Songs For Kids Like Us is one of the goofier records to be released in 2006, but in a good way. Robbie Schaefer, mastermind of the album, recently answered a few questions showed that the good humor on his CD comes naturally. Read on to find out about banging pots and pans, what songs on his album were factually based (including some that might surprise you), and the enduring popularity of KISS. (And thanks to Robbie for taking the time to answer these questions.)
Kids, for the most part, haven't yet learned not to laugh at themselves and the world around them. That's a really good and healthy place to be and as a performer and songwriter I feel a responsibility (and desire) to meet them there. Human beings are strange creatures--we should enjoy that.
What are your earliest memories of listening to music? Playing music?
My earliest memories of listening to music are with my grandparents. My grandfather is an accomplished pianist and cellist and he would sit at the piano and play (sometimes with me on his lap) while my grandmother leaned against the piano and sang. Those are very warm memories.
Reportedly, I was an excellent pot and pan musician as a toddler. I'd pull them out of the kitchen cabinets and start banging away. I believe I was particularly proficient on the 14" sauté pan and the 3 qt. boiler. You'd have thought my parents would have figured a few things out and moved the pots and pans to the cabinets above the counter---guess I’m thankful that they didn't.
You have had a long and successful career playing in the band you helped form, Eddie From Ohio. How did you get from that to putting out a kids' album?
I began doing children's music on a lark when my middle son (I have three) entered preschool. The director said she'd heard I was a musician and did I know of anyone that might be able and willing to take over the preschool music director's spot? Without thinking it through, I said, "um . . . I guess I could do that." Well, of course it was more involved than I’d expected, but I ended up teaching music there for four years and really loving it. That led to numerous opportunities doing children's shows elsewhere, and when Eddie From Ohio took an extended break from touring last year, I decided it was time to record my first children's album. It continues to be a wonderful experience.
How does playing in EFO affect your kids' music, if at all? How 'bout the other way -- did recording Songs For Kids Like Us have some effect on what you're doing now with EFO?
I don't know that one has that much to do with the other except in one way . . . Eddie from Ohio has always refused to take itself too seriously. I think we have shown that in our songs, but even more so in our live performances. I have found this to be an essential quality in children's artists as well. Kids, for the most part, haven't yet learned not to laugh at themselves and the world around them. That's a really good and healthy place to be and as a performer and songwriter I feel a responsibility (and desire) to meet them there. Human beings are strange creatures--we should enjoy that.
Which is easier for you -- music or lyrics? Does it matter if you're talking EFO vs. kids' music?
I don't think one is easier than the other for me. I tend to write both at the same time, whether it's efo or kid's music. Sometimes finishing the lyrics--a bridge, or a third verse--can be a challenge, but, especially with kid's songs, I think it's mostly a matter of opening your mind wider and wider and having fun.
What's your favorite song or two on Songs For Kids Like Us? Why?
Probably "Cowboy Bob" and "there's a carp in the tub". Cowboy Bob obviously goes over the head of many of the younger kids in the audience, but I just think it's really really funny. I still laugh at it. I find that parents find it funnier than the kids do, so it's one for all of us. "Carp" is one of my favorites because every bit of it is true--it's from a story my grandmother told me about her childhood growing up in Brooklyn.
"No! No! No!" is also one of my favorites because of the melody. That song actually did begin with the music--it was just a melody before I’d even though of any lyrics. It's catchy and you can dance to it ;-)
Were "No! No! No!" or "Resolution Song" inspired by your kids in particular, or perhaps by memories of your own childhood?
"No! No! No!" was definitely inspired by one of my kids, but I won't say which one. We must protect the guilty. "Resolution Song" is largely fictional with bits of my own life thrown in (the bit about locking the babysitter out of the house? I was the babysitter. Ugh.)
What music do you and your family listen to at home?
We listen to a variety of things. Ironically, now that I’ve finally put out a kid's album, my children are on the older side of my target audience. My eldest son is 12, middle one is 9, and the youngest is 8. But they all sing on the album and sometimes in concert with me as well. We listen to contemporary pop stuff (they love Ben Folds and, of course, Eddie From Ohio), some hip hop, some folk (they were in to Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar a couple of years back). My biggest guilty pleasure? The fact that my 12-year-old likes KISS--I loved KISS when I was 12!!! (I’m sure I’m going to get a call from protective services now).
Do you plan on recording more kids' music?
I don't have any plans to right now, but that's just because I’m currently focused on other projects. At the same time, Songs For Kids Like Us has been really well received--even surprisingly so--and I’m enjoying doing some touring and seeing how far I can carry it. It's a nice change from performing adult music--instead of someone offering to buy you a drink after the show, you get invited to a birthday party. Can't beat that!