|MOMS WE LOVE
||KATIE DANZINGER OF NOMIE BABY
||MAGGIE LAMOND SIMONE
||REBECCA PIDGEON'S RECIPE
||HEALTHY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR KIDS
||WHAT HOLIDAY FOODS ARE SAFE--AND NOT SAFE--FOR PETS TO EAT
||HOW TO TAKE CARE OF A LIVE CHRISTMAS TREE
||SEQUIN TOPS THAT ARE EASY TO ROCK
||10 TIPS TO GET READY FOR THE HOLIDAY PARTY
||DATE LIKE YOU JUST MET
||HOLIDAY SNOWMEN HAND PRINTS
||A MARY CHRISTMAS: MARY J. BLIGE
||A MARY CHRISTMAS: MARY J. BLIGE
||DREAMWORKS HOLIDAY COLLECTION
||HOW TO PLAN AHEAD FOR SNOW DAYS
||HEALTHY COCKTAILS TO DRINK DURING PREGNANCY
|COOKING WITH THE KIDDOS
||SANTA CLAUS TRACKING APPS
|AT THE OFFICE
||HOW TO DEAL WITH INTERRUPTIONS
||TOYS THAT PROMOTE AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
||WHEN TO GIVE YOUR KIDS CASH FOR CHRISTMAS
Sean Kanan is a true bad boy—and also a gentleman. The former soap opera actor has now taken his naughty boy image and is showing fellow bad boys how to be good guys…with an edge. We spoke exclusively with Sean and his wife Michele about making a blended family work, Sean's love of cooking, and why life is all about making the hottest choices.
Photos: Gabbeli Photography
Sean, everyone knows you from your work on The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful, but they might not know that you have a radio show.
Sean: Michele is really great about whatever harebrained scheme I come up with. I yell, “Charge!” and Michele is hitting the horse behind me! [laughs] I have done so many radio shows over my career and I like the medium. I thought it would be interesting to do it, but about our lives. Michele and I have 5 kids and we live in Hollywood, and we’re often asked how we do it all. So we decided to share our experiences with the world in our radio show, Kanan's Rules.
Michele: I was as soccer mom in the suburbs and then one night I met Sean and he said, “We have to do this,” and very quickly my life changed very dramatically.
What is it like working as a blended family?
Sean: Obviously, it has its challenges. My daughter is 12 and Michele has 4 kids. In the beginning, there was a transitional vibe. It wasn’t easy for them. They had their dad and then in came in a new guy and we were all trying to make it work. It wouldn’t be normal had there not been friction. I can say that each kid brought something to my life that I didn’t expect.
I know that you both have very strong opinions on keeping romance alive in a marriage.
Michele: When you’re married for a while, there isn’t time for romance. Kids can suck the life out of you, and it’s really easy to fall into your kids and not be into your partner.
Sean: You really have to carve out time as a husband and wife within the confines of being loving, involved parents. You see so many houses where there are toys everywhere and moms are wearing sweatpants and the sexuality is sucked out the relationship. You’re servicing the kids and not the marriage.
Michelle: As parents, we have our space, the kids have their spaces, and then we have spaces together as a family. We do things as a family and also as a couple. I love our children, and that is a huge part of my life, but I love my marriage, too.
Sean: I am not really compromising with my marriage and that has created a very autonomous sensibility with the kids. They know that we are there for them but they also know that we are not just bodyguard, chef, and chauffeur. It is finding that balance, and it can be trickier when it is a blended family. I know that some people might think that our philosophy is selfish, but this helps fuel the family unit but not at the detriment of the family.
Kids need to see loving, happy parents, or they are going to wind up with dysfunctional kids.
Michele: Yes, and they take it to heart. They design their relationships according to what they’ve seen.
I admire the fact that you’re open and honest about these issues. Most people aren’t.
Sean: It can be seen as politically incorrect. It should be all about the kids, but it’s not. It is, but it’s also all about us, too.
We should mention your skincare line, Skin 2 Skin Care.
Skin 2 Skin Care was developed by a gentleman who had a brain tumor and created products that would be effective for his skin. The line is made from certified organic ingredients and is really effective. I have been using them for years, and they work amazingly.
Let’s talk about your book, The Modern Gentleman. In some ways, it’s an autobiography, but it’s also a cookbook.
