Photo Courtesy of Troubadour Music Inc.
By Lily Doolin, WERS Blog Editor
Lindsay Munroe met renowned children's musician Raffi backstage at one of his shows, and she soon went from playing libraries and preschools to collaborating with one of her idols on a record. After releasing her debut album I Am Kind under Raffi's Troubadour label, Munroe spoke to WERS Blog Editor Lily Doolin about what inspired her during the writing process, creating songs for neurodiverse children, and her experience working with Raffi.
I'm sure you probably get asked this question a lot, but I wanted to hear straight from you: What got you into writing children's music?
Lindsay Munroe: I met Raffi at his concert and we started talking about children's music, and he encouraged me to try to write a song for children (laughs). He did! I had never written a song for children before, but I did play children's music. I've been performing at preschools and libraries for the past two years, since 2018, so I was a children's musician but I had never written a song for kids. Raffi encouraged me to try, and when I played him the first song - "I Am Kind," that was the first song for kids I had written - he loved it! And he was so encouraging, and from there I just kept writing.
What got you into performing at those preschools and libraries in the first place?
LM: Well, I've always been a musician, I've played guitar and piano, and I've always played for my three children. It was just a natural fit that I would do what I love. I just absolutely get so much joy out of playing music with children and having them sing along. It was just my passion, and I decided to follow [it] and do what I love.
What kind of music were you playing before, either professionally or as a hobby?
LM: Just as a hobby I would go to open mics and play folk music. I would write songs.
It's so wonderful to see how your music career has transformed. What was it like to work with Raffi as a producer and collaborate with him on this album?
LM: Working with Raffi has been a dream, he's just wonderful. We have so much fun, we had so much fun working on the album together. It was just a very joyful experience. It was amazing.
I was reading the press release for this album, and I read that you are actually a self-taught musician. We have not only a lot of artists and musicians who read our blog, but also people who are looking to get into music themselves. What advice do you have for people who are looking to teach themselves an instrument or something else in the music world?
LM: The way I taught myself was by listening to artists I love and trying to play along. If you have a passion for a certain artist… mine was Joni Mitchell (laughs). I would listen and then look up the chords online. That love of music was the driving force to really learn and teach myself. It was just exciting for me to listen to it, and I wanted to be able to play it myself as well.
Where do you find inspiration? Specifically, where did you find inspiration for the music on this album?
LM: My biggest inspiration is my three children. They all have Autism. We've used music as a way to connect and teach. I think that music sticks with us. Melodies stay in our heads, after listening to a song we hum it and sing it to ourselves throughout the day. It's so important to write positive, meaningful lyrics that have an uplifting message because people will carry the songs with them. I feel like I have a responsibility, as someone who writes for kids, to make sure they have positive messages of inclusion, acceptance, and love.
While writing the songs I was taking the Raffi Foundation online course in Child Honoring and I was so inspired. Many of my songs echo principles of Child Honoring such as respectful love, caring community, diversity, and emotional intelligence.
This album is being released in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month, which is so inspiring and important. Did that have a big influence on this album, trying to write songs that you knew would be helpful for those parenting kids with Autism?
LM: Yes, absolutely. As an Autism mom myself, I wrote several songs on the album specifically for neurodiverse children - and all children, really - because I feel like the messages are for everybody. But I specifically wrote them with my children in mind and their specific challenges. Some of the songs specifically for neurodiverse minds are "Waiting Nicely," "Ok to Make Mistakes," and "Ask for help," and these are things that I wanted my children to have a little melody and a song they can sing to themselves as a reminder that they are capable to wait nicely. When they make a mistake it's not a big deal and they can move on and try again.
Did you sort of proof the songs with your kids beforehand? (Laughs)
LM: Oh yes, absolutely (laughs). My kids had a big part in helping me with the songs, and they sing on the album too! So that's just been a joy. I love having their voices on the songs.
That's so sweet! For any artists who are also parents, what advice would you give to those who are trying to balance the parenting/songwriting game (laughs)?
LM: Oh, it is not easy to balance (laughs)! But, for me, I write best at night. I write after my kids go to bed, I make sure to carve out time just for me and play the ukulele and write. It's not easy, but it can be done with that passion for songwriting.
Moving specifically to this album, what was the process like going in and creating it? How long did it take you to put this together?
LM: It didn't take long at all really, it flew by in my opinion. I recorded my parts in Massachusetts and I sent them over to Raffi, and he would add his vocals and ukulele and bongo drums and send it back. We just had so much fun, it was a wonderful experience.
My last question is one I ask all artists I speak to. On this album, what is a song that is either your favorite - not to make you pick - or one that taught you something a lot about yourself or your songwriting?
LM: Interesting question! I would say the song that's the most meaningful to me is called "Every One Of Us Belongs" because it's a message of inclusion and acceptance, and I want my kids - my three children - to internalize that message and know that everyone belongs, and I want all kids to hear that message. I think it's so important.
And then, I have a second part to that answer. The album is half originals with these messages, and then it's half classic traditional songs. So if I could pick one of each, my favorite classic traditional song - personally a highlight for me - was "The More We Get Together" with Raffi.