Who Gives a Hoot (2)? Bill Childs and Stephanie Mayers

Hootenanny 2: Back to Basics logo

Hootenanny 2: Back to Basics logo

Many years ago, way back in the wild and woolly kindie year of 2007, Bill Childs and Stephanie Mayers put together a little party in Brooklyn. They called it Hootenanny and, well, from a distance, it sounded like a blast.  Nothing but kids musicians playing their music for other kids musicians and other folks in the industry.  The party went on into the wee hours (like, the actual wee hours, not the wee hours that these musicians typically play).

The next year, Hootenanny became more officially known as Stink, then it became Stinkfest, then Kindiefest, and yadda yadda yadda.  Great times indeed, but the "conference" part with panels and badges and registration became a bigger part of the work, and while the "playing music for others part" never went away, the focus was not as much on that industry-only performance.

But Mayers (head of Mayers Consulting) and Childs (Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child) are getting the band back together, concert-speaking-wise, anyway, hosting Hootenanny 2: Back to Basics on Saturday, January 16.  It's going to be held at Jalopy in Brooklyn (the same place the first three gatherings were held) -- tickets available here -- and with the following lineup I can't imagine it'll be anything but a blast:

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

So, yeah, folks who are industry-related who are going to be around NYC the weekend of the 16th, you should totally go to that -- it'll be a blast to see those people perform, and just talk to them.  (As in the old days, these are not shows for kids themselves...)

But I wanted to get a little more background from Mayers and Childs on their memories of the first go-round, and their inspiration and hopes for the new show.

Zooglobble: Do you have a favorite moment from the old Hootenanny/Stinkfest?

Stephanie Mayers: I think it was giggling and singing along to the Deedle Deedle Dees with Audra[Rox] while sipping champagne at like 1:00 am, more buzzed on the energy of what we had just done more than the champagne. What an energetic, surprising night it turned out to be.

Bill Childs: The utter ridiculousness of the first one -- which grew from Audra saying, "Hey, you should record the show when you're here in Brooklyn" to nearly two dozen bands playing 'til way past midnight -- was just a delight.  There have been a lot of great moments throughout the later events, but yeah, the surprise.

Stephanie Mayers with cardboard Bill Childs

Stephanie Mayers with cardboard Bill Childs

Who holds the Hoot record for most appearances? 

Bill: Gotta be a tie between the Deedle Deedle Dees and AudraRox, I'd think.

How did the idea for the collaborative theme of Hoot 2 come about? 

Stephanie: We were super excited to start bringing in as many people as we could but of course it’s just one night so time is limited. We started with just a couple pairings we thought would be fun and that we really wanted to see ourselves, then it just kind of snowballed into each set being a cool collaboration to maximize potential. 

Bill: Agreed, it was partially a practical idea to fit in more shows, but then it developed into being thematic.  One of the things that I'm proudest of in the scene, and our (small) part in it, has been the very cool collaborations that have come out of it.

How did the specific collaborations come about? Your suggestions, theirs, or some combination thereof? 

Stephanie: Mostly it was us, but of course we were open to suggestions from the artists. It was super fun and really indulgent for us playing matchmaker, getting to set up who we wanted to see blended together. I felt like a little Yenta.

What do you hope the attendees remember about Hoot 2 after it’s over?

Stephanie: I hope everyone is reminded that we are sharing this special, small space in our very niche genre and that while everyone gets bogged down trying working so hard to make things happen for themselves, that banding together once in a while can be a really great thing and gobs of fun.

Bill: The scene is better when the scene is together -- and it's strongest when everyone's having fun.

Interview: Sonia De Los Santos

Sonia De Los Santos

Sonia De Los Santos

For most of us, Sonia De Los Santos is probably best known as a musician who's played with Dan Zanes throughout the country and the world since the release of Nuevo York, standing stage right and singing harmony and lead vocals on songs both in Spanish and English.

But last week, with the release of Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León to the New York Island, De Los Santos is taking the next steps in a journey of at least a decade, when she moved to New York City from Monterrey, Mexico to pursue her own musical memories.

