Tim Machin is a much loved Lovenotes instructor - he has been sharing his joy of singing and music making with the babies toddlers and big kids of Leslieville for over 3 years now. He is also featured on the Lovenotes CD, on which he plays guitar, adds warm bass harmonies, and does some very silly insect and royalty impersonations!
Tim is no stranger to working with kids - when he isn't teaching for Lovenotes, he is the well-known kids' entertainer Sing-Along-Tim. He and his band, The Pacifiers, can often be seen at children's festivals, farmers' markets, and other civic events where they play well worn kids' classics as well as their own catchy tunes which get the kids dancing and singing. My family and I are huge fans - Tim’s music has been a big part of our lives. Great music for kids and adults alike!
How did you get started playing music for kids?
When I became a Dad, which is almost 13 years ago, I couldn't really write songs about angst and broken heartedness anymore. I could however write about how nobody seemed to be getting any sleep! The last track on our latest album, Folk On Bikes is a song I made up as i paced around our little apartment in the middle of the night, rocking my baby Joey in my arms trying to sing something that would stop him crying and get everyone back to sleep. I was worrying about why he was crying and why he wouldn't stop and how I couldn't seem to help him and worrying about waking the neighbours... you know, all of those thoughts that go through your mind, in the middle of the night, when you’re a new parent. Suddenly, there was a whole new genre of music that I was very interested in exploring. I wanted to find out what was out there already and what I liked and didn’t like and why.
What did you find?
The first thing I went looking for were the songs my Dad had sung to me from a book called The Children’s Song Book by Elizabeth Poston. Aiken Drum and Looby Loo are a couple songs I got from that that we do live. Then I spent a lot of time listening to CDs from the library where I discovered Woody Guthrie’s albums of music for kids, and a Smithsonian recording of Leadbelly performing for kids, - which are both amazing. The library is where I found Polly Wee and Clap Your Hands, which are both on Folk on Bikes.
So now, 13 years later, how do you approach writing and performing music for kids?
Well, a good song is a good song no matter who it’s for and in some ways, because it’s for kids it’s got to be even better. I try to write songs that are interesting and fun to listen to musically and lyrically. The words are very important to me - by basing my songs on the funny things my own kids have said or done, I hope other kids and parents will recognize what I am singing about.
And I think you certainly did that when you wrote your award-winning tune, The Booger Song! I’m pretty sure most parents and kids can relate to that one. How did that song came about?
It was after school, a bunch of parents and kids were all hanging out in the playground. I heard a friend of mine say to her son “Stop picking your nose, it’s gross!” she saw me and she said; “You know, Sing-Along-Tim, you should write a song about that”. So I did. Everybody loves to sing along to it, especially the chorus “Don’t pick your nose and eat it”. The funny thing is that whenever we play it, we look out at the kids afterwards and find that it has served more as a reminder than a deterrent.
Who are your musical mentors?
Pete Seeger has been a huge influence on me. I heard a story about how he said to a young songwriter; “What have you written that’s for the children and what have you written that everyone can sing along with?”. That is basically what I’m trying to do with every song that I write.
Another major influence for me is Sharon Lois & Bram, who have kept folk music alive for so many people in Canada and passed on so many lovely songs. We had the great honour of playing with Bram at The Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia couple of years ago - he was so open and generous and he knew hundreds of songs. We got to sing Skin-a-ma-rink with him, which I don’t think any of us will ever forget!
I am also really inspired by children’s authors. One of my favourites is Roald Dahl. I love his use of language and his dark humour. I’ve watched both my children getting drawn into the worlds he creates. I also admire the British poet Michael Rosen - his recollections of his childhood and observations of his own kids are so spot on. I love how he uses language and rhythm. He wrote We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which is one of the stories we read at the end of Lovenotes music classes.
What's coming up next?
We are currently involved in the CBC Searchlight competition - you can vote for The Booger Song everyday on many devices!
Would you like to win a free download of Tim’s latest album, Folk on Bikes? All you have to do is comment on this blog and you’ll be entered in a give-away! Contest ends March 9th.