With her dress and pigtails, the uni-monikered Gwendolyn has a lot of fans amongst the preschool set in the Los Angeles area. Of course, she's got a bunch of fans amongst those preschoolers' parents, too, as her music manages to be targeted directly at the young'uns while still appealing to the oldsters' ears. Now, with Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang's first East Coast Tour really getting going this weekend (updated tour dates here), if you're in the neighborhood, you should definitely stop by a show. And even if you're not in the neighborhood, you should read the interview below with Gwendolyn, who kindly answered questions this week. Read on for her musical influences, how recording her second and most recent kids' CD, Get Up & Dance!, differed from recording the first, and exactly how many hours of yoga a good show for the kids is worth. ***************** What are your earliest musical memories? Family hootenannies in the living room. My dad would play guitar and my mom would join him and sing songs. They had a nice repertoire of Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac, The Incredible String Band and the like. Who were your biggest musical influences growing up? Aside from my siblings, who are both excellent songwriters, I would name Thom Moore, a childhood friend of mine who plays now in The Moore Brothers. They just opened for Joanna Newsom in Europe. He was a great influence growing up, a Robyn Hitcock of sorts. I love songwriters, storytellers and innovative artists like Nick Drake, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan... I didn't listen to much children's music growing up - but I loved artists that embraced a child-like perspective, like Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, Jethro Tull and early Pink Floyd - Syd Barrett, really wonderful stuff. My dad had a pretty decent record collection that inevitably became his children's.
I tend not to report on single-artist tours, but a note from Gwendolyn of Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang made me realize that we're starting to see more cross-country tours here. I mean, sure, Dan Zanes is like the Bob Dylan of kids' music, playing anywhere they'll have him, and Ralph's World and Justin Roberts are racking up the frequent flyer miles, too. (Laurie Berkner would as well, but she's not touring much, period.) But now we're seeing slightly less familiar artists making the trek across the country. Brooklyn-based The Deedle Deedle Dees are heading out to Texas, Arkansas, and Kentucky. Melissa and Ellen & Matt, both LA artists, recently trekked out to the New York area (they popped up on Spare the Rock last week. (The The Sippy Cups are playing everywhere in between, too.) And now Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang are putting together an honest-to-goodness East Coast tour. If you're in the neighborhood of the following venues at the following times, do stop by... Sat/Sun Oct 21 & 22 Children’s Museum of the East End - Bridgehampton, NY Sat Oct 27 11am: PB & Jams at World Café – Philadelphia, PA Sun Oct 28 10am: Citibabes Annual Halloween Bash - Manhattan, NY 2pm: Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Brooklyn, NY (“Ghouls and Gourds” festival) Mon Oct 29 4 pm: Brooklyn Central Library, Dweck Center - Brooklyn, NY Tue Oct 30 4 pm: Bay Ridge Library - Brooklyn, NY Wed Oct 31 6:30pm: Mamalu – Brooklyn, NY (Halloween show) Thu Nov 1 10 am: Williamsburgh Library - Brooklyn, NY Fri Nov 2 9:30am: Elephant Steps - Norwalk, CT 6 pm: Borders Books - Simbsbury, CT Sat Nov 3 2pm: The Children’s Art Museum – Shelburne Falls, MA Sun Nov 4 11am: First Act – Boston, MA 3:30pm: Brookline Music School – Boston, MA
Talk about double lives -- Los Angeles-area-based Gwendolyn Sanford spends some of her time scoring the second season of the Showtime series Weeds, while simultaneously performing music for preschoolers as the uni-monikered Gwendolyn in Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang. It is very much to Gwendolyn's credit that her second album for kids, Get Up and Dance!, released late last month, is entirely irony-free. Somehow, though, the songs are eager without turning off the parents. For example, kids will enjoy her exhortation to "bounce and bounce and bounce" (ad nauseam) "around" on the leadoff title track, while parents will smile wanly at the recognition of the fact that this, yes, is exactly how their child moves. But somewhere in the course of the song, the music opens up, adding handclaps and becoming sonically interesting (without losing the kids). The rest of the album is like that, too -- the super funky "Eensy Weensy Spider," the disco freeze-dance of "Red Means Stop," and the best song never recorded for Grammar Rock!, "I Can Read." The listing of vegetables "Out in My Garden" is reminiscent -- in a good way -- of their debut album's "My Anatomy." I also appreciate the fact that the album doesn't end with a typical kids-album-closer slow song, but instead with the peppy "Sunny Day." It fits perfectly here. She's having fun performing her songs, which are targeted right at 3- and 4-year-olds, and it shows here (you can almost hear the laughter on a couple of tracks). The band's sound has expanded since their self-titled debut album, and, like their Northern California counterparts The Sippy Cups, are especially mining the sounds of 30 to 40 years ago for inspiration. The band (which includes her Weeds scoring partner Brandon Jay) sounds great. Nowhere to be found are the "characters" from the first CD (which is A-OK by me), though Gwendolyn's high-pitched voice and occasional spoken-word intros may turn off a few exceedingly finicky listeners. The 27-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 6. You can hear samples either at Gwendolyn's Listen page or at the album's CDBaby page. Save for a track or two, this is probably not an album you would listen to by yourself. But Get Up & Dance! will be one of those albums you'll be happy to pull out at your kids' request. They'll think it's great, and the energy and enthusiasm on the album will pull you in, too. Definitely recommended.
Boy, did we ever have a lot of interest in our contest to win a copy of Get Up & Dance! the latest album from the faboo LA troupe Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang, plus a copy of their Live in Grandma's Living Room DVD. Pigtails aplenty, that's for sure. Our winner, picked at random, is... "DL," who says that "We think Gwendolyn's ponytails are the 'swing-iest' ponytails we've ever seen (courtesy of Rachel, 3 yrs) and they are 'just like mine and Emily's!'" Congratulations to DL, and many thanks to Gwendolyn for sharing her new CD (and her DVD) with the readers here!
The latest album from Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang, Get Up & Dance!, was released last week, and we've got a copy with your name on it. Well, technically speaking, it doesn't really have your name on it. I mean, that would imply that the fix is in for this contest and that every single reader is a winner, which isn't true. Oh, I mean, you're all winners in the very global sense of being worthwhile people. But in another, more real sense, one of you (whose name, I would re-emphasize, is not yet known to me) is a winner, and the rest of you, while not exactly losers, are non-winners. Winning-challenged. Left holding a bag devoid of winning. But, yes, thanks to Gwendolyn herself, not only do we have a copy of the new album, we also have a copy of their live concert DVD, Live in Grandma's Living Room. We're giving this combo away to one lucky reader. (If you're not familiar with the GTG music, get yourself on over to their music page and click on any one of their three albums to listen to streaming samples. You want to enter.) What do you need to do? Post in the comments the name of the hairdo Gwendolyn wears and your favorite person (real or fictional) who also sports a similar hairdo. I will randomly select one winner from all entries. All entries are due by 8 PM MST Tuesday, January 30. Good luck! (Photo courtesy Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang)