Hootenanny: Back to Basics 2 – A Kindie production by Bill Childs and Stephanie Mayers


The Kindie genre is thriving, and one of its strongest aspects is the community. There have been industry conferences, such as the now retired Kindiefest, the newborn (relatively, it’s more like a toddler now) Kindiecomm, and some artist meet-ups and showcases. There is no shortage of people working passionately to support and move this genre forward. Two of those people are Bill Childs (Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child) and Stephanie Mayers (Mayers Consulting).

Bill and Stephanie are producing Hootenanny: Back to Basics 2 (“Hootenanny 2”), a one night event featuring nuthin’ but music from a solid set of collaborations covering a broad range of styles. So solid.

While Hootenanny 2 is primarily geared toward industry folks (kids’ musicians and (kids) music biz folks), it will be open to the public.

The event will be held on Saturday, January 16, 2016 at Jalopy in Brooklyn. Tickets are available here.


Rachel Loshak and Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold)
Joanie Leeds and Dan Elliott (Pointed Man Band)
Vered Ronen and Walter Martin
Michael & the Rockness Monsters and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Jazzy Ash and KB Whirly
Ashley Albert and Tim Kubart
Danny Weinkauf and AudraRox
Sonia de los Santos and Brady Rymer
Shine (Shine and the Moonbeams) & Dan Zanes
The Deedle Deedle Dees and Moona Luna
Elena Moon Park and The Pop Ups

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Check this Out: Rocksteady by Josh and the Jamtones


One of the most exciting jobs I had when I was a teenager was working at…wait for it… Sam Goody. Who remembers the music store Sam Goody?! I worked in inventory which was such a sweet deal because employees got to keep their share of CDs before they hit the shelves. It was here that my love for ska, punk, and hardcore blends of each blossomed. Sublime’s 40oz to Freedom made it’s way into my regular rotation and somehow my parents were completely ok with it, thankfully. For those familiar or even unfamiliar with this album, it’s definitely got its share of expletives and “adult content.” As a parent, I would probably try and postpone similar things by at least a decade for my daughter, or at least work hard to find radio edit versions. Isn’t it funny how that works?

This is where kids music has opened up many doors for our family in terms of introducing all the flavors of adult music, without compromising the quality. One of the bands that takes me back to the “Goody days” is Josh and the Jamtones. I first witnessed the power of this Boston-based crew during a live performance showcase at an industry conference (“Kindiefest”). This band lit it up! Instant success. Instant sweat. I have since gone on to work with them as their booking agent but our family’s adoration of their music has preceded my professional affiliation with the band. As a music lover and blogger, I consider it my wholehearted responsibility to introduce you to a really killer listening experience.

Josh and the Jamtones has been pumping out ska/reggae/rock jams since 2012. Their music has always had a catchy element to it, garnering several top placements in the Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live Countdown, but it is with their latest album, Rocksteady, that the Jamtones deliver exactly what makes them such a successful family staple. And they come correct! Rocksteady is a powerful amplifier that cranks out hit after hit. And there is no age limit. This is literally music that the whole family will enjoy.

Produced by Patrick Hanlin, also the Jamtones’ beatmaster/drummer, Rocksteady features several special guests including Grammy nominated hip hop master Secret Agent 23 Skidoo who drops some goosebump-inducing lyrical color on “I <3Ur Face” and “I Love U (JZ Remix),” Father Goose (featured on Grammy nominated Dan Zanes’ albums), and Jesse Peter Wagner from The Aggrolites, who sings on a remake of Toots and the Maytals’ “Monkeyman.”

Though the tempo of most of the songs reach some bpm heights, the band offers some cool down opps during the smooth dub-reggae track “Katmandu,” the sweet pop melody of “L-O-V-E” and acoustic ballad “1 of a Kind” though these tracks are not sleepy by any means. There is also some comedic interludes between bandleader Josh Shriber and producer/drummer Hanlin, similar to their previous album, Bear Hunt. Adults will likely find this humor more relatable and funny than their tots. I found myself laughing out loud several times while my daughter preferred to move on. The improvisational skill between Shriber and Hanlin is undeniable and I think these bits could do very well in their own dedicated release or podcast as opposed to being integrated into an already colorful musical landscape. But that’s again what drives the appeal to more of an all ages crowd.

