Very few kids in pre-k can say their teacher is a rock star. My son is one of the exceptions. His teacher for the last two years has been the amazing Daniel Cole, who along with Kim West, have formed the dynamic-duo, singer-songwriting team, and kindie/family music sensation known as The Rockdoves.
I had the lucky chance to catch up with both Dan and Kim for my seminal blog interview.
If you can’t tell, I am a HUGE fan of The Rockdoves. Can you please tell me how The Rockdoves came about?
Dan: Kim and I have known each other and have been creating music together, in various incarnations, for about 10 years now. About 2 1/2 years ago we decided to put some energy behind the idea of writing music for children. With my background in teaching and Kim’s experience in theater, it just seemed to make sense and clicked instantly. The first song we ever wrote for The Rockdoves was See The Seasons. I had this riff I had been working with and Kim just came out with the melody. It couldn’t have been more organic.
How did you come up with the name for The Rockdoves?
Kim: We were just chatting about how pigeons have a bit of a bad rap in NYC and wondering if folks ever think of them as doves – which they are! In fact, they are rock doves, and to us, just as worthy of respect as the white variety (of course, don’t sit on a bench beneath a tree branch full of pigeons…) From there, one thing led to another, since we’re New Yorkers, we like to rock and promote kindness, etc. It just worked as our band name on several levels. And we enjoy giving pigeons some love in our artwork, thanks to our wonderful graphic designer, Dan’s wife, Audra.
On your website, you describe your style as kindie/family music, with the motto: “Cool music for kids made with parents in mind.” Can you please tell me what that means?
Dan: From the very beginning, we envisioned families listening to this music together – at home, in the car, etc… We really wanted listening to our music to be a communal experience, not something that was put on to distract or simply entertain children while parents did something else. So, when we write a song it’s important to us that it be as enjoyable for the parents to listen to as it is for the children.
Has your music always been kid centric?
Kim: Dan and I have both written and played rock and singer-songwriter music in bars and clubs for years, both before and after we met. That was invaluable experience for both of us, and was the foundation for creating this project. We always laugh about how much energy is needed for a kids’ show versus an adult show – we use 100 X more energy playing for kids, but we also get so much more back. We love it! And we don’t really miss the gigging-in-bars scene.
Do both of you write the lyrics for your songs?
Dan: All of the songs have a collaborative effort behind them. We may write a song together based off of an idea, a topic, a hook, a lyric. Working together in that manner is a lot of fun. We laugh a lot when we work on songs in that fashion. It’s also important to know when to lay back when the ideas just aren’t flowing and revisit it at another time. On an individual level, sometimes one of us has an idea that can be anything from just a few lines to a fully realized tune. Whatever state it is in, we work on it together to get it to the final, complete stage.
Can you give me some insights into your creative process. How do you develop a song from start to finish?
Kim: As we all know, the ways of creativity are mysterious and exciting, and they have to be harnessed and invited in when that creative vibe is present. When one of us has a guitar riff or a lyrical idea, we usually sit down and just start work-shopping it. We throw out lyrics to each other, we sing melodies and try out harmonies, we do our best to follow where the song is leading. Many times we’ve finished a song in one sitting, even getting past those moments when it feels like we’re stuck. Usually, just remaining in the creative process will bring that last rhyme or chord we’re looking for. What makes it work is that Dan and I are very good friends and we trust each other, so we have a safe and fun space in which to play and create. And to make many jokes.
As a picture book writer, I love how your songs focus on issues that kids confront on daily basis. Dan, do you find inspiration for your songs from the kids you teach?
Dan: I definitely get inspiration from the kids in my classroom, and each year brings a new set of personalities and interests, which is great for me. I may pick up on something a child said, or did, or just a get an idea based on things the kids are talking about and working on. Don’t and Do Blues was actually inspired by a toddler in one of my classrooms several years ago. This child, still in the mostly pre-verbal stage, had a tough time communicating with the other children so he did what most toddlers do to get attention – push, bite, pull hair, etc… It was a great way for me to take something like a very common developmental stage that kids go through and work it into a song that both children and adults could relate to.
Your debut album, From the Birds, has been huge success. How did it come about?
Kim: We were lucky enough that the songs kept flowing after our first song, See The Seasons. We felt that we were on a roll, and that an album was the next step. We used the crowd-funding website, RocketHub, to help raise money for our recording, and were able to give the finished product to our friends and family who donated – it was great! We also developed our brand and our sound as we went along. It was something of a leap of faith, but it felt right, and we just went for it.
Can you tell me about your upcoming new album.
Dan: We’ve been having a great time writing and recording this album and we’re blessed to have the additional talents of Chuck Thureau on bass and John Csorba on drums. The last record we did by ourselves, which was a great experience as well, but having their musicianship on this record takes it to the next level. We’re working in two different studios – one for recording the full, live band, and the other for tracking vocals and additional fun overdubs. Just as with the writing, we have a blast in the studio. This recording will contain 10 or 11 tunes and I think the songwriting has progressed in a mature and natural way from the last album, From The Birds. We’re excited to get it out there.
Can you give me the scoop on how fans can purchase your new album?
Our current CD, From The Birds is easily found on iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon. If you’re already on our email list, we’ll definitely let you know when the album is ready for purchase on our website or at live shows. Interested folks can also email us at our website and let us know they’d like to be sent a link to purchase when the album is ready. We’ll have the new record up on iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon ASAP, and of course signed copies will be available directly from the band.
I am not exaggerating when I say that Rockdove concerts are the absolute best-ever! While the kids are grooving and singing along to the music, the parents are too! How can we catch up with The Rockdoves live?
Dan: We perform in a variety of venues and are always looking for new, fun, and exciting opportunities to play. We’ve been focusing on the NYC area over the last two years but have been getting out to Pennsylvania and Delaware, too. People can always find out what we’re up to by checking out our website, our Facebook page, or our Twitter feed. If you’d like to see The Rockdoves perform in your town, please get in touch with us through our website and hopefully we can make that happen, soon!
Every night at bedtime, my son and I read some books, and then we turn on your album, From the Birds. We can’t wait to hear your new album.
Dan and Kim, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. All the best and much success.