Photo courtesy of Lindsay Munroe
Just over a year ago, we spoke with local children’s artist Lindsay Munroe after the release of her debut album I Am Kind, produced by the renowned children’s musician Raffi. We recently caught wind that she and Raffi are putting out a second album Frogs and Birds on August 27th. Ahead of its release, web services coordinator Nora Onanian sat down with Munroe to talk about everything from writing with neurodiverse kids and families in mind to the importance of radio programs like The Playground.
YOU DID AN INTERVIEW WITH US IN MAY OF 2020 AFTER PUTTING OUT I AM KIND AND NOW YOU’RE GEARING UP TO RELEASE YOUR SECOND ALBUM FROGS AND BIRDS AT THE END OF AUGUST WHICH IS SUPER EXCITING! CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT AND CAME TOGETHER?
LM: Sure! So this is my second album with Raffi. The album came about as a collaboration with a wonderful curriculum called Bridges Learning System. And they asked me if I would be interested in writing songs to go along with their lessons. I was really excited about working with them. I love their lessons – it’s something I would use for my own children. So they really inspired the songs that I wrote for this album. In addition to the songs I wrote, Raffi wrote three originals for this album as well, which I sing with him. Two of them are duets and one of them I cover a Raffi original, his song “Take a Breath,” which was on his Dog on the Floor album.
AND I THINK I READ THAT RAFFI KIND OF ENCOURAGED YOU TO GET INTO WRITING YOUR OWN CHILDREN’S SONGS IN THE FIRST PLACE, RIGHT?
LM: Yes, he did! We met backstage after one of his concerts in 2019 and I mentioned that I at the time was doing singalongs and I would sing Raffi songs and classic children’s songs. And he encouraged me to try and write an original. So I wrote my song, “I am Kind” and he’s just been so encouraging ever since. [He is] such a great musical mentor to me, encouraging me to continue writing, and he’s just wonderful to work with.
THAT’S AWESOME! WHAT WAS THE TIMELINE OF THE PROJECT LIKE?
LM: Well, it came together rather quickly, actually. We spent a couple months recording and writing. It was interesting because the Canadian border was still closed because of the pandemic. So we did everything virtually – a lot of Zoom. I recorded here in Massachusetts and Raffi recorded his parts on the west coast of Canada. And yeah, we did it all virtually.
SO IT WAS ALL DURING THE PANDEMIC – DID THAT INFLUENCE THE THEMES AT ALL?
LM: You know, I don’t think it did, actually. It was more influenced by this curriculum and neurodiverse kids and families.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE FIRST SINGLE THAT CAME OUT, THE TITLE TRACK “FROGS AND BIRDS.” I READ THAT YOUR DAUGHTER SINGS ON IT WHICH IS SO SWEET. I WANTED TO ASK IF YOU COULD TALK A BIT ABOUT HOW YOUR KIDS INFLUENCE YOUR MUSIC?
LM: I was thrilled to have my daughter Mem join me on “Frogs and Birds.” My children all have autism and I try and write music for them and for all children, really. But they certainly inspire my song-writing. This song, “Frogs and Birds,” I wrote to teach children a concept called Theory of Mind, which is that not everyone has the same thoughts as you, everyone has their own thoughts and their own likes and dislikes. So I wanted to really make that concept into a very child-friendly song. So I thought, well, I love the color green, my daughter loves blue. I’m going to write a song about frogs and birds and make it very child-friendly, but also have a positive message that we all like different things and we can all consider each other and think of each other’s feelings.
YEAH, I CAN DEFINITELY SEE A LOT OF YOUR SONGS BEING REALLY HELPFUL FOR NEURODIVERSE CHILDREN, ESPECIALLY “TAKE A BREATH” – WHICH ACTUALLY YOU MENTIONED IS FROM RAFFI – AND “FLEXIBLE AND EASYGOING” AND “FACES SHOW OUR FEELINGS.” COULD YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THAT?
LM: Yeah, sure! “Faces Show Our Feelings” and “Flexible and Easygoing” both were lessons in the curriculum, the SEA Bridge curriculum. And I think it’s super important for all children, not just neurodiverse children, but all children, to be a little more flexible and easygoing. All of us actually – adults, too. I think it’s just a really positive message for everyone. However, I know that my kids being on the spectrum struggle with that and need a little reminder. So I think songs are a great way to learn lessons and internalize these positive messages. Songs stick with us and you know, you sing melodies in your head throughout the day, so I think it’s important to have positive, uplifting messages.
DEFINITELY! ARE ANY OF YOUR KIDS INTERESTED IN FOLLOWING IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS AND BEING SINGERS OR MUSICIANS?
LM: They all are actually. They’re all very musical. They all sing on the album and they play guitar, ukulele, they all sing. So we have a lot of fun in our house.
