like Alison on Facebook! follow Alison on Twitter!

Alison Chats with Ronnie's Awesome List

August 11, 2015 - 10:23am -- admin

Alison
Faith Levy, formerly of The Sippy Cups, is one of the hottest names in
children's music. She recently released her second album, "The Start of
Things," to rave reviews and understandably so. It's a fun yet
sophisticated blend of musical styles that will not only appeal to
children but adults too. She will be performing 11am at the 
Mill Valley Library on August 16. Alison joined me in a conversation about her new album and future play she has written.

I'm really excited to talk to you. I used to take my daughter to see you in The Sippy Cups at The Bay Area Discovery Museum.

I
love the Discovery Museum. I’ll be performing there in November. It’s
fun and important for kids to see a real rock band perform. 

When
my daughter was born, musicians I admire started creating children's
music, Dan Zanes and They Might Be Giants, and new recording artists
such as Laurie Berkner and The Sippy Cups. What did your son listen to
before you formed The Sippy Cups?

We love
the Smithsonian compilation with Pete Seeger. But when Henry was born is
when Dan Zanes came out and he loved him. He also loved, local
favorite, Enzo Garcia. Enzo used to perform every Sunday morning at a nearby cafe. Enzo was Henry's first hero.

Can you give me the nutshell version of your upbringing?

I
was born in Pittsburgh while my parents attended Carnegie Mellon. We
briefly lived in New York and moved to the Bay Area. I grew up in
the peninsula in Belmont. All through high school I was sequestered in
the theater world even though I was more a rock n roll fan. I went
to college at NYU and majored in theater. After a year I switched to
philosophy. I started playing in bands, became more confident, met like
minded musicians, and realized this is what I wanted to do. I came back
to the Bay Area, met my husband, and started a band. I feel deeply
connected to San Francisco, this was always home to me. 

What tipped your decision from creating adult music to children's music?

I had a kid! I was in an adult band just before I had my son and took a
couple of years off. People kept saying, “You’re gonna do kids music
now,” and I thought no way. When my son was two, we started taking music
classes and the teacher knew I had been a touring musician. He
encouraged me to join his band, The Sippy Cups, playing psychedelic rock
for kids. I thought that sounds like fun and low pressure. Then before
you knew it we were touring and recording albums. I stumbled into the
kids music world and I loved it. I love writing, performing, and
communicating with kids.

How did becoming a mother effect your music?

You
learn something new from kids every day. They find something that
they're interested in and you wind up learning way more then you ever
thought about that particular subject. My son went through phases where
he obsessed about fish, then volcanos, and he was constantly inspiring
me to write the way he would see things. Since then, my music has
evolved. It's contains sophisticated emotional content and more to think
about. I'm not saying brush your teeth or look both ways before you
cross the street. They don’t need that from me.

What was the inspiration for the songs of your new album:

The Start of Things:
Lyrically, that feeling of nervous anticipation that everybody has.
It’s all those times you get excited but a little bit scared. The vibe
is a little soul Sharon Jones kind of funky. The rap was going to be a
guitar solo and then it came into my head fully formed. I’ve never
rapped in my life. I took a chance which goes with the theme of the
song. 

If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out: My son
Henry and I watched “Harold and Maude" which is my favorite movie. It’s
a very the dark adult movie and this song is so meaningful in film. But
I thought, this Cat Stevens song is so perfect for kids; be who you
are, be free, say what you need to say. I thought, I can’t believe no
kids artists has done this before so I grabbed it. 

Pull Your Weeds:
I was booked to play at a Florida library and the librarian said they
have a fairytale theme and asked if I have a fairytale song. I didn’t so
I wrote this song. It just popped into my head about two iconic
princesses (Cinderella and Snow White) who are hard working and wishing
for a better life. I thought what if they knew each other. I flipped
into a girl power song. 

