Take Eight with Laurie Berkner
Christened “The Queen of Children’s Music” by People Magazine, superstar Laurie Berkner is back this fall with Superhero,featuring 21 new original songs. What’s new in Laurie Land? A lot. Checkout her latest exciting developments below.
It’s been eight years since your last CD of original music. Was that long span planned?
It wasn’t planned at all. I didn’t actually stop releasing albums during that time. What I didn’t do was put out an album that was made up entirely of brand-new songs. I released a Christmas album, an album of lullabies, an album of classic kids’ songs, etc.,and on each one I had some new originals, but they were not the main event. It was really fun and really scary to sit down and write 21 new songs to put all together on this new album.
What is the meaning behind the title? Is there a central theme or message you’re trying to impart to kids with this release?
The title is the name of the first song on the album. I chose to use it because once I surveyed all the songs I had written, I heard a theme that had emerged of encouraging kids (and anyone else who would be listening) to be their best selves. The title Superhero seemed to encompass that message and was a powerful image that I hoped kids would relate to.
How did you land Ziggy Marley to sing on “My My Marisol”?
I was lucky enough to have him ask me to sing on his first kids’ album, Family Time, a few years back. So when it came time to think about whom I would like to have as a guest on the album, I immediately thought of him. I was thrilled when he said yes! I’m a big fan of his, and I love the way the track turned out.
Your 12-year-old daughter Lucy lends her voice on “Elephant In There.” Does she enjoy singing?
Lucy sang on that track because the whole song was really her idea. While I was working, I told her I needed more silly songs on the album and asked for her help. The story of “Elephant In There” was what she came up with. Then when I went to record it, I felt it was only fitting that she should sing on it. She does like singing a lot, but I think she likes playing the drums even better.
Superhero is your 11th album; did you ever envision releasing 11 albums? How has your songwriting changed over the years?
I definitely did not envision putting out so many albums, but I feel really great about having done it! I think my songwriting has changed mostly in that I often think harder about what I’m writing than I used to. When I started out, there were many days when I wrote songs in my head on my way to work, and sang them once I got there. Now I spend more time crafting them and working on the lyrics. Mostly that’s a good change, but it does make it harder sometimes to come up with completely silly lyrics that used to emerge from being really spontaneous in my writing.
Your first release turns 20 next year. How has the kids’ music industry changed since “We Are The Dinosaurs” broke out?
The entire landscape of how people consume music and how the music business functions has completely changed. Some of those changes are wonderful because it’s so much easier to share my music than it ever has been before, but it’s also much harder to make a living as a musician. I’m trying hard to creatively navigate my way through what is happening now, and keep what I do viable while still enjoying myself.
Are your audiences similar today as they were when you began? When you look out at a crowd, what do you see today?
They are not very different, but one change is that there are now older kids who come to shows because they grew up on my music. I love that those kids still feel enough of a connection to me and my songs to actually come to a show, and sometimes even stay to meet me afterwards. It’s one of the most validating feelings to be able to see the long-lasting effects of what I share with these kids and their families.
You will add “author” to your list of titles next year with your picture book debut via Simon and Schuster. How did that come to be, and what is it like breaking into another beloved medium for reaching children?
I am so excited about the books I have coming out! The first is We Are the Dinosaurs, and it’s coming out in March 2017, which will coincide with the 20th anniversary of that song. It’s amazing to realize that that song has become something of a classic in the interim, and that there are families that can’t wait for one of their favorite songs of mine to become a book. Now that We Are the Dinosaurs is getting ready to go to print, we’ve started working on the next one, which is going to be based on the song “Pillowland.” I love seeing what the illustrators focus in on about each song, and how the images I write about come to life. I can’t wait for my fans to see them!