I LOVE THAT! CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR MUSICAL BACKGROUND?
LM: Sure. I’m a self-taught musician. I taught myself to play guitar in high school while listening to Joni Mitchell and Janis Ian and playing along to their records. And I taught myself ukulele just about five years ago now. I picked it up and I thought, it’s such a child-friendly instrument. So I started playing it at my singalongs for kids. And it’s my main instrument now that I use.
I READ RAFFI AND YOU BOTH STARTED OUT KIND OF DOING FOLK MUSIC. AND I CAN DEFINITELY HEAR THAT INFLUENCE IN A LOT OF THE SONGS. BUT LISTENING TO SOME OF THE OTHER SONGS I PICKED UP ON A LITTLE BIT OF JAZZ INFLUENCE. COULD YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT THE GENRES THAT INFLUENCED YOU IN THE ALBUM?
LM: Yes, thank you. When I sat down to write “Feelings Like the Weather,” which is probably my favorite song on the Frogs and Birds album, I thought to myself, I would love to write a song that sounds like an old standard with a little bit of a jazzy feel. I had never done that before. And I wrote “Feelings Like the Weather” and Raffi being the amazing producer that he is, he had musicians come and play on it. So we have a beautiful trumpet sound and it’s just what I was envisioning. I’m so excited for people to hear this song because it sounds a bit different than my usual songs.
YEAH, I FEEL LIKE RAFFI KIND OF DID A LITTLE SCATTING, TOO, RIGHT?
LM: Yes, Raffi is really good at scatting! So there are a few songs on the album where he does that and I just love it.
IT SOUNDED AWESOME! I ALSO WANT TO TALK ABOUT ONE SONG SPECIFICALLY, “THE ALLY SONG” I THOUGHT HAD A REALLY STRONG MESSAGE OF ACCEPTING DIFFERENCES AND DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION. COULD YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT THAT AND KIND OF IF YOU SEE IT AS A WAY TO START DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS MAYBE WITH PARENTS AND THEIR KIDS?
LM: Yes, thank you. The “Ally Song” is so special to me. So important. I’m so glad that it’s included on the album. I think that it’s such an important message for kids and families. We all need to be allies. Specifically, it was written for this curriculum for neurodiverse kids, how to be an ally to the autism community and the disability community. But also, it’s so important to be an LGBTQ ally and an anti-racist ally. And I think this song really encompasses that in a way. It teaches young children that we are different, but we can stand up when something’s wrong and we can be there for each other as my song says, as a “kind friend.” And I think it’s so important.
YEAH, I AGREE THAT IT APPLIES TO SO MUCH IN OUR SOCIAL CLIMATE RIGHT NOW.
LM: Thank you.
THERE ARE A FEW COVERS ON THE ALBUM AS WELL. “YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE” WAS RELEASED VERY RECENTLY. AND “HAPPY TRAILS,” I THOUGHT WAS SUCH A FITTING CLOSER TO THE ALBUM BECAUSE OF THE LYRICS “UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN.” I WAS WONDERING, DO YOU HAVE PLANS FOR WHAT’S NEXT?
LM: Well, we are working on a third album that we’re going to start recording in September, I believe. So that’s exciting.
“Happy Trails” is special to add to this album because Raffi actually closes most of his shows with that song. He does that in his encore, I believe, at the end of his shows. So that was Raffi’s idea. And it was just such an honor to sing that with him because it’s such a special song at his shows. So I really loved singing that with him.
AND WHEN YOU SAID “WE” FOR THE THIRD ALBUM, ARE YOU COLLABORATING WITH RAFFI AGAIN?
LM: Yes, yes. Raffi and I are working on a third album that I’m very excited about. I can’t give too many details, but it’s a very special project and we’re excited about it.
AND THEN I ALMOST FORGOT TO ASK. THE ALBUM’S DESCRIPTION IS SONGS OF KINDNESS AND CARING. SO I ALSO WANTED TO ASK YOU ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT THOSE TWO THINGS ARE FOR KIDS RIGHT NOW?
LM: Yes. I think that, you know, my first album is called I Am Kind, and I think kindness and caring is such an important theme. It runs through all my songs, all my music. Really, that is the main message, just to always be kind. So in all of my albums, including – a little hint – this upcoming third album, will also mention kindness in the title.
MY LAST QUESTION IS WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT FOR RADIO PROGRAMS LIKE THE PLAYGROUND TO EXIST?
LM: Oh my goodness, it’s so important. I just want to say that I do a lot of interviews, but this one is special to me because your station is my local station. So my family listens to The Playground every Saturday morning while we make breakfast. That’s our routine. So we love The Playground. It is so important. I think that it’s so important to have positive messages for children and songs that families can enjoy together. We love the playground so much.
Lindsey Munroe’s sophomore album, Frogs and Birds, will be available on August 27th.