Children’s music can be maddeningly infectious, with an obvious emphasis on maddeningly. And just as we most assuredly tortured our parents with the chirpy, syrupy refrains we gleaned from The Muppets and Schoolhouse Rock, so do our kids favor us with the likes of modern classics from The Wiggles and, for the most unfortunate among us, the latest in the nigh interminable parade of Kidz Bop hits.
But what of musical common ground? Surely our kids respond well to some of our “grownup” tunes. And we, likewise, can bob our collective head to a handful of their sickly-sweet tracks. But is there some legitimate union in this musical Venn diagram?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz likes to think so.
As co-founder of Baby Loves Music, Andy seeks to expand that commonality by gathering real, professional, adult musicians and having them craft music that, while explicitly for kids, goes out of its way not to alienate parents. In doing so, Baby Loves Music also helps enlighten kids – and their folks – to a multitude of musical styles. In short, the series offers, if you’ll excuse the obvious Fat Albert riff, “music and fun, and if you’re not careful, you might learn something before it’s done.”
Andy was nice enough to talk to GeekDad about the genesis of the project, its all-star cast of players, and the all-important “Charlie-Samson test.” Hit the jump to find out more.
GeekDad: For those not in the know, could you explain the Baby Loves Music series and its relation to the wildly popular Baby Loves Disco events?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: We’re all the same company – which is really just me and my partner Heather. She started Baby Disco about 3 years ago when I was working on Baby Loves Music. At the time, Baby Disco was just a tiny Philly thing. I went to Philly – I was living in Brooklyn – to visit my parents and had the best time at her party. I convinced her to let me take it to NYC so I could have an event there to go to myself, and we just clicked. We really worked well together so we decided to join forces and make her Baby Disco into Baby LOVES Disco.
As far as the BLM series – the concept is to bring real (great) musicians in each genre together with a real (great) producer and create fun music for kids and parents centered on a theme. Baby Loves Jazz (produced by Steven Bernstein) was centered on zoo animals, Baby Loves Hip-Hop (Prince Paul) centers around dinosaurs. Baby Loves Salsa is cats and dogs, and etc. The modest goal wasn’t to be any big company, just to make good music for our own kids. But it’s sort of grown and now we’re a business. We still don’t have any employees BUT….we’re getting there!
GeekDad: As you, I, and every other parent in the Western world have noticed, conventional children’s music can be fairly grating to grown-ups. Has the time for adult-friendly kid’s music finally come?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: Well, YES. Truth is – there’s a lot of great music that’s adult music that kids will just like anyway – my kids love The Beatles, Miles Davis and The Who, but they also love The Wiggles, The Backyardigans and Jack Johnson. It’s all about the right mix.
GeekDad: What differentiates Baby Loves Music albums from more mundane releases?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: I hate to be a music snob and like to think that there’s some merit to anything creative so I don’t want to come across as "dissing" other kids music – it’s just that ours is created and produced by the best in the business, musicians with decades of experience in the art of songwriting and songcrafting and I think that’s what makes the difference – REAL musicians.
GeekDad: Is it difficult to get well-established, professional musicians – such Sharon Jones of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and John Medeski of Medeski, Martin & Wood – involved in the recording of an album for kids? Is there a stigma attached to children’s music?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: For me, I think, it was a bit easier because of the fact that I had a reputation in the business as being fair and as a "music guy" so they weren’t worried that it was gonna turn into some cheesy thing. But also, it’s the nature of a "kids" project that makes these folks want to get involved: 1) because it’s for kids – and everybody (almost) wants to do something good for the kids, right? – but 2) being in the studio under the guise of a "kids’" project just takes a lot of the pressure off these guys. They’re all consummate professionals, so to have a project that’s fun and loose and laid back makes it more appealing to these guys.
GeekDad: What do your kids think of the albums?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: OMG – they LOVE them all, and they’re my biggest critics. Really, they’ve been key in helping me along the way; if they didn’t LOVE them, I would never put them out. It has to pass the Charlie-Samson test first, for sure.
GeekDad: In addition to the currently available Baby Loves Jazz and Baby Loves Disco, the Baby Loves Music team is also at work on blues, salsa, reggae, and hip-hop releases. When can we expect these to be available?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: Hip-Hop comes out April 1, Salsa September 1. Blues (being produced by the North Mississippi All-Stars) is being recorded in the fall as is Reggae (being produced by Stephen Marley), and both of these should come out in early ’09.
GeekDad: With everyone from explicitly kid-centered groups like NYC’s own Dirty Sock Funtime Band to more mainstream acts like They Might be Giants already bringing rock ‘n’ roll to kids, are there any plans for a Baby Loves Rock album?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: Rock is just so open ended – what is rock anymore? I need to figure out the right angle for that one. The Backyardigans just released "Tale of the Mighty Knights" and they just KILLED it doing a sort of Queen/classic rock theme. I’d like to go in that direction. (Incidentally, I think The Backyardigans are brilliant and that the music they feature is superb.)
GeekDad: What about more off-the-wall styles? Baby Loves Metal? 😉
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: Not too far off! (But baby does NOT love metal.) Honestly, I would like nothing more than to do EVERY genre – klezmer, gospel, opera, bluegrass – it’s endless! And if I’m lucky enough to be able to keep going with this biz, that’s the direction we’ll head in.
GeekDad: In addition to helming Baby Loves Music you’re also the founder of Ropeadope, an independent record label that switched to a purely digital distribution model last year. Are the Baby Loves albums also available digitally?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: Oh yeah – they’re all available digitally. And Ropeadope (my love) still makes vinyl too, despite our lack of CDs!
GeekDad: Lastly, perhaps the most popular kind of geek is the music geek. One who obsessively seeks out, collects and catalog’s his musical passions. Come clean, Andy; are you one of us?
Andy Blackman Hurwitz: Hell yeah! If I wasn’t I wouldn’t be doing this! Music was always my #1 passion in life, but when I had my kids, they became my other #1 passion. (I have to give it up for my wife too – also my other passion!)
This was a way of putting my two passions together. It’s the greatest thing to be able to share music with my kids. We have a little studio set up in the basement where we jam – we have a band called The ZOO (no “s” – just The ZOO) and music is now a big part of their lives too – which makes me so happy. But please – I am a card-carrying music GEEK. I’m even in a music club (think Oprah’s Book Club) where me and a bunch of other old men get together every month just to play music for each other!