Sean: I have always loved cooking. I started back in college; I never trained formally. Some friends suggested that I start a restaurant, but I knew that could be the quickest way to lose all your money, so I chose to write a book instead! [laughs] The book is a hybrid; yes, it will teach you how to cook, but there is also a whole part of the book about reclaiming being a gentleman without being a doormat, for lack of a better word. It gives women a front row seat into the theater of the male psyche, and it teaches men to be better guys. I took a chapter from my own life that had an impact on me. I studied martial arts my entire life, and how martial arts has taught me discipline and hopefully how to be a better gentleman. I studied Italian, too, and I think all of those things have taught me how to be a more well-rounded person.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other. You don’t have to be a jerk or a putz.
Sean: I agree. I think you can be a badass and still be a gentleman, and be a nice guy. I had a great acting teacher, and he would say, “Dare to suck.” A lot of the lessons I learned as an actor apply to life, and being a gentleman. If you’re not willing to dare to fail, you’re never going to reach to make the best choices. And life is all about making the hottest choices.
|VOL V, ISSUE XXXV
||CELEBRITY PARENTS MAGAZINE
|MOMS WE LOVE
||SONIA KANG OF MIXED UP CLOTHING
||SEAN KANAN'S RECIPE
||NEW STUDY ON GUN VIOLENCE
||WHAT NOT TO GIVE YOUR PETS TO EAT THIS THANKSGIVING
||HOW TO SET YOUR THANKSGIVIN TABLE
||HOW TO DRESS FOR A HOLIDAY PARTY
||THE BEST WAY TO APPLY MASCARA
||IS SEXTING CHEATING?
||MEANINGFUL THANKSGIVING CRAFTS
||PACHAS PAJAMAS: A STORY WRITTEN BY NATURE
||LIGHT UP LINKS
||TRANSFORMERS PRIME: SEASON THREE--BEAST HUNTERS
||HOW TO ADOPT AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
||WHY SINGING TO YOUR BABY HELPS BOTH OF YOU
|COOKING WITH THE KIDDOS
||REVAMPING THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS
||BLACK FRIDAY APPS
|AT THE OFFICE
||WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR BOSS ASKS FOR YOUR FACEBOOK PASSWORD
||EMOJI ICONS--BRACELETS AND CELL PHONE CASES
||WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR SPENDING STYLES CLASH
Daytime soap opera fans rejoice! This week's cover celeb is the gorgeous Sean Kanan. Sean has starred on daytime soaps such as General Hospital (as A.J. Quartermaine), and on The Bold and the Beautiful (as Deacon Sharpe) as well as The Young and the Restless. Read this week's exclusive cover story with Sean, where we talk about parenting, being a gentleman, and how to keep the passion alive in a marriage!
Tess Broussard may be a Southern belle, but she is certainly no shrinking violet. As the co-star on Comedy Central’s hit show, Kroll Show, Tess handles herself like a lady—while still being dishing out the laughs. We spoke exclusively with the soft-spoken actress about pursuing your passion, what it’s really like to be a single mom, and why it can be fun to die—twice.
Let’s talk about your background, Tess.
I’m Chinese, Hawaiian and French. My Dad is Cajun; my parents met when my mom was in Europe modeling. They were married three months later.
Were you always into performing?
I would perform in high school and I loved it. I was also always a fitness buff. In high school I majored in every sport imaginable. I could bounce a quarter off of any part of my body. I was doing a lot of fitness and swimsuit modeling while I was at Pepperdine University.
I got an agent and she wanted me to go to acting school because I had a really thick southern accent. I was booking commercials and then got involved with Playboy. I was a Playboy model and I did a lot of their movies, too. It was an amazing experience. I got a part on the series, V. R. Troopers, and that was super fun too. I had too many broken bones from sparring and getting my butt kicked, so I didn’t do it after that. I did more hostessing work, and I did The Man Show with Jimmy Kimmel. Little by little I got to say more and more lines, which made me so happy!
Now let’s talk about you being on the Kroll Show.
I tried out for this show called Kroll Show. I wrote my own script and then I went really big with my audition. I got the part and I was so excited. I got called back to come back and be a regular on the show, playing Nick Kroll’s wife, Shannon. It’s a very dysfunctional family, to say the least.
You’re going into your third season now, right?
Yes, I have been on for two seasons and going into the third. In the second season, I get killed, two ways. The first way is violently by Dr. Armand because I had a relationship with his son! Oops me. [laughs] And then I die another way, too. But the juicy parts are so much fun.
