On The Cover: Choo Choo Soul's Genevieve Goings
Genevieve Goings is truly going places. As the star of Playhouse Disney’s Choo Choo Soul, Genevieve portrays the Conductor, transporting kids to a magical musical world. Kind of like what she’s doing in real life, too. Celebrity Parents spoke exclusively with Genevieve about Choo Choo Soul, (good) music for kids, and why she would love to play (sigh) Willy Wonka on Broadway.
Photography: Gabbeli Photography
Hair/Makeup: Indira Henriquez
Yes, I was. My parents were both musicians. It was great that they were musicians, because they accepted that as a real-life goal! As a kid, though, I was pretty shy. I didn’t get into a recording studio until I was 19 years-old. I started by doing rap hooks.
I sang in a band called LEGATO in the Bay Area. It was Neo Soul, with electronic undertones. I called it “genre jambalaya”, because it had all these different musical influences! From performing with LEGATO, I began to develop my free styling skills, which is something I love to do. DC joined the group, and did beat boxing.
How did you become involved with Choo Choo Soul?
I got an audition for a video game voiceover, ToeJam and Earl III: Mission to Earth. The game was developed by Greg Johnson. I didn’t get that job, but Greg and I really hit it off. On the ToeJam and Earl III game, there were a lot of other character voices, and I did ten other voices, including one of the narrators, who was a gospel singer. The gospel singers didn’t sing, and I said that they should. Greg liked the idea, and he wrote out ten pages for me to sing.
Later on, Greg approached me about doing a kids CD that was hip and cool. We recorded it as CD to hopefully get it into stores and schools. At the time, we weren’t sure what we were hoping for! That’s how Choo Choo Soul was born.
Let’s talk about what Choo Choo Soul is.
Choo Choo Soul is basically a music video. It is about a magical train where kids come on to sing and dance in a magical world of learning. I’m the Conductor who helps start the party and leads the kids. DC is the Engineer who drives the train. He also makes the beats, keeps the rhythm constant and does wonderful dance work, which is very important, especially in the live shows that we do.
Since you had come from the adult music market, what were your feelings about going into the kids’ market?
In the beginning, I was concerned about it. After all, I considered myself to be a “professional R&B singer”, with a professional career, but making zero dollars! [laughs] But one day, I thought, I’ll be the next MaryJ. Blige!
I honestly haven’t missed performing for adults as much as I thought I would. Kids are precious and amazing and inspiring. They don’t care how much you weigh or what you wear. Performing for children has actually created more of a desire in me to entertain, because they are so receptive. It’s made me a better performer.
And now you’re a leading entertainer in the kids’ market.
It’s so fun and it’s perfect for me. It fits my personality in so many ways, from the self-deprecating humor, to the exciting, silly, bubbly, easy-going parts of me. And it has the urban component, which I love. We’re not talking or singing down to the kids. The kids have rhythm and they will shake their diapers to a beat! As Choo Choo Soul, we want them to shake it to their ABC’s. I take so much pride in the music, and the way we represent ourselves.
Do you think that kids’ musical palettes are developed at an early age?
I totally agree with that! You have to expose them to all different kinds of music, not just “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. I feel that we should make music fun and interesting and educational. In Choo Choo Soul, I love the fact that kids get that great exposure to learning. I love the diversity of me and DC; we’re a culturally diverse duo. He’s black, I’m brown, now let’s dance! We teach this through show. I definitely like what we’re projecting; we’re friends, and it’s a good thing for kids to see.
I think a great part of the success of Choo Choo Soul is the fact that you were friends to begin with.
DC and I have been through so much together. We’re each other’s biggest fans. He’s the most amazing entertainer who ever walked on his hands!
In addition to the music videos, Choo Choo Soul tours frequently.
The tours are wonderful. We’ve started to book our tours independently now. We did the Disney Music Block Party last year, with the Imagination Movers and Dan Zanes. That was a big tour for us. And we were just in NYC doing two shows. We headlined the Target and New York Times Book Festival. We’ve been a part of the Festival for three years now, and this year, we hosted it and performed as well.
What is the future for Choo Choo Soul?
We have the blessing from Disney to tour as much as possible, and to build the brand. We are hoping for a full show. We have lots of great ideas for it. We would love to continue teaching kids through music. We have had an amazing response from the autistic community. We’ve been told that autistic kids really respond well to our music. We would love to pursue that more. From books, to more music -- to even doing a Choo Choo Soul cartoon -- we want to do it all.
In addition to Choo Choo Soul, you mentioned during the shoot that you are personally doing work with Disney Publishing Worldwide.
Disney Publishing Worldwide opened three schools in China. I am helping them to write their musical curriculum to help teach children to learn English. By using the magic of Disney, children learn vocabulary words through songs. I’ve been doing this for a year now, and have helped them develop an entire phonics program. The songs that I write are being put with Disney video. For example, one lesson I was working on was the words “before, after, next” etc. It was set in a Peter Pan setting, so I created the song to make it sound like Peter Pan and Wendy. It’s so cool; it sounds like I’m making it up! I can’t believe this is my job.
You’re also doing great charity work, too.
I’m working with this amazing organization called the George Mark Children’s House. Based in San Leandro, CA, George Mark provides hospice care for terminally ill children and their families. It allows them to spend the child’s last days in a home-style setting.
Together with Skyler Jett and Kenny G, we created a song called "Eternally". Fifty percent of the proceeds from this song will go directly to the George Mark House.
And I also have a new record out, called Diversity Personified.
I would love to be on Broadway. I want to play Willy Wonka.
That’s so cool! Why Willy Wonka?
It’s a fantasy role I’d love to play. I think he’s eccentric, dreamy, and just magical. Maybe because I’m dressed like a train conductor, I’m past my glam phase! It would combine my love of performing with my love for kids, too.
It’s amazing how Choo Choo Soul opened up a whole new world for you.
It did. In this industry, people are afraid of being pigeonholed. I’m not; I embrace what I’m doing and I’m really proud of the work. I can’t see myself doing anything else, and I can’t wait for the world to see us more!