Tag Archives: Dadnabbit Interview

A Conversation with Heidi Swedberg

The kindie scene is full of artists who don’t get the kind of recognition they deserve, but of all the names I frequently share with parents looking for good family music, Heidi Swedberg’s is the one that most often receives a quizzically raised eyebrow in response. And the thing is, you may not think you know who she is, but you do — at least, if you were one of the millions of people who watched Seinfeld during George’s doomed courtship with his frequently exasperated fiancee Susan, who famously expired after licking poisoned envelope glue. Susan was Heidi.

These days, Heidi is doing something completely different: taking her ukulele (a whole bunch of ukuleles, really) on the road for a series of teaching clinics where she shows people just how easy it is to start making music of their own. Heidi’s debut CD, Play!, has been a favorite in our house for months, and with Heidi about to play Kindiefest — and spread some of her ukulele magic with a Haitian orphanage — we decided now would be the perfect time to catch up.

All the artists I talk to have had some sort of journey to the kindie world, but it seems like yours was more interesting — and unexpected — than most. Let’s start by talking about how you got here.

Yeah, you know, I grew up with music in my life. Everyone in my family was musical, and I have one sister who is a musician. We all sang together all the time — in the car, everywhere. I think that’s part of how you keep four girls busy without spending any money. [Laughter] It sort of organized the din, I suppose. So we all grew up making music, and since we lived in Hawaii, we all had ukuleles — but they were just kind of around. I think I learned five chords, and it was part of the thing, but I was really interested in acting, and that was the direction I took until after my kids were born. Then I started having fun and playing again.

This is what I love about kids’ music and teaching — I teach a lot of early childhood classes for music — which is that when we reach adulthood, we tend to leave music behind. You’re in band or choir when you’re younger, but then you go out into the “real world,” and you leave performing to the professionals. You don’t make your own anymore. Until you have a kid, and then it’s all okay again, and the fact that you don’t have a great voice doesn’t matter. A window opens up, and it opened up for me in such a way that…I never felt like I have a beautiful voice, and I don’t. I have an acceptable voice, but it isn’t so good that people feel like they can’t sing with me. It’s accessible. Continue reading

A Conversation with Elizabeth Mitchell

You don’t hear her doing Disney theme songs or dancing around between shows on Nick Jr., but Elizabeth Mitchell is kindie royalty — especially for parents who appreciate family music on the quieter, more natural end of the spectrum. With minimum production, Mitchell and her family (including her husband, Daniel Littleton, and their daughter Storey) harmonize over gently arranged versions of traditional tunes like “Little Liza Jane,” more recent classics like Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day,” and a smattering of originals.

Around my house, Elizabeth’s music is frequently heard, and her name comes up in conversation on a regular basis, but maybe your home isn’t so lucky. Let this interview be your introduction to an artist who’s making some of the warmest, most enriching family music on the modern kindie landscape. And if you’re already a fan? Here’s a peek behind the scenes of some of your family’s favorite songs.

I’d like to begin by talking about how you found your voice as an artist. Your albums are filled with such a wonderful sense of peace.

Well, I think it’s definitely informed by spending time with children, and my beginnings as a teacher. That was something I felt like they maybe weren’t getting elsewhere — that the sense of being grounded, and the peace you’re talking about, was something that maybe wasn’t being imparted by Spongebob Squarepants. [Laughter] That has its place, too — we all need to yuk it up and goof around. But maybe there aren’t so many outlets for centering, being compassionate, and thinking about the larger world. Just having a quiet moment with someone else, shared through music.

I just kind of got a sense that was a place I could go with the kids when I was teaching, and it’s a place you can find naturally and effortlessly. It’s also something that comes easily to me — I don’t do zany super well. This is just sort of what revealed itself to me, and it seems to be what resonates and seems to be of service to people. That’s the response I get, and it inspires me to keep going. Continue reading

Dadnabbit Interview: Morgan Taylor, a.k.a. Gustafer Yellowgold

There’s never any shortage of cartoon characters in family entertainment, but few of them possess the unusual, undeniable appeal of Gustafer Yellowgold, the friendly, bug-eyed alien from the sun who arrived on Earth five years ago and has quickly achieved kindie rock star status. With his latest adventure, Gustafer Yellowgold’s Infinity Sock, coming out on March 1, we decided now would be the perfect time for a chat with his creator: musician and illustrator Morgan Taylor.

So let’s talk about Infinity Sock.

Yeah! What’s going on with it? (Laughs)

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the Gustafer records is that they’re not only mellow — as you often point out — but that they’re also gentle, which makes a big difference, I think. And I also appreciate the fact that they don’t pander musically, either to kids or to parents.

I don’t — yeah, I don’t think that does any good, to pander. It’s not in my nature — I’m not even thinking about whether I’m doing it or not. Maybe I sensed that kind of thing in music as a kid, so I try and avoid it now.

I know you’ve said that you spent a lot of time listening to AM radio when you were a kid, and that influence is pretty apparent in your work. But do you remember listening to any music geared specifically to kids?

Yeah, I actually did, and the older my son gets, the more my memories of it resurface. I had a lot of the old book-and-record combos from Disney, like Br’er Rabbit and Snow White, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. And the music from Sesame Street and The Electric Company, of course. There was a lot of great music on those shows. Continue reading