So what is it like being a single mom?
It’s been a true delight. I did a lot of things that I wanted to do when I was younger. I had my daughter later on in life and now I can devote my time to her. It works for me. I don’t know what it would be like to have a husband and work together to raise a kid. I’m so used to being a single mom and I honestly love it.
You’re mom and dad.
That’s true. I’m very involved in her school. I am such a nerd. I love volunteering at her school’s library. She loves it because when I go to see her at lunch she runs up to me and hugs me. She likes to go shopping with me, too. We have a lot of fun together. She’ll even do the red carpet with me!
I have my kids with me a lot, too. It’s good for kids to see their moms working and doing something that they love, so they get the idea that work can fulfill you in a whole other way that doesn’t relate to them.
I think it’s great that you bring your kids with you. And I absolutely agree; with the way everything is today, your kids do become a part of your work life. I want to be a role model for my daughter, to encourage her to follow her dreams and make them a reality. Just like her mom did.
||CELEBRITY PARENTS MAGAZINE
|MOMS WE LOVE
||THE PERFECT DOG
||TESS BROUSSARD'S RECIPE
||HOW TO GET THE SLEEP YOU NEED AT NIGHT
||WHY PETS MAKE GREAT READING PARTNERS FOR KIDS
||HOW TO SET A GREAT THANKSGIVING TABLE
||HOW TO PICK OUT THE PERFECT PONCHO
||ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: MAKING ORANGE WORK FOR YOUR SKIN TONE
||THE POWER OF A SINGLE MOTHER
||THE DIRTY SOCKS COME CLEAN
||HOMEDICS SHIATSU PRO FOOT MASSAGER
||BARNEY-3 MOVIE PACK
||HOW TO (POLITELY) PREVENT PEOPLE FROM TOUCHING YOUR BABY
||BABY BRAIN AT WORK
|COOKING WITH THE KIDDOS
||GETTING YOUR KIDS INTO CRANBERRIES
|AT THE OFFICE
||HOW TO DEAL WITH A CATTY COWORKER
||NEW CABBAGE PATCH KIDS DOLLS
||HOW TO AVOID GOING INTO DEBT DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Whether you got to know them reading the books or watching
the TV show, Max & Ruby are undoubtedly two of the cutest characters in
kids’ literature. We spoke exclusively with Rosemary Wells, the author and
creator of Max & Ruby, about the importance of early children’s literacy,
why e-books will never replace the intimacy of a good book, and why it’s
important in any relationship for one person to be the kite and the other
person to hold the string.
As the creator of Max
& Ruby, could you ever have imagined the success of those two adorable
brother and sister bunnies?
Not at all. What’s important to note is that I write the
books and that’s where I feel the real Max and Ruby live. The show is nice and
wholesome, and for that reason, it’s good TV. That said, I think that children
watch entirely too much TV, and I greatly believe in encouraging kids to read.
The first five years of life are so important. The American Academy of
Pediatrics has stated that there should be no TV at all before the age of 2,
and after that, an hour a day which should be supervised. I understand that’s
very hard to do for a family that’s busy, but families were busy 50 years ago,
I would think that kids
who are watching the show would then be inspired to go out and read the books.
That’s what you hope. The readership of children’s books has
fallen greatly in the past few years. Our libraries do not have the funds to
supply their shelves with books. Books are expensive and people’s discretionary
income is not at all what it was before the recession. So children’s books, as
an industry, have begun to cycle way down. Publishing is having a very hard
time, between the government defunding all the book buying, and the population
not having money. Nonetheless, the children’s libraries have lots of books and
have story hours. Some parents feel uncomfortable reading to their children,
but a few visits to the library will cover that. There’s no better way to learn
to read English than to do it with children’s books, because it’s simple. You
can even just read the pictures.
But without the TV
You can’t have the TV as a background noise. There has to be
a family agreement to have it off so people can gather their thoughts. When
your child is six to seven months old, put him or her in your lap for 20
minutes, and enter that wonderful world. All you have to do is convey a love of
story. Books allow children to escape to another world, and nothing compares to
it. TV doesn’t engender the love that a parent’s voice can project to a child. It
becomes a real memory for a child.
When your children
get old enough to read by themselves, you feel that sense of loss.