Rainbow Tunnel: This is from my
experience growing up in the Bay Area and going through the Waldo (soon
to be Robin Williams) Tunnel. I always wished there was a rainbow
running through it on the walls. The experience coming from the fog and
traffic in the Sam Francisco to Marin where it's peaceful and sunny with
big beautiful trees. It gave me that feeling of escape. This song is an
ode to my city. Then we went crazy with an homage to Burt Bacharach,
"Do You Know The Way To San Jose."

Little Dreamer: I
needed a ballad for the musical I'm writing of a mom singing to her kid.
It’s cautionary but hopeful which is how all parents feel about their
kids. You want them to be careful and think things through but you also
want them to feel free and that they can do anything. When you’re a
parent just trying to balance that freedom and support and yet protect
them.

Are you Happy?: I like an interactive song. When I
perform this live, we make an expression for each emotion. When I say,
“Do you need a nap. Are you Tired?” The kids all lay down on the floor.
Then I wake them up.

The Froggy Dance:
That came my grandma who spoke Yiddish. She used to recite that poem to
me and it cracked me up. So I turned it into a song and dance. I added
some verses and circus-like music to it. 

Ballad of Boo Ghosty:
It was Halloween time. I was at a preschool asking the kids if there
are any songs they wanted to hear. A kid said, “Sing a song about Boo
Ghosty.” I asked him, "Who's Boo Ghosty?" He said, “I don’t know, he’s a
little ghost.” And it came to me, a little ghost character that follows
a boy home from school and everyone they meet screams when they see
him. It’s about acceptance, treating people with respect, and sticking
up for your friends.

T.L.C.: I teach at a preschool and
one of the teachers who has a lot of class pets came into the lounge and
said, “The snake is coughing, I think he’s sick." I thought that was so
funny so I had to write a song about all the animals in the class being
sick and how we have to take care of them.

Why Am I Awake?:
I figure kids have to have insomnia too. Like many of my songs, this
came to me when I couldn’t sleep so I thought if a child was feeling the
same way what would they be thinking about. Showing how the mind
wanders when you are trying to sleep especially if you’re anxious about
something. It ties into the first song about being nervous and excited. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuFgC5PGtls","width":854,"height":480,"p...}" data-block-type="32" id="block-yui_3_17_2_1_1438576595926_54153">

Can you tell me about the musical you are working on?

I
wrote a musical with the songs from my first album, "World of Wonder."
My goal is to find a Bay Area theater interested in creating an original
performance for kids instead of adapting literary works or licensing
Disney or Broadway shows. I wanted to create something completely
original and Bay Area based.

What is your play about?

It’s
an original, modern day tale about a nine year old girl who feels
overwhelmed (dance class, girl scouts, soccer, etc.) and her busy mom.
All the girl wants is to daydream. One day her mom drops her off at
school but the school is closed for a holiday. Now the girl has to find
her way home. On the way she meets a talking baby anteater and they have
these crazy adventures in the animal kingdom. Eventually she reconnects
with her mom. They realized they need to take time for each other and
natural world. It really speaks to Bay Area parents because everyone is
so busy. We don’t want our kids to miss out on anything, we don’t want
to miss anything, and we think this is what our kids need. 

What are the nonprofits that makes your heart sing?

As a family, we volunteer at the San Francisco Food Bank. We donate to Smile Train and The Wildlife Federation. My son is deeply passionate about access to clean water. And I perform concerts for daycares that cannot afford music through Bread and Roses

What's next for you?

I’m performing at the New York Jewish Museum and
lots more shows in the fall, busy pitching my musical, maybe doing some
adult music because I miss that, I teach music, but my big focus is
helping my son transition to high school. I want to make sure he's happy
and gets all the support he needs for his freshmen year. 

Alison
Faith Levy, formerly of The Sippy Cups, is a beloved children’s
musician. Get ready to dance, jump, spin, wiggle, and other silliness
at her free performance at the Mill Valley Library on August 16 at 11am. For more information, visit her websiteFacebook , and Twitter.