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Shawn Colvin's album of lullabies is for kids and their parents

Singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin.
Singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin.
Joseph Llanes

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It’s safe to say that children’s music acts such as Raffi and The Wiggles don’t exactly resonate with adult audiences. But that doesn’t mean that the melodies of a few of our favorite children’s songs can’t be manipulated for older ears. In the 1988 album, “Stay Awake,” some top rock musicians interpreted classic Disney songs for all ages to appreciate.

In her newly released album, “The Starlighter,” contemporary folk singer Shawn Colvin adds to the archive of adult-friendly children’s music. The inspiration came from a book published in 1965 by Alec Wilder called “Lullabies and Night Songs” which Colvin read as a child. 

"The Starlighter" was released by Amazon on Feb. 23. The Frame's host, John Horn, recently caught up with Colvin to talk about her process of embellishing kids songs with adult feeling. 

Interview Highlights 

On her initial reluctance to make a children's album:

Well, I was asked to do a children's album. And I didn't have an inspiration for it. And I guess, to be fair — and this is unfair — I thought, Well I don't want to make a simple been-done-before kind of thing. I couldn't think of what I wanted to do that inspired me or might be a little different. And then I remembered this book, which is so dear to me and I love so much. It is lullabies. So I asked Amazon if lullabies would be okay and they gave me the go-ahead. 

On what she remembers from Alec Wilder's book, "Lullabies and Night Songs":

It's quite a large book — not thick, but tall and wide, because there are these amazing illustrations by Maurice Sendak, who did "Where the Wild Things Are" and any number of other great kids books. And there's also simple piano arrangements. I'd taken piano since I was six-years-old so I could read the notes. And they were fairly simple to read. But the chords were not. The chords under the melody were not simple. And all I'd played up 'til that point [were] simple things that you teach a kid on the piano, then some classical music. You know minuets and "Fur Elise" by Beethoven. Church music, which is pretty straight forward. And this was different. 

On how she makes her music simultaneously relevant to adults and children:

The production value sprang from the arrangements themselves and the voicings on the piano. And we followed those to the note because they're so brilliant. But we did embellish. It's not just piano arrangements. We tried to be pretty sophisticated about it. There's strings and brush drums. We tried to make it somewhat sophisticated. I think that's not only for the adults, but as an eight-year-old, this really moved me, these arrangements. And I think we maybe under-rate what the kids can appreciate. 


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