Oh, but you never stop reading, and reading aloud. When you
have children of different ages, you always read to the oldest one. The little
ones listen up. When I write, I never write for a specified age level. I always
write for the most intelligent child, because I believe that the most
intelligent child can live in the South Bronx, in East L.A., or in the rural
hills of Kentucky. Children learn up; they don’t want to be spoken down to. If
you’re reading Treasure Island to a
room full of older children, believe that the three-year-old in the room is
With you as a mother
(and grandmother), I would assume that you are a rock star to your kids and
I have five granddaughters. They span from a year old to two
who are almost four, to nine-year-old twins. I have an awful lot of kids in my
life. And I just love it. But to them, I’m just Ohmie. When your children grow
up with anything—even if they have movie stars as parents—they take it for
granted. They never bat an eye.
That’s true. I’ve
taken my kids with me on some amazing shoots; they’ve met some of the most
interesting people today, and it doesn’t even faze them.
That’s a good thing. I will teach my grandchildren to draw
and they want to sharpen my pencils; they pay it no mind, as if I were a
housemaid. It means nothing to them. It’s healthy.
Sitting here in your
living room, there are so many beautiful books. Do you ever fear for the day
when there will be no more books in the traditional sense?
I don’t like reading books onscreen. Children’s books on
screen don’t work. They are too expensive to do. The publisher has to cherry
pick their list. If you give a Kindle or a Nook to a child, they just swipe and
they don’t read. The book has to be read to them. The voice can’t keep up and
it’s just a mish mosh. And animation is so expensive, so some of these books
have animation out of 1981, which is just terrible! Picture books on e-books are
not good, and it comes as a barrier between the parent and the child. I think
for emergencies and special situations it’s okay to take out your iPad but it’s
not a book. I don’t like reading that way.
It seems impersonal.
It does! However, I love books on tape. I’m a big fan of
audible books; they’re great for kids. You’re picturing and imagining, so the
child is still using his imagination.
I think the sliding
motion can never replace actually turning a page.
You know what it is? It’s a loss of intimacy. But Jennifer,
it’s the way of the world now. It’s very sad to me, too. We agree on that.
We should point out
that Max & Ruby are not the only characters you write about. You’ve also
written historical books as well as some new characters.
That’s right. Yoko is one of my absolute favorite
characters. I always say that my books are completely non-fiction. They are all
based on real incidents from my childhood or my children’s childhood. Yoko is
based on three little girls from the first grade in my daughter’s school. Now,
this was 35 years ago, before there were sushi restaurants anywhere! These
three little Japanese girls came in with bento boxes for lunch that their
mothers had made for them. The Americans kids would say, “Raw fish? Ew! Get me
out of there.” But there were three little girls, so they would laugh and go
home and not care. So Yoko illustrates what it is to be a writer. Telling the
story of the three kids makes no emotional impact at all. So I saw the teasing
and the bullying and the insensitivity, and I saw it had no effect. But then I
thought, “Ah! Suppose there was just one
little girl. How would she feel?” And that’s where you change reality to make a
greater reality. It becomes a question of what is it to be like to be teased
for your language, or your lunch or your clothing? Children as a group can very
often be ruthless and verging on a mob mentality. So Yoko is about being one,
and once I had one, I had a story.
There have been quite a number of Yoko books, and there’s
also Sophie. What she is Terrible Two’s. Every problem is a simple one; Granny
comes in and solves the problem. I try to make it funny as well as real.
There’s also Felix, a new series based on an old character, but I’ve made him
older. He’s in kindergarten now, and he has a best friend named Wendy. She is
everything he is not; she’s bossy and pushy, and Felix is a sweet, dear wuss.
She always saves him.
I love that! I love
that she saves him, and not the other way around.
She faces down the bullies. He is the temperate judge. In
every relationship, there is the kite and the holder of the string. Felix is
the holder of the string, and she is the kite. And that’s the way it should be
in every good relationship, whether it’s in real life or written in the pages
of a book.
Brad Smith is dynamic, both on and off the football field.
We spoke with the quarterback, kick returner and wide receiver for the Buffalo
Bills about family, his future in football, and why dogs are sometimes better
Photos: Gabbeli Photography
Let’s talk about your involvement with an organization that
is near and dear to my heart, The North Shore Animal League (NSAL). It’s the
largest no-kill shelter in the United States.
I love working with North Shore Animal League, and raising awareness
to helping pets find their forever homes. They are having a 36-hour
Adopt-a-thon and the hope is that a lot of people come out to adopt.
