Children’s recording artist Brady Rymer is a perennial favorite around my home. His music has been a nearly constant presence in both my son’s lives. We have seen Brady (and the Little Band That Could) in different counties and boroughs across the state of New York for the past decade and we’ve never heard a bad set. This month, Brady is releasing his 10th studio release, Under the Big Umbrella, which serves as a melodious metaphor for inclusion, and recently discussed the evolution of this project.
Which came first – recording children’s music or your interactions with the special needs community?
They happened simultaneously. I began to explore the children’s music scene in the late ’90s, writing songs and performing live. My friend Monica Osgood asked me to bring my guitar out to New Jersey and sing at Celebrate the Children, the summer camp she created for kids with special needs. We had a blast that day! The camp developed into the school, and I still return once or twice a year – performing and writing with the kids and teachers. That’s when my relationship with the special needs community and my interest in working with them started.
In your experiences, are kids just kids as far as music goes? I.e., is music an equalizer?
Yeah, sounds good to me! Looking out from the stage I’ve seen it equalize – and energize – a room. That’s what I love about a rock band; songs and the concert experience as an art form. It allows everyone to feel, move, and interact as one. It can be very moving and bonding – bringing everyone together around a common beat, melody, or lyric. When we play something like “Love Train,” everyone hops on, joins hands, and goes for the ride together.
You’ve already covered special needs with “Love Me For Who I Am.” How did that message transform into inclusion (for “Under the Big Umbrella”)?
I wrote UtBU for Lincoln Center’s Big Umbrellla Festival in 2018 – a celebration for families living with autism. This metaphor of “everyone is included and valued and recognized under the umbrella” spoke to me. I was reminded of the work that’s being done in schools these days – creating cultures of kindness, acceptance, and compassion. This, along with an amazing concert at a school which practices inclusion, inspired the rest of the songs for the new album.
I even asked the students for some lyrical ideas. They came back with “You Do You” and “Different is Beautiful.” They fit into the theme perfectly, and I saw that the basic idea of acceptance and diversity is not only for the special needs community. These are ideas, concepts, and issues everyone is working with every day – in our schools and communities. Especially in these times when there’s a lot of divisiveness, it’s an important message to sing about. I know it’s definitely on the minds and in the hearts of students at many, many schools.
You recorded with Sonia De Los Santos and David Gibb on “Umbrella.” How did those collaborations come about? Do you see yourself doing more work with other artists in the future?
I love working with other artists. Yes, I hope to work with many more in the future! I’ve done things with Sonia and David in the past and I really connected with them as people, friends, and also with their music and with them as artists. I loved what we collaborated on. So I was excited as I worked on these tunes and imagined David’s and Sonia’s voices on these tracks. I love what they contributed, and I think they add so much to the tracks – Sonia singing Woody Guthrie’s “Don’t You Push Me Down” message in Spanish is very empowering, and David taking the role of John and Paul, and me being Ringo, was a blast. It reinforces the idea fo friendship.
Do your son and daughter show any interest in following your lead into music/children’s advocacy?
My daughter plays music and sings. She’s more interested in communications, journalism, video production – that kinds of stuff – but she is an advocate! She participated in the Women’s March and has been active in school things down in Tulane University where she’s a sophomore. My son has been a pro scooter rider for many years now – starting in junior high school. He did it all himself, built a fan base on YouTube and then toured, mentored, and became a popular sponsored rider. He eventually made it to the world finals. So I’m super proud of both of my kids and how they just go out there and do! They follow their hearts and pass along their passions.
Under the Big Umbrella is available on May 17 from Brady Rymer’s website, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.
Here is the sample of the new single from Brady Rymer’s new CD, a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want”: