I ended my recent article about Robbi K by saying, "A husband and wife producing children's music together... How about that?!" I was making a wink smile kind of comment about my wife and I producing my kids' music, but I realize that it may have been a bit of an oblique reference for anyone who didn't know that.
Yes, my wife, Roseann, and I produce my kids' music together, and I realize that it's not just us and Robbi K and her husband, Bakithi... Gwendolyn and her husband, Brandon, produce the music for Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang, and I believe that Ellen and Matt (who I've been meaning to feature here at some point) also produce their music in addition to performing together. I'm sure there are other kid-music-producing couples, too. (Please let me know if I'm missing any.) And of course, there are many spouses out there who play an important role in the careers of their musical counterparts, though that may not specifically include the music production aspect.
But since I've mentioned Roseann, I wanted to give you a better glimpse at what exactly she does in respect to my musical career. I get all of the applause at my concerts and most of the accolades for the CDs, but I would like to applaud her for all of her efforts and talents behind the scenes. You might get an interesting glimpse into the dynamics of a husband/wife entertainment team, and I might score some major love points with the Mrs., which never hurts!
If Roseann were applying for a job somewhere, and using her work with me as a reference, the list of her job functions could look something like this...
Producer, songwriter, copy writer, casting director, stage manager, musical director, marketing research, PR manager, business relations, video producer, child psychology and development research, video director, camera operator, child wrangler, costume designer, mascot performer, puppeteer, business adviser, artistic adviser, performance adviser, promoter, agent, networking, event planning, graphic artist, mechanic, electrician, handyman, talent coordinator, assistant to the artist, cashier, retail sales, quality control supervisor, performer, vocalist, business founder, entrepreneur, photographer, stylist, roadie, groupie, navigator, image consultant, operations manager, physical therapist, first-aid caregiver, nutritionist, human resources, sounding board, development team, muse, ego booster, ego leveler, backseat driver, map reader, relief driver, bargain hunter, customer service, billing/collections, legal adviser, set designer, comedy writer, temporary pickle jar opener (until my arm and finger injuries heal).
And then of course there are the all-important jobs of wife and mother. Certainly there are more job descriptions that I could add for her, but that gives you some idea of the many things that she does. It would take too long to elaborate on all of those job descriptions, but I'd like to add a few notes about some of those aspects.
Producer: Roseann is definitely an equal partner in terms of the producing aspect of my music. We have similar tastes, but we also have some individual preferences that make for a good blend. We have some arguments now and then about certain things, but when that happens, we've found that it's usually a case of properly communicating what it is that we want or don't want (which isn't always easy to do), and then finding something that works better. We try not to just compromise when there is a difference of opinion, but to find another solution that makes the whole thing better for both of us.
A good example of that is the song "Ants in the Lunchroom" from Monkey Business, where I really liked the song as it was but Roseann kept insisting that it felt too "heavy". I felt like that early Rush meets Jethro Tull kind of sound was cartoonish in this case and worked well for the idea of the song. We butted heads for a while on whether the song should be on that album (and if we didn't get beyond that argument, it wouldn't have been included). But then I had the idea to add the ant voices as part of the recording. I did a basic demo of that and Roseann loved it and realized that it added the cartoonishness that she wasn't feeling before and took away the feeling of heaviness that she didn't like, without taking away the heaviness that I did like. Roseann actually scripted most of the ant parts for the final recordings that she and Kenn Nesbitt performed, and we both ended up liking that song a lot better the way it turned out, and that track became a favorite for many kids from that album. We have had a lot of similar experiences while producing our albums, where there's usually something better to be gained from whatever conflict there might be.
Roseann is also a great producer when it comes to knowing when to say things like, "This song needs more cowbell!" or "Why on Earth are you using cowbell on this song?!" She has a great ear for pitch and instrumental balance and a terrific feel for what kids will respond to, or not. She generously lets me be the mad scientist and go experiment with sounds and parts, but she is also able to give some great direction and offer many creative ideas of her own, which often helps to complete the songs. I don't recall Roseann contributing too much to the writing of "Blackbeard, Bluebeard and Redbeard", but she was a big part of producing how the recording turned out, such as getting together the intro/outro parts with the big kid's interjections with the narrator, which I think added a lot to the self-deprecating nature of that track.