Are you a dog or a cat person?
Definitely a dog person. We have two dogs, one Mastiff and
one Tibetan Terrier. I always had dogs growing up. We didn’t always take care
of them—my parents did—but we did learn some responsibilities.
There’s nothing like a dog’s love.
Every day you fall more in love with them. Dogs are amazing.
95% of the time having kids is awesome, and the other 5% of the time you wish
you had dogs instead of kids!
[laughs] Let’s talk about your career in football.
This is my 8th year in the NFL, so I’ve been
blessed to play this long. I want to continue to improve and work on my craft
and get to the SuperBowl. That’s the ultimate goal.
Do you ever get scared that you’ll suffer a major injury?
You can’t think about it. Like anything in life, you can’t
imagine the worst possible outcome. You just have to do it, and see how it
plays out for you.
What does football mean to you?
It’s something I’ve done since I was six-years-old. I’ve
always loved playing; it got me into college, but I love the sport. I truly respect
the game. It’s taught me how to appreciate everything in life and understand that
there’s a time and a season for everything.
Is your son Bradley showing any inclination towards football?
Not yet. I’ve never pushed him; I want to let him choose
what he loves. Right now, he’s crazy about dinosaurs! He loves them so much,
and sometimes I want to say, “Hey, hold the football instead of the dinosaur!”
[laughs] But I want him to do what he loves. I want him to learn about it; my wife
goes crazy teaching him different things, like how to spell and count, but
using dinosaurs as the example.
You have to meet kids where they are.
Absolutely. I’m hands-on but I’m not pushy. When he was
younger, I would always want to hold him and have him sleep on my chest, but he
didn’t want to do that. But I was there, though. And I’m always going to be there.
I’m hands-on but I’m also hands-off.
What about for your little girl?
Oh, I’m going to be hands-on all the time! [laughs] I’m
going to have the two dogs surrounding her at all times. But I couldn’t do it all
without my wife, Rosalynn. She has a PhD, and there’s so much that she could be
doing professionally, but she took time off from work to properly raise the
kids. That means more to her than money. Ultimately, I want to be the guiding
factor for both of my children.
Haviland Morris has landed the role of a lifetime. Best known for her starring roles in movies such as Sixteen Candles, Gremlins 2 as well as recent roles in The Good Wife and Jack and Diane, Haviland has had an impressive acting career spanning three decades--and found success on her own terms. We spoke exclusively with Haviland about acting, her new career
as a real estate agent and how she’s struck the perfect balance between work,
family and having fun doing it all.
Photos: Gabbeli Photography
Hair/Makeup: Renee Strong
Most people know you
as an actress, but you are actually a very successful real estate agent here in
I’ve been a real estate for Halstead Property for six years
now and I love it. I was an actress for 25 years and had been fortunate enough to
make my living solely doing that. Then I got to a certain age and things
started to slow down. It wasn’t enough financially or to construct something to
do all day, so I thought about what to do next. I hooked up with the actors work
program, which is an arm of the actors’ fund, which provides social services
for people in the entertainment industry. They are an amazing organization. It
helped them find parallel careers or the next career; it helps them find what
the next thing will be. I took classes, learning Microsoft and attended
seminars. Nothing resonated with me.
So I went to a seminar and there was a woman there who was a
recruiter from another real estate firm, and what she said clicked. I had
started doing my own home design firm, so I always loved homes and real estate.
When I learned more about being a real estate agent, I loved the potential for
flexibility. I got my license and worked in the rental business before coming
What do you like best
about being a real estate agent?
It’s a psychological journey, whether you’re dealing with
the seller or buyer. You get to know them really well and match them up with
what they need. There are really strategies and skills that you need to
coordinate. It was a really interesting transition for me. As an actress, you
get to go and live in that world, but it’s meant for a three year old; everything
is done for you. Being a parent is a grown up job. But being a grown up with a
grown up job in a grown up world is very different. People are asking for
guidance and you need to guide them.
How has the acting
Everything that you need for acting is all about
understanding people. In order to play any character is because you studied and
you understand the human psyche. That’s what you need for real estate because
you’re dealing with so many human psyches, all day every day. Plus I grew up
overseas so I’ve been exposed to many cultural norms. You can walk around in a
bubble every day, thinking that everyone thinks like you, but most don’t. I
find real estate to be extremely dramatic and compelling and exciting.
