Two years ago, the musical duo Renee & Jeremy entered into our lives. After discovering their beautiful lullaby-filled album It’s A Big World, we played it almost nightly to ease our little one to bed. Over the low hum of the baby monitor, it eased us into sleep as well. From original creations like the title track and “Night Mantra” to a cover version of “Three Little Birds,” the beauty of this album cannot be overstated. Soon enough, the amazing “animated lullaby” for “It’s a Big World” became a staple in our house as well, constantly streaming on YouTube.
When word came that Renee & Jeremy had a new album coming out, I looked forward to adding new songs to our bedtime mix. However, once their new album C’Mon hit, I was quite surprised to find the act going in an exciting new direction. This time, Renee & Jeremy explore acoustic, sunny pop tunes teased with electronic beats, all in a record that is as much for the adult listeners as it is for their young fans.
As a quick intro to this act, both Renee Stahl and Jeremy Toback are LA-based parents and seasoned musicians with projects outside the family music genre as well. Renee Stahl has made two acoustic indie pop records for adult audiences, growing a loyal fanbase. Jeremy Toback is a member of the band Brad alongside Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, had a solo radio hit with “You Make Me Feel” and is also a member of electro-rock band ONS. It’s a Big World laid the groundwork for their family music success, earning the duo an all-ages audience and winning them a National Parenting Publications Award (NAPPA). Producer Herb Graham, Jr. (John Cale, Macy Gray, Jeff Buckley) is the knob twiddler for both C’Mon and It’s A Big World.
The most striking thing about their new album C’Mon is how each of these songs feels like they were produced and arranged for a sophisticated, older audience, with lyrics that will speak to kids. Songs like “Do Do Do Do,” “Share,” “It t Makes You Feel Good,” and title track “C’Mon” are warm, intelligently-written pop tracks that would be right at home on Adult Alternative-style radio. I have no doubt that mellow gems like “Wishing Well,” “Magic Life,” “Is There Really Any Wonder” and “Rely” would be suitable for listening even without little ones in the backseat. But throughout, important messages for the kiddos are passed along like the value of patience, the importance of sharing, and the meaning of feelings. Artists like Renee & Jeremy are making it okay for an album to be complex and kid-friendly at the same time.
Jeremy Toback was kind enough to let me throw a few questions at him regarding their new project and the duo’s involvement in the “kindie” scene. Read on below for my interview!
Nugget Island: What inspired you and Renee to enter the family music genre?
Jeremy Toback: Unsurprisingly, our experiences as parent and parent-to-be provided the spark. Renee was pregnant with Amelia and planning to make a lullaby record. I wanted her to cover “Welcome to This World,” which I had written for my eldest son, Miles, years before and never recorded. We started co-writing, and Renee was generous enough to ask me to be part of the recording as well…it was a spontaneous and kismet collaboration from the get.
N.I.: Your new album C’Mon, has a faster pace than your last album. What inspired the change in your sound?
J.T.: With It’s A Big World we wanted to make a whisper folk record – calm and cool and quiet. We had lots of friends who loved the record, but also wanted something R&J style that their kids could dance & play to. So we set out to make C’Mon as groovy and sunshine filled as possible.
N.I.: While your lyrics are clearly written for children, the music built around them is very sophisticated and certainly not cartoony or pandering. Is this something that was intentional?
J.T.: On both records we purposefully ignored existing stylistic conventions of “children’s music” and went after songs and textures and grooves that inspire us musically, figuring that other parents would dig that as well. As for the children, we know their palettes are broad enough to welcome a huge range of music and mood.
N.I.: Are there any artists in the kindie space you admire?
J.T.: There’s a lot of wonderful artists in the kindie space: Hug Trees, Elizabeth Mitchell, TMBG, Casper Babypants, Dan Zanes, and I still love Pete Seeger, to name a few.
N.I.: Where do you see yourself taking this project in the future?
J.T.: We have a few cool ideas for cover records we’re playing around with, though I don’t want to give those away just yet… Waiting from instruction from the universe on the next batch of original R&J tunes … Please let us know if you hear first.
While you’re here, check out some videos from Renee & Jeremy! Also, visit their official site to download sample mp3s or purchase both albums.
Official video for “C’Mon,” title track from new album.
Official “animated lullaby” video for “It’s A Big World.”