Another very significant production contribution Roseann had was to use just one really cute sounding little girl (who she found in her capacity as "casting director") as my audience for the recording of "The Elephant Song". I kept thinking we should use a live version or to bring in a throng of kids to respond together, to capture some of the frenzied and insistent responses that the song elicits in a live setting. But she felt that for the CD, it would be best to have a more controlled focus, because she wanted to feature the song better and she also felt that while a parent at a concert might laugh and enjoy watching their kid go bonkers, on an audio recording with a group of kids, that could be grating. Roseann was also instrumental (in her capacity as a "child wrangler") in getting Meghan, the girl who did the recording, to deliver a terrific performance that would be received well.
A quick mention here that Roseann the video director and graphic artist also designed the video for "The Elephant Song". It was originally meant to be nothing more than a demo, so she threw some pictures together on the MS Paint program, with the help of our daughter, Becca, to show me how it might work. But once we put it all together, we decided to show the "demo" to some other people and it took off from there, though she's still a little embarrassed that her initial rough sketch drawings are what is being seen around the world.
Songwriter: I give Roseann co-writing credit on all of my songs, because there is often something specific that she's added to every song. That may be minimal for some songs, such as, "That phrase needs to be reworded... How about this, instead?" or "How about a different chord there?", but there are also several songs where we've worked very closely together and her contribution has been very significant, and those have turned out to be some of my most popular, including "There's a Monster in My House", "The Elephant Song", "Bounce and Flap and Twist", "Cowboy Bergaleoukaleopaleous" and "No Big Deal".
Performer: Roseann has performed the following parts on my albums... The "Awww!" on "In the Box"; monkey sounds on "The Monkeys"; the parrot on "Blackbeard, Bluebeard and Redbeard"; backing vocals on "Crazy Over Vegetables" (which she also arranged); the mother on "I Am a Robot"; the legal speak on "Prune Juice"; some of the ant parts on "Ants in the Lunchroom" (Kenn Nesbitt did most of them); the mother in "Cowboy Bergaleoukaleopaleous"; co-lead vocals on "Steve the Superhero".
Stage manager/performance adviser: Roseann has been crucial over the last several years as an observer at my live shows, to help me improve as a performer and fine-tune my shows to be the most entertaining experience they can be, which can vary quite a bit depending on the audience, the venue and the particular circumstances of the event. Sometimes it feels a little disheartening when I feel like I just had a terrific show and then she tells me afterward about something I said or did that didn't work so well or could have been better, but I have learned to graciously accept her notes and use them to do better next time. Conversely, once in a while I feel like a show didn't go so well, but she might tell me about some things that I didn't observe that were very well received.
On rare occasions, she might even come up and give me an instruction during a show which is helpful to get things going in a better direction, or to keep things going in the right direction. For example, at a recent show I wasn't aware that most of my audience were European immigrants and weren't English-speaking, and so when I was getting a little frustrated that I had little reaction from the kids early on, she sensed that and told me about it after she found that out from the sound guy. And so for the rest of that show, doing more physical/dancing songs went over much better than the story/joke songs had early on. Roseann has some background in early childhood development and child psychology and experience working with special needs kids and has observed a lot from that which she has brought to our involvement with entertaining children.
I could go on and on about the specific things that Roseann has done and continues to do on a daily basis to help me do what I do, but this has probably been long enough. Hopefully I've scored enough bonus points with her already. Suffice to say that I'm incredibly grateful to be married to such a wonderful woman and to be able to work together with her and for the life and the love that we share. Also, as I talked about in this article about how I got into kids' music, I probably wouldn't be doing this at all if it weren't for Roseann's faith in me and encouragement, and I'm particularly grateful for that.