For the music lover who likes just the right amount of attitude coupled with 40oz of their favorite kid-friendly elixir, Rocksteady is an all natural, preservative free guaranteed spirit booster. Get your hands on a copy and skank your cares away.

Rocksteady is available through Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby.

Fans of Josh and the Jamtones may also like The Not-Its!, Board of Education, The Aquabats, the Boogers, Sublime, The Police, Bob Marley, No Doubt, Long Beach Dub Allstars, Bad Brains, Toots and the Maytals, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, The Aggrolites, Gorillaz, Beastie Boys, and Lee “Scratch” Perry.

57th Grammy Nominees – Kindie Music Videos

popupsappetite okee_hike_edit-215004_6PAN_1TRAY_STANDARDJust Say Hi cover






In just a few days, we will find out who will triumphantly raise the iconic golden gramophone as the winner of Best Children’s Album. This year’s nominees present a truly eclectic mix, with four of them representing kindie music, and a fifth being an audio book about a girl’s miraculous journey of survival from a Taliban attack. I previously posted an audio playlist featuring all 5 nominees, and today thought it would be great to post some of our favorite videos by the kindie music nominees. For additional info and to listen to the audio clips, including an excerpt by Neela Vaswani for I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, check out this playlist.

There is a live concert featuring the Grammy nominees in Los Angeles February 7, 2015, but for those unable to attend, Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live (ch.78) will be airing a LIVE broadcast of the Children’s GRAMMY Awards Concert along with some artist interviews. Listen in on Saturday at 11:00 pm ET, and again on Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 12:00 pm ET and 5:00 pm ET

**NOTE: The Children’s Album category is not presented during the live show in the evening so make sure to tune-in to the GRAMMY Awards telecast at http://www.grammy.com/live 3p EST/12p PST.

Secret Agent 23 SkidooPillow Fort Pillow Fight

 Okee Dokee BrothersThrough the Woods

The Pop UpsAll These Shapes

Brady RymerGet This Party Started

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

rox in sox logo

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

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

View this: “Man Gave Names” – Aaron Nigel Smith

Great new video from Aaron Nigel Smith‘s recent release Welcome to the Villagefeaturing the children of One World Chorus and some enthusiastic puppets who each land a role as an animal in the song.  Listeners will be entertained as they hear Laurie Berkner, Lucky Diaz and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo rock out with Aaron and the rest of the children, er I mean animals, to a rendition of Dylan’s “Man Gave Names to all the Animals.”


[Courtesy of YouTube]

Check This Out: Welcome To The Village – Aaron Nigel Smith

“Welcome, we wish you peace. Welcome to the village, share a song with me.” Those few words speak volumes on Aaron Nigel Smith‘s latest release with One World Chorus, Welcome to the Village, where over 300 children sing renditions of songs from greats like Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, The Beatles, Jewel and Louis Armstrong. Incorporating an eclectic mix of reggae, classical, world and american folk music, among others, Welcome to the Village welcomes families into a cultural celebration of love and gratitude for the things we have and the people around us.

Welcome to the Village is Aaron’s first release with the children of One World Chorus, a non-profit organization committed to using music as a mechanism to “build bridges” for children, both in the United States and abroad. Aaron and his wife, Diedre, co-founded the chorus in 2009. Over the course of the last couple of years, Aaron spent time traveling around the U.S. between Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, New York City and all the way to Nairobi, Kenya where 30 kids from the Cura Orphanage participated in the recording of this album. The Cura Orphanage is a special place that offers residency for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. Proceeds from the sale of Welcome to the Village will be donated to the orphanage in hopes of building sustainable music and programming.

Aaron carries an extensive background in music and movement, which began while he studied and performed with The American Boychoir School at age 11. Seeking out his passion and love for music, Aaron along with his wife Deidre, founded FUNdamentals of Music and Movement in 2002. FUNdamentals of Music and Movement serves as a music program for over 100 early education centers nationwide.