You touched on this
before, but your job offers you some really great work life balance.
It’s true. I pick up my kid from school every day. That’s my
favorite thing ever. And yet, I have a full time job that is exciting and
energetic and allows me to take a vacation with my son or even go to the movies
with him. I pick him up at school and we eat dinner together and do homework. I
live three blocks from my office, which is hugely lovely. There is a lot of
activity in my home so it’s nice to be able to dash back and forth. When my
daughter Faith was born, who is 22 now, I was acting solely. I had flexibility
then, but I also had a nanny for half the day. I would go on auditions in the
afternoon when she was there. The kids are 9 years apart and it’s been great
because both Faith and Henry got a great amount of time with me.
Haviland, you know I’m
dying to ask you about Sixteen Candles!
I’m definitely best known for that movie. It became a cult
film. It wasn’t even like its release was that so momentous, but it’s on TV all
the time now. I was 23 when I filmed it. I haven’t seen it that many times,
honestly. People will come up to me and quote my dialogue from the movie. It was
a really fun movie to shoot, though.
When I first saw the
movie, I thought that was really your hair that they cut.
The truth is that is really my real hair color. In the
beginning of the movie, it’s my real hair, but in the middle of the movie, I’m
wearing the wig.
It was a really innocent group and time. There weren’t a lot
of teen movies; it was John Hughes’ first movie and he had never directed
before. None of us were really stars. Molly Ringwald hadn’t hit yet and so it
was a bunch of kids on set. John Hughes was so much fun and he created an
atmosphere of summer camp silliness. We would improv and if the lines were good
he would include them in the movie. He and Anthony Michael Hall were like two
15-year-olds together. They were fast and furious.
You were the envy of every
girl in the 80s. You were Jake Ryan’s girlfriend!
Jake Ryan was a really nice guy in real life, too. He had a very
beautiful girlfriend who he then later married. It was only a
six-week shoot, so it was really fast. He was very much in person the strong,
silent type. I’m in touch with Debbie Pollack, who played the Marlene the Lumberjack
in the movie. There were three sets of people in the movie; those playing the
parents, there were those who were actually 15 and 16, and those of us who were
in our 20s playing teenagers. Blanche Baker, and Gedde [Watanabe] and I would
hang out together.
Would you consider
yourself an 80s actress?
I think that I’m most known for the movies I was in during
that time. But I worked on so many other projects, too. When my daughter was
born, I didn’t want to throw her under my left arm and keep going. I was
pregnant with her at the wrap party for Gremlins
2, and I was having the year that everything was happening. Having children
when I did at the point in my career along with the way I do motherhood
impacted my career in a major way. But I have absolutely no regrets. I feel so
lucky that I didn’t do it a different way because I discovered that fame is
something I would have hated so much. Everything that comes along with fame
wouldn’t have suited me. Of course, I didn’t know that then, but I know it now.
I get recognized, two or three times a week, by people who say nice things to
me. That’s great and fabulous and enough for me.
But you’re still
I made a movie, Jack and Diane, and I’m doing commercials,
too. I’m still in it, but on my terms. That’s the transition that I couldn’t
make, that I would never act again. There’s part of being an actress that’s an
adolescent impulse. I don’t need a lot; just a little bit. I did a one-woman
show a couple of years ago and that was great. I’ve had fun parts that were
worth doing. It’s exciting to go away and act and then come back to my great
They’re elementary school teachers by day, and rockin’
musicians by night. (And weekends, too.) The band members of the super popular
kids’ group Recess Monkey—Jack Forman, Drew Holloway, and Daron Henry—are
creating cool kids’ music that both parents and kids alike can rock out to. Bubbly
and bursting with energy, we spoke with the gentleman of Recess Monkey about
good kids’ music, authenticity and combining work with family life.
Let’s talk about the
history of the band.
Jack: We were all teachers
together in Seattle. The school is progressive; teachers are called by their
first names and we’re very rarely standing in front of a classroom, delivering
a one-size-fits-all curriculum. We know each and every child individually and
build relationships. Drew teaches pre-K and Kindergarten and music; Daron
teaches Kindergarten and first grade. And I teach first and second grade.
We appreciated each other as colleagues first and foremost. Then
we discovered our mutual love of music, and tried to tough it out in the indie
music scene in Seattle but that’s hard to do when you’re teaching. Late nights
and early mornings don’t mix. When we did our first kids’ show, there were hundreds
of people there. It was like turning on a light switch. It felt like something
really authentic to us.
