You worked on Smart Songs for Active Children for several years -- what was the organizing principle behind the album?
I asked myself, why would someone listen to kids music? There's lots of interesting and fun-to-listen-to music, but if that's the point, they can listen to the Beatles, or Pomplamoose, or Jason Mraz.
Kids are looking for protein, music that's age-appropriate. So I'm interested in music with the 3 Cs:
1) Curriculum -- the content -- for early learners. It can be even broader, including physical learning.
2) Must engage child's creativity -- can they connect to the song?
3) Does it connect to community values, such as sharing, helping, recycling, the importance of friends?
Are there any songs you're particularly proud of?
There's "No One's Going To Keep Me Down," which speaks to the concept of grit. That was a hard song to write. You can't say, "You should," it has to be declarative -- "I am." I am smart, I am strong -- what kind of strong? there's a wonderful ambiguity there -- I am brave, I tell the truth, I am kind, I can help -- extending outside yourself -- and I will not quit. That's a hard song for me to beat -- it's simple, people can phrases.
There is a very difficult song called "Manuel the Great," which has 7 different rhythms, turns on a hairpin. It was a way to expose children to different rhythms; I tried to make it silly. "They Speak Spanish" -- I didn't want to make the song "list-y." I thought about Portugal, it's the last country. I wanted to write something respectful. It started in Spain, but moved out from there.
Or "House of Love," as simple a song as can be. "What do we do in a house of love?" We dance.... the listener doesn't hear a mother/father/child triangle. What about single parents, grandparents -- I can't say mom or dad without alienating my own family. Same-sex parents -- don't they live in a house of love, too?
You have a long, successful career as a lawyer -- what do you get out of kids music?
I've thought about "legacy." You know, I've been doing law for a long time. Files will get sent back to me from cases I worked on many years ago, and I need to decide whether to save or destroy them. Looking through the files, I read about stuff I sacrificed vacations for, worked weekends on. I'll mark "destroy" usually -- if the client won't continue to pay for the storage, I'm not going to keep them.
But the little CDs I made twenty years ago, people still order them. People come and sing to me. My legacy is not my law career, but these songs.
Here's maybe a subversive thought: Music in general is part of the human psyche. We all get that rhythmic piece, that melody built right into us. Music and lyrics and super-glued to the brain. It's the first thing in the womb, and the last thing that leaves -- my dad, as he died, couldn't remember names, but could sing songs.
So if you take a children's song, infuse it with a positive message, you can change a corner of the world. "More Love" -- that's a "we can build a better world song." Numbers and colors are important, but "the rain falls, we need more love."
I have the privilege of recording the songs, which, if they're good enough, parents and teachers buy them. If they like it, then we're changing the world. If they don't like it, that's fine, there are plenty of flavors of ice cream. But if they stop at Vincent Nunes' shop, I hope they buy a double scoop.