De Los Santos certainly gets some help from Zanes and her bandmates on a few tracks, but for the most part she performs the songs with a new set of folks, some of New York's finest Latin musicians.  It's mostly in Spanish, but she's making music for listeners of all languages.

In this interview, De Los Santos remembers the incentives she had to sing all-ages folk music growing up, how she joined Zanes' band, and the album's meaning to her.

Zooglobble: What are your first musical memories?

Sonia De Los Santos: In my family, it was singing with my mother at home.  Nobody was a professional musician, but there was singing everywhere -- at home, cooking, in the car.  My uncle, my mom's older brother was very musical.  I was the youngest, and my older brothers were closer in age, so I spent time playing by myself.  I'd spend parties with my parents -- my uncle would sing, my mom would sing.  [Thinking back on it] A reason I like family music... I listened to kids music [growing up], but if I sang a kids music at a party, they might not be as happy as if I learned a bolero, or an old song of my grandparents.

Did you take lessons growing up?

Only voice lessons.  Never music, just singing -- I did that in high school and college.  I took one guitar class, but couldn't do it because of my class schedule.  But [subsequently] I've been surrounded by generous musicians [who have taught me].

Why did you move to the United States?

I wanted to do musical theater.  Wanted to study it more, but couldn't do it at that time.  So I went to New York City in 2005.  I did a summer workshop in musical theatre there -- I came back home, and decided to pursue a musical career.  I had no family there, no job, no nothing.

So how did you get involved making music with Dan Zanes?

That happened about 1 1/2 years after that.  I was doing theatre auditions about when Dan was recording his album Nuevo York.  He wanted someone here in New York who could sing and whose primary language was Spanish.  I was in this database of Spanish actors and singers, so Dan's manager got my name as a recommendation and asked me to audition.

The audition was at his home, and I was wondering, "Who is this guy?"  And I looked him up, and... Grammy, TV, played everywhere.  So at the audition I sang "Pay Me My Money Down," "Malti," "Rock Island Line."  After that, he called back, and I came over and met the band.  Then I played a benefit event with them, at the house of a big movie star in Brooklyn.  [And then] I got a contract for 1 1/2 years of touring.  All of this within two weeks.  You hear that album, and I'm in every single track; I was helping Dan with his Spanish.

Sonia De Los Santos - Mi Viaje album cover

Sonia De Los Santos - Mi Viaje album cover

What drove you to make this album?

The need to to tell my story.  After 8 years, I had lots of stories, and more perspective.  I had the great story of my journey, but also while touring, I've seen the need for this family-oriented music in Spanish, from different cultures -- Mexico, Mexican-Americans, Spain, the Caribbean.  Parents would ask me, "We love Nuevo York, when are you going to do your own album?"

The reason I didn't do it before was that I wasn't ready.  I learned from all of my friends in other countries.  I'm proud of [the album].

"Mi Viaje" means "my trip" or "my journey" -- was that something you thought of before or after recording the album?

I think both.  The general concept was that of the journey, but I didn't know how it would fit together.  Some songs I picked in advance.  But then I did "This Land Is Your Land" in Spanish, and [it has] that phrase, "from the redwood forests... to the New York island."  Then I changed it to "from Nuevo León" -- which is my home state in Mexico -- "to the New York island."  That opened me to the journey.

What takeaways do you hope listeners have from the album?

So many things.  First, I hope they like it and listen to it with an open mind.  [Listeners] know me from singing with Dan, but this is coming from me.

I'm nervous -- I hope they like it.  It's very personal about me, but everybody has their [own] journey, like a parent seeing their own kids taking steps or going to college.

I hope it inspires.  It breaks my heart the conversations we're having [as a country] right now.  Maybe listeners will see, there's another Mexican woman making music for kids.

Sonia De Los Santos

Sonia De Los Santos

What's next for you?

I want to start touring.  I've got a couple shows coming up, and I've got a show in January at Symphony Space [in New York] with Dan as a special guest.  I'm eager to be going out under my own name.  I'd like to make a couple videos, too.

I can't think of another big project -- I'm exhausted, but my level of satisfaction is very high.