When my daughter was a little older than 1 year old and just beginning to speak, she saw a ladybug crawling on her ceiling. She pointed at it, fascinated and happy. I asked her, “What’s its name” and she said “Meeeee.” So I asked, “Mimi? Is the ladybug named Mimi?” She said “Mimi.” After that she started calling every bug (or even spot on the ceiling) “Mimi.” Amy and I agreed right away this would make a great children’s song: “Mimi the Ladybug.”
Amy and I really took our time with this song, as we knew the potential was great if we approached the song the right way. I did some research on ladybugs so I could introduce some key facts in a fun way that a young child could understand. This led to the first verse that “Mimi the ladybug / Helps me in my garden / She keeps my plants safe from other bugs / Who don’t say beg your pardon.”
It was on a winter trip to Florida with my parents several weeks later, sitting by a pool that was too cold to swim in, where we had a breakthrough in the songwriting that led to the completion of the song. We knew we wanted to address the reality that half the ladybugs are male, which was comically addressed in the movie “A Bug’s Life,” so we came up with a brother Billy for Mimi.
The remainder of the song came easily after that elusive 2nd verse. The key was to really spend time enjoying the process of songwriting. When we had a first draft of the song complete, we sought out the help of Children’s Music Network member Leslie Zak, a songwriter who loves to create songs about nature, to critique the song. She suggested a few important updates to the words that we incorporated into the final version you can hear on this album.
In the Studio
Knowing this was an acoustic folk song at heart, I wanted to feature an acoustic lead instrument. I had been impressed with Bob Cannon’s mandolin playing in an acoustic duo at a benefit concert for Parents Who Rock that I was also in, and had an idea to bring him into the studio to add mandolin to this song. Bob took it a step further by acting out the ladybug’s antics with his mandolin playing. When I sing “Mimi the ladybug / Gives my arm a tickle,” he makes a very convincing tickling sound on the mandolin.
I felt the original vocal on the song was lacking a much-needed “smile” so I re-recorded that vocal line. I didn’t want to leave any regret about the quality of the vocal or give an audience less than my best. I also didn’t want to be so perfectionistic that I trash a great, but human performance looking for a technically perfect, but less inspired performance. The final vocal you hear on this track has the “smile” you can hear that helps carry the song where it needs to go.