Welcome to The Music Marketing Mind’s ongoing online experiment of Storyteller Tuesday! This week’s song and story are about the inspiration for a bouncy little number of mine called “The Pick Song!” As with all things, guitar picks require safe and careful handling, especially around little ones. There were two different times of my life where kids were involved that I was able to draw upon to cook up this song. Learn more about it in the video below:
Amy, my wife and co-lyricist helped me smooth out the flow of the phrases so the song would be both easier for me to sing and easier for you and the kids to understand.
This tune made it to Goober Kids Radio’s top 25 most requested songs of 2013 and appears on our Parents’ Choice Approved album “Everyone’s Invited!”
The Music Marketing Mind is an extraordinarily active community that does far more than just compliment each other’s songs or drive up each other’s play counts. We share real world advice and provide feedback as to what’s working online, at gigs and in our communities to build a passionate following.
This is a special week to re-share it because the song is included in the “Hits of the Playhouse Vol. 1” compilation to benefit Goober Kids Radio, a wonderful worldwide radio station for kids and their families.
My 3-year-old daughter asked me to jump up and down on her toddler bed with her. As I thought of an explanation why I couldn’t do that, it came out as the chorus of the song. I sang my answer while holding her hands so she could jump: “I’m too big to jump on the bed / You’ll have to jump on it for us!”
My wife Amy and I spent many car rides thinking over the possibilities of how to build a story song around that one hook. We wanted it to be funny and relatable to our own experience. I hope you agree that we hit that mark when you listen back.
You’ll also notice a nod to the traditional “Five Little Monkeys” as if this song were the sequel to that one. Enjoy! Leave your comments below and check out “Storyteller Tuesdays” every week at Music Marketing Mind.
Amy was familiar with this traditional kids’ song, previously popularized by Raffi, while co-teaching at a nursery school. She had taught me how the song went. In pulling the band together, “Down by the Bay” struck me as a number that would be a lot of fun when performed at a punk tempo with overdriven guitars. I made a demo at home and taught the band this song, which became a popular set closer for us at the end of a concert.
We had some great times in the family when I performed “Down by the Bay” for my daughter and nieces at my brother’s place and we gave all the grown-ups a turn to make up their own rhymes at the end of each verse, such as “Did you ever see an owl drying on a towel?” Amy and I proceeded to make up our own rhymes for our arrangement of the song, which made it onto the record.
In the Studio
Ross came up with a very clever vocal harmony where he imitates a trombone sliding down from one note to another as he sings the words “Down by the bay…” I also enjoy how the bandmembers’ vocal rhymes are artfully combined with special effects in spots. For me a highlight of the song is the moment when Judy asks “Have you ever seen a whale / shopping for a sale,” which our producer Dave transforms into a PA announcement in a department store, complete with chime bell and the slightly distorted sound that comes through a store sound system.
Amy and I were walking out of a building with our then one-year-old daughter one cloudy night. She was looking up at the sky as a cloud drifted away revealing the moon. She got so excited and pointed. “Moooo!” she called the moon at the time. This moment gave Amy and me the song idea around the concept of the moon playing peek-a-boo with a child.
We had a strong feeling about this song’s potential and were determined to take our time and get it right. We composed a draft and I made a demo recording. We approached fellow Children’s Music Network member Katherine Dines for a professional critique of the song. Her feedback was very valuable; she encouraged us to make the song more conversational, more descriptive about the colors, shapes and sizes of the moon and the way it makes us feel. We went through two rounds of re-writes and critiques to really take the lyrics to their potential.
In the Studio
The harmony vocals from Meg Beattie really add a dreamy quality to the track. We had worked out her part in my home studio and then entered Snowdome Studios looking to capture that same feeling. The soft keyboard parts and light drumming mix well with the acoustic guitar to add to that dreamy quality. We reached out to children’s book illustrator Hannah Tuohy to lovingly illustrate a playful encounter between the moon and a child.
When my daughter was about 1 year old we had a family gathering at my aunt’s house. My daughter was in a high chair looking down through the glass table at her big cousin’s antics below the table. Amy and I remarked that it was as if our daughter were watching her cousin through a class bottom boat. The song idea would remain in our minds for some time.
This song mostly needed research into the glass bottom boat ride experience to be able to write something of value. Most of my searches led me to the Silver Springs glass bottom boat ride in Ocala Florida and getting to know what kinds of animals call those waters their home. The research helped us write a first draft that I was ready to present for critique to fellow Children’s Music Network member Monty Harper, who writes great songs for kids on scientific subjects. He preferred the approach I took in the original second verse over how I handled the first verse. This resulted in a complete re-writing of the first verse and some modifications to the chorus to help the whole song flow.