As much as it is quite evident that Aaron is a talented musician and songwriter, he has also done an excellent job of selecting songs for Welcome to the Village. On a couple of the songs, Aaron brought in fellow friends and highly acclaimed kindie artists for some sweet collaborations. Starting with a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Man Gave Names,” Laurie Berkner, Lucky Diaz and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, each join in as an animal while adding a touch of their personality to the mix. There’s even perhaps a subtle reference to Blue Bear as Lucky sings “…great big furry back with blue hair.” But the real showstopper is when Skidoo jumps in with a quick lyrical jaunt about a Platypus which blew our minds! This strange creature has been of particular interest to my daughter lately. Prior to hearing this song, and in just a few seconds, Skidoo schooled us with way more eloquence than I could have managed. It’s an exciting and well-thought out rendition of this classic, oft covered song.

“Grateful,” one of the originals on the album, features Dan Zanes. The song will warm your heart with Zanes’ Dylan-esque vocals encouraging us to give our “friends a big hug for all that they provide.” It’s oozing with sincerity and appreciation for the people around us, the beauty of the planet we live on and the air we breathe. The song is a prime example of Aaron’s talent to write and compose a deeply meaningful, authentic song.

But the true authenticity in Welcome to the Village is of course, the voices of the children, including Aaron’s duo with his son Zion on the Beatles’ cover of “Mother Nature’s Son.” In fact, it was Zion’s idea to sing the song and include it on the album. There are also traditional African songs which include rhythmic, multi-layered percussion, signature to the sounds of that culture. It’s actually these songs that my 3-year-old likes the best. Starting with “Fanga Alafia,” Em’s absolute favorite and one that she sings on her own even after the album is over. And, when I don’t sing the correct pronunciation (in her opinion) she is quick to correct me. There is also “Che Che Cole,” a fun call and response song to which Em immediately participates as if she’s part of the chorus, while Aaron calls out and the children respond masterfully. The album ends with a traditional choir song called “Siyahamba” which can be translated into a song about unity and peace.

Other notable songs include a slowed down, Dub style rendition of Jewel’s “Hands,” which features the kids from the orphanage. The song fits in nicely with the sentiment behind Welcome to the Village as it was meant to provide hope in the face of misfortune. The song is led by a female soloist whose voice is similar in pitch and tone to Jewel’s. The hauntingly beautiful rendition brings me chills as I hear the innocence and emotion of the children’s voices. There is also the educational “In A Book,” an educational reggae song written by Aaron, featuring his son Zion, as a soloist, along with the kids from the chorus spelling out words. For example: Aaron: “It’s in a book .” Chorus: “That’s right, a b-o-o-k.” Even if your little one can’t quite spell yet, he or she is given the opportunity to learn while singing along with these simple lyrics.

My personal favorite happens to be “Sound the Trumpet” which features Aaron (and a male vocalist from the chorus) flexing his operatic muscles on this short, classic piece. I pretty much just love to roll my r’s along with the guys and pretend I actually am an opera singer.

Welcome to the Village is a true reflection, regardless of age, who, what or where you are, you can experience and participate in the joy of music. Not to mention children love to hear other children sing and Aaron is no stranger to making quality music for families. In addition to being a father of two sons, who both appear on this album (as soloists and part of the chorus), he has received various parenting awards for his first two releases Let’s Pretend and Everyone Loves to Dance. He has also appeared on the PBS Kids Emmy Award winning show Between the Lions and is featured on several new Music for Little People releases, including Buckwheat Zydeco’s Bayou Boogie, and World Travels.

Music is fulfilling, brings people together and is meant to be shared. This is exactly what Aaron and the children of One World Chorus bring with the release of Welcome to the Village. In Aaron’s words, “When kids sing together, I hope that they enjoy sharing the gift of music and learning a valuable discipline that can be used to promote positive change in the world. It’s great to see the light in kids’ eyes as they realize just how many other kids are participating in the project.”

On this album, it literally took a village and then some, to create this special treasure. So kick off your shoes and stay a while; you won’t be disappointed. Ages 2 – 5 will enjoy learning, singing along and participating in the album.

See below for videos related to the making of Welcome to the Village.  You can learn more about and support One World Chorus here, as well as, the Cura Orphanage Home here.

Digital samples and downloads can be found on Amazon. The album is also available for download and purchase on iTunes.

[Courtesy of YouTube]

Disclosure: I received a copy for possible review and was overjoyed to provide my honest opinion regarding the album.