Here it is…. our interview the musically and socially gifted, Mr. Steve! Don’t forget that he will be in VA and MD this weekend to entertain your kiddies and we have a set of FOUR TICKETS up for grabs through Feb. 9th!
AK (Arlington Kids): You’ll be coming to the DC area in February for two shows, have you ever been to Washington DC before? If so, what do you like to do while you’re here?
Mr. Steve: Yes, I’ve been traveling down to play shows in the DC area for many years now – and I always love to come back. I have a bunch of old friends in the area as well as new friends from PBS Kids which is headquartered in Arlington (woot!). It’s great to catch up with them and their families. While in DC with my family we’ve done a lot, including visits to the Air and Space Museum, the National Zoo and the White House.
AK: Where did you grow up?
Mr. Steve: In Hartford, CT
AK: You have a son and another on the way, what activities do you most enjoy doing with your son and look forward to with your next child?
Mr. Steve: There’s too many to list – My wife and I love introducing him to new experiences and seeing which ones he gravitates back to. His favorites so far are drumming, baseball, shoveling snow, snow boarding, gymnastics, telling and hearing jokes, making puzzles, and reading books.
Mr. Steve: I sang in the school chorus in 3rd grade – that might have been my “start”. It wasn’t until high school that I got my first guitar. And then I joined an acapella singing group in college at Wesleyan University as well as a summer group on Martha’s Vineyard called the Vineyard Sound. I started writing songs for those two groups and I never stopped. After college, I worked as a technology consultant for Accenture for a few years, writing and playing guitar as a hobby. Then my brother, who was a 1st grade teacher at the time, asked me to write some songs for his class about the Days of the Week, Seasons, etc and I became enthralled with the idea of writing songs for kids. It was so much fun that I couldn’t imagine that I would ever be able to make a living at it. But, I quit my consulting job to give it a try and that was about 13 years ago.
AK: We heard you travel on musical tours a lot! Around 200 – 400? That sounds like it must be tiring. Do you have a sleepy time routine that you and your son do together?
Mr. Steve: Yes, we have a routine. Sometimes Josh gets distracted, though, while we’re going through the routine. So, since he loves books, we start out by saying “Mommy or Daddy will read you 3 books tonight, if we can get through the nighttime routine without a problem. Otherwise we may have to take books away.” If everything goes great, then sometimes we add a book or a special story that mommy or daddy makes up.
The routine is: go upstairs, go potty, wash hands, brush teeth, change into pajamas, turn on the night light (which Joshua has names “Boshua”), get a drink of water, get his blanky and get into bed for book reading. It usually goes well, but occasionally, even after warnings, he only gets one book.
AK: Whats the most memorable place you’ve been on your travels and why?
Mr. Steve: We’ve been so lucky to go to fun places over the years. It was an absolute thrill to play a concert at Fenway Park, since my wife and I are Red Sox fans and it was also very exciting to play at the White House for a couple of the Easter Egg Roll events (we went on right after the Jonas Brothers). I have to say, though, that while those were definitely memorable events – really my favorite moments are great individual interactions with kids no matter what the venue, or when a whole group of people, kids, grownups and the band are all singing or laughing together. Vienna is terrific for that: Theater in the Woods (at Wolf trap) during the summer and Jammin Java in February. The kids are terrific and the parents are so engaged and clearly present for these family events. Playing shows there is shear joy! I can’t wait.
Mr. Steve: I actually don’t. I don’t like songs. Just kidding. But, to be honest, it’s impossible to pick a favorite. I really enjoy playing many of them. The older more familiar songs are fun, because I usually know, based on previous experiences, how to best connect with the audience who also may already recognize the song well enough to sing/play along without any instruction. The new songs are exciting to play and see what the reaction will be. I love to do participatory songs, like Shapes, Pirate Song and a new one called Brush Brush Brush, but then, especially when I’m playing with Anand, my electric guitarist, and/or the rest of the band I love playing songs with vocal harmony and more involved musical arrangements and lyrical word play.
AK: We know you like playing guitar but what’s the wackiest tool you’ve used in music?
Mr. Steve: While recording for my 4th album, The King the Mice and the Cheese, we wanted something that sounded like elephants stomping around. We tried banging a bunch of things together but nothing sounded right until we found some full paint cans and slammed them against the studio stairs with the microphones placed under the stairs. I remember asking “was that one good?” and the engineer calling out from the control booth “more slam this time!”
AK: What makes you laugh hysterically?
Mr. Steve: I have a monthly SteveSongs newsletter that includes a “Quote of the Month” which is usually a funny quote from a child at a show, though lately I’ve been using more quotes from my own child. He was telling me that his make believe friend, Pextible, was working at the Bowling Ball Store and was giving out free bowling balls. He said that we should go. I asked him where it was and he said “Don’t worry, it’s not too far away… it’s just one far away.”
Some friends in college wrote a song about me called “Steve Laughs at Your Jokes”, because I laugh all the time. I was just laughing hysterically last night, as a matter of fact. I was excited to get the movie Mary Poppins so that our son could see it for the first time. He loved the movie and our favorite part was when Mary Poppins and the children visit Uncle Albert who has the strange condition, whereby when he laughs he floats up to the ceiling. My son and I were laughing out loud for a while about that scene.
AK: Have you had a “starstruck” moment with any of the PBS “stars” you’ve come across in your work with PBS?
Mr. Steve: I’ve done two performances on the same stage as Gordon from Sesame Street. He’s been on the show since I was a kid and he’s still great. I’ve also been able to hang out with Mr Mcfeely from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. One of the nicest people you could ever meet.
AK: Can you tell us about why you enjoy working with PBS?
Mr. Steve: I absolutely love working with PBS. I was a PBS kid myself and now as a parent it is the only television that we trust our son to watch. They are truly dedicated to making great programming that engages children and helps them learn. They have a budget of course, but the bottom line for PBS Kids is not how much money they make, but how many children they help to develop.
AK: What’s coming up next for you?
Mr. Steve: We’re very excited to be going back into the studio to record a new SteveSongs album. I’ve been writing a bunch of new songs with my co-writer Anand Nayak and we can’t wait to flesh out the arrangements and get the whole band working on the songs. This will be the first full length music album since Marvelous Day almost 5 years ago and it should be available by Spring or Summer. I’ll also be doing another batch of songs soon for the new PBS season. And one of our songs, Shapes, from the PBS interstitials, is being made into a book by Barefoot Books and should be completed by October.
AK: Do you have anything special planned for your DC area shows?
Mr. Steve: Yes! We’ll be playing the whole show upside down. no wait… that’s a dream I had. We will be playing some brand new songs that have never been heard before, though . Brush Brush Brush is a fun interactive game song, Grumpy Boy is a singalong aimed at cheering up the Grumps. And Armadillo Dreams is a new one inspired by my fear of writer’s block. One night I was awake in bed and I thought “what would happen if I never had another good song idea?” and for a moment I was quite scared. Fear can be a good thing sometimes, in that it keeps us from jumping off roofs and similar harmful acts, but in many cases fear can keep you from doing your best or really trying to reach your dreams or dreaming at all. I decided to try and forget my worries and just write whatever came to my mind. And the song I wrote the next morning was a combination of random dreams, puny stories and a no-worry be-yourself philosophy.
Check out Armadillo Dreams (shhh…. he shared this special for us) here.
Go see Steve Songs at Jammin’ Java or the Gordon Center this weekend.
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