I know that you first
started out in the adult market but then switched to the kids’ market. How did
that come to be?
Drew: I was in a graduate class and we proposed our final
project, and I proposed an album of songs about preschool and kindergarten.
That was the catalyst to getting us behind the songs.
Jack: And they were exactly what we do now. They were indie
rock songs but with kid-driven content. It took a little bit of experimenting
to realize that we didn’t have to change what we were already doing that much.
Making that discovery was huge for us, because we didn’t know what kids’ music
could be, and then we realized that it could be pretty much what we were
already doing. What a cool circumstance to find ourselves in.
As a parent, you pray
that the song that your child wants to listen to incessantly is a song that you
can groove to, too.
Daron: We definitely feel that adults are the core part of
our audience. More than adults listening to our songs, our band has to listen
to our songs, so we have to love them. There’s a place for all kinds of kids’
music, and that diversity is great.
Now being from
Seattle, which is the birthplace of indie rock, what is that like?
Daron: Well, we were influenced by everything around us. The
music, the artists, and also the environment.
Jack: I agree; I think it’s the weather, too. It feels like
Alaska for 3 months out of the year. It’s not cold but it’s dark, so it’s a
great time to make music. We spend a lot of time in the studio from November to
February, writing and recording songs. So that way when the sun comes out and
everyone in Seattle leaves their home and rejoices with so much more energy, we
have new songs that we can play.
How has the band’s
style changed over the years?
Jack: Boy it hasn’t been calculated. I bet that if you look
through our records you could predict what we were listening to when we were
creating it! The Beatles is a constant source of inspiration, along with 80s
pop. We love music but we also love instruments, so for every new album we buy
new instruments and you can hear their appearance in one album and see their
development over later records. I bought a really cool vintage synthesizer a
few records ago and we keep using it over all the new records.
Your music then
becomes a journal for you.
Daron: That’s true. And we’re
also influenced by the kids in the classroom. Drew is an amazing songwriter. We
get inspired by our kids and then Drew funnels that into songs. And keeping
track of what kids are talking about and training ourselves to listen in a
certain way is very important. The music also reflects big milestones that have
happened to each of us, too. When we bring on new people to collaborate with,
it keeps it creative and pushes us to try new things. We’re not pigeonholed by
a label, and that’s extremely liberating as artists.
As rockstars who are also teachers, what is that like for you in the
Drew: In the classroom, you’re
sitting next to a kid who’s wearing a Recess Monkey tee shirt and you’re doing
math with him. [laughs] It’s so much fun, but when we’re in the classroom, it’s
not about the music.
Jack: It’s all about having
interests outside of school, and in this case, both the teachers and the
students do. If we were teaching in a more buttoned-down, necktie type of school
where it was more strict and totalitarian, it would seem stranger to the
kids. But we strive so hard to be human and model mistake-making that it’s not
difficult at all.
Daron: We look the same in the
classroom as we do on the stage. We look and act the same so there really is no
Drew: On Friday’s you get to wear
the sparkly pants, though. [laughs]
Gotta love a good casual Friday. Now, let’s talk about the new album, In Tents.
Jack: We had been talking about a
circus album for years, but we never did it because the circus is such a
ubiquitous kids’ theme. Every preschool has a circus day, so we would joke
about that. But the more we thought about it, circus can be caricaturized, but
there’s such a rich tradition and a lot of history, too. The energy is so
magical and mysterious all at once. We teamed up with Teatro ZinZanni to
perform some shows—it’s a beautiful show that’s part circus and comedy and
cabaret. We’ve been learning how to do some tricks, too; we’re trying to do the
human pyramid. Our music becomes the soundtrack for this show. It’s a
jaw-dropping show and a truly eclectic experience.
Now, as dads, how do you balance it all?
Drew: We drink a lot of coffee.
Being a dad is my most favorite hat to wear; it’s the best job and the hardest
job. I have a really great support network that allows me to do this. It’s
great to have an additional job like this, one that the whole family is a part
of. My six-year-old is already giving me pointers and telling me what the next
album theme should be.
Jack: My son is fifteen months
old, so he’s just coming online to know what to do when music plays. There’s no
feeling when you see the kids dancing at your shows. It’s truly an honor. But
when you look out and see among all the dancing kids that one of them is your
own, there are no words to describe that.