Renee Stahl has made chilled-out music for kids and their (occasionally stressed-out) parents with Jeremy Toback for years now as part of Renee and Jeremy. But during the same time (and longer) she's also been making music with lots of other folks. So it's not terribly surprising that this summer she released Simpatico, a Fids and Kamily-winning album for kids with a whole bunch of friends old and new.
It feels appropriate, then, that this interview with Stahl features not only her responses but also some from a couple of her fellow musicians, Rich Jacques (who produced the album) and Lisa Loeb. Read on for first musical memories and a list of dream musical partners for Stahl (as if she hadn't already had a pretty sweet duet dance card to begin with).
Zooglobble: What are your first musical memories?
Renee Stahl: My piano teacher... My first 45s which were the Eagles' "Take it to the Limit" and "Sara Smile" by Hall and Oates. [I remember] singing in my bedroom to show tunes and writing songs, [and] singing to KC and the Sunshine Band in the bathroom - “uh huh, uh huh.” [I did] musical theater... Harmony everywhere !
Rich Jacques: Sitting in my basement in Wisconsin recording songs off the radio with my Radio Shack cassette deck. The first record I ever bought in 2nd grade was Flock of Seagulls.
Lisa Loeb: Dancing around the house to the Nutcracker... Sitting on my dad’s lap playing to “Raindrops keep falling on my head" on the piano. Listening to "Stairway to Heaven" in my mom’s station wagon
When did you first start singing with others? When did you first realize that you were really good at it?
Renee: I was in a musical group when I was 7 called the “singing angels." I auditioned with the Helen Reddy version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” I occurred to me that I had some talent when I was cast in parts with good singing roles for school and camp plays and shows.
Rich: I had my first band when I was 12. I fell in love with it right away -- MTV got me hooked
Lisa Loeb: When I was a kid I used to love singing in the closet, [singing] songs from the "Best of the 70’s" songbook. At elementary school singing was part of the curriculum.
I realized that people were connecting to my music in high school when friends started asking me for the songs I'd written.
You [Renee] seem to have a lot of (longtime) friends who’ve had some measure of success in varying entertainment fields -- just luck, or something in the water growing up?
Renee: Molly [Shannon] is the only “longtime” friend on this CD -- there HAVE been stories about the water in Cleveland but it wasn’t to drink (it caught on fire -- true story).
What qualities were you looking for in song partners on Simpatico?
Renee and Rich: We were interested in artists who had their own unique character that could bring something different to each song
How did you divide up the singing responsibilities between you and your partners (i.e., melody/harmony, which lyrics/chorus)?
Renee: Rich and I wanted to make sure our featured performers were featured so that really set the tone. I love singing harmony so that was fun for me as well.
Did you have an overall theme you were thinking of as you were recording the album?
Renee: [I wanted] songs that everyone could listen to -- all ages. [Themes like] compassion, connection, family, friendship and universal love.
I’m sure you got to make a record with many of your dream duet partners, but if you could record with ANYONE, who would you love to sing a song with?
Renee: Can it be more than one? [Ed. note: Of course!]
Mark Hollis from Talk Talk - big fan of his solo work
Thom Yorke of Radiohead
Tom Waits (we have the same birthday)
Andrew Bird would be fun
Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile
Sia would be amazing
Betty Carter (jazz singer)
Tracy Throne of Everything But the Girl
Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic - I really wanna sing with an orchestra
What is next for you (in kids music or not)?
Renee: I have been working with Lisa Loeb on her latest project with Amazon. [I've also been] writing songs with my daughters (4 and 9 years old). I would love to do another CD with Jeremy -- we have talked about a few ideas. AND another Renee and Friends CD(with everyone on that list above).
Photo credits: Renee Stahl