s note: all 10 of the caterpillars safely made it through metamorphosis and we even discovered that one of them was a butterfly!

Other songs Emily and I enjoy grooving to are “Prehensile Grip,” a fancy phrase which gives meaning to why we can grip things like a pencil or scissors. It’s also a great companion should you find yourself rationalizing with a tot about why using a fork for those greasy buttered noodles is a really good idea (Ahem).  Jones brings the funk in “Snail Mail,” a groovy tune that reinforces the beauty of a handwritten letter. And “Outshining Nomads” never fails to get repeated plays. It’s a wacky tune about a traveling band of jolly circus performers. I particularly love the song for a couple of nerdy reasons. First, the composition is made up of all kinds of layered harmonies, whether it’s an added distortion during the melody or a haunting echo during the chorus. Second, I love how the catchy chorus “fifteen men on the dead men’s chest/ yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” was integrated into the song. It fits perfectly despite it actually being part of a fictional sea-song that was originally featured in the famous novel, Treasure Island.

While most of the songs are exploratory in nature, there are songs that send a message in support of peace. “Peace in the Valley” speaks about standing up for a particular cause against those who might disrupt peace in our world and our future (“…tyrants and despots/ get ready for a great big fall“) while one of my favorites, “Stand With Me,” featuring Shamsi Rhue’s gorgeous vocals, touches upon the idea that the future is uncertain but we can remain strong by comforting, respecting and supporting one another.

When the World Was New is an enriching piece of art for the whole family. Jones is a skillful musician who deftly creates an environment that fosters a child’s sense of curiosity and imagination. It is a rare gem in the world of children’s music and one that shines more brightly with every listen. Highly recommended for ages 4 – 8.

Clips from the album can be sampled via the SoundCloud widget below. Digital copies of the album can be purchased through CDBaby or our affiliate Amazon.

Singled Out: “Just Another Finger” – Mista Cookie Jar

a4152069260_2On April 25, 2013, I was lucky enough to attend a Kindie Music Mashup held by Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live in their New York City studio.  It was an amazing experience and one that showed off some serious talent.  Essentially, the mashup involved pairings of kindie musicians broken up into teams of two.  Each team swapped a song and played those songs in each other’s musical stylings.

Mista Cookie Jar was paired up with Dean Jones from Dog On Fleas and covered the popular song “Just Another Finger.”  To prepare, MCJ did a bunch of research on this friendly little digit, wrote down some clever lyrics and set it all to a fun kid-hop beat.  You can take a listen and download the song for free via the Bandcamp widget below (just hit BUY NOW and enter “0” when you name your price).  I think you’ll agree that this opposable ode deserves two thumbs up!

Want to sing along?  Check out the lyrics here.

To learn more about the Kindie Music Mashup check out the video below [courtesy of Sirius via YouTube]:

View This: “Snail Mail” – Dean Jones

home-When_the_World_Was_New_Cover_JPGDean Jones, multi talented kindie wonder man, is putting out his second children’s album on May 14th called When The World Was New.  It’s going to be quite fantastic, although I wouldn’t expect any less from the recent Grammy winner (Dean won a 2012 Grammy for producing Can You Canoe? by The Okee Dokee Brothers).

“Snail Mail,” directed by Tim Sutton from Ratboy Jr., is a funk filled motivational piece (or as Sutton describes it: funk with a disco sweater on) that reinforces the benefits of being a good pen pal.  It’s got a nice groove, a crazy catchy hook and some great lyrics, including my favorite in which Jones suggests doing “a little doodle direct from your noodle.”

How do you not want to get all creative, slap a stamp on an envelope and boogie on down to the post office right this minute?

Check This Out: Champions Of The Universe – Ratboy Jr.

51x98urmivL._SL500_AA280_A name like Ratboy Jr. may not immediately make you think of children’s music, but make no mistake, this band is fantastic!

Based out of the musically rich Hudson Valley (home to the likes of Dog On Fleas, Gustafer Yellowgold, Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower, Uncle Rock, Story Laurie), Ratboy Jr. consists of longtime friends Tim Sutton and Matt Senzatimore. On their second album, Champions of the Universe, co-produced with neighbor and Grammy award-winning producer Dean Jones, the duo kicks it up a notch from their debut, Smorgasboard, with a more polished sound and a few musical guests (Dean Jones, Dog On Fleas, Jason Sarubbi, Shane Kirsch, as well as Sutton’s wife, Cat, and their son, Elliot).

Champions of the Universe is a goodie bag of fun filled with clever lyrics, creative storytelling, entertaining rhymes and humorous riddles. Each song invites listeners on a journey to explore artful and abstract scenarios that aim to nurture a child’s imagination which, according to Sutton, “is where the magic happens.” As the mom of a 4 year old dressed as Supergirl for the past 12 days (“because I can fly and jump higher with my cape on, mom!”), I couldn’t agree more.

The album opens with “Bill” an adventurous tale about a rock named Bill who goes against the grain. The lyrics have a nice way of expressing that it’s ok follow your own path and find what makes you happy: Bill was a rock with his own brain/ He just changed the game/ He did what he felt was right/ Other rocks knew he might/ He still slides down some hills/ But sometimes he slides up/ It’s a rock and roll lifestyle/ Bill the rock with a big old smile. I can’t help but think of Shel Silverstein’s “The Missing Piece” while listening to this song.

Moving on, Champions continues with some thought-provoking songs that speak directly to the inquiring mind of a child. “How To Eat A Cloud” floats along on a gastronomic journey suggesting what certain clouds might taste like (“stormy ones are scary but they also taste like cherry.”) “Upside Down,” a folksy pop tune, sung from a child’s perspective, questions what would happen if the world were upside down, i.e. “Would the fish fall out of the sea?/ would my pockets always be empty?”. I love when Sutton intones his own rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” for the song’s bridge.

Other songs celebrate organic ways of play. “High 5 Your Shadow,” reminiscent of Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” promotes the idea that your shadow can be a fascinating friend while “Who Needs A Toy” transforms found objects, such as boxes and sticks (with a cautionary “just make sure you don’t poke your eye out“), into swords and rocket ships.

My daughter particularly enjoys the more interactive, quirkier songs like “Pretend Your Hand’s A Puppet,” which encourages movement, the Johnny Cash inspired “Guitar Pickin’ Chicken,” and “Backyard Camping,” an improvised camping extravaganza featuring some freestyle with members of Dog on Fleas.

While many of the songs on Champions of the Universe fall towards the quirkier side of the fold, the ideas these guys come up with are by no means contrived. The topics contained within the album are thoughts that have either been inspired by parenthood (since their debut, Sutton has become a father), their own childhood memories or simply what they think would make for interesting listening. They stand behind their music and put a ton of charisma and energy into each song. Like They Might Be Giants, Ratboy Jr. has the ability to make an interesting mark in the kindie scene. In a word (or two): they belong.

Champions of the Universe is available through all regular media outlets including Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby. You can also hear samples from the album at Ratboy Jr.’s official site. The album is just over 40 minutes and will appeal most to ages 4-8.

Below you can also view a video for “Guitar Pickin’ Chicken” and a video for “Worms” from Ratboy Jr.’s first album Smorgasboard, a Sesame Street inspired track that encourages love for those slimy, squirmy little friends that make rainy days more exciting. This video is perfect for little ones who feel it’s their job to get all the lost worms off the street and onto a nice patch of dirt they can call home.