Talking Kids & Music With Musician Laura Veirs

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Acclaimed indie artist Laura Veirs is back with a much-lauded album “Tumble Bee: Laura Veirs Sings Folk Songs for Children.” Recorded by Grammy-nominated producer (and husband) Tucker Martine in their home in Portland, Oregon, it covers a wide range of American folk songs and features amazing guest artists, many of who are parents and who live in Portland.

Inspired by the birth of her son (now one-and-a-half) and by countless fans who’ve told her over the years how much their kids love her records, Veirs has created an album that will capture the hearts of adults and children alike.

The album will be released on November 8, 2011. And Laura is organizing two CD release events. You can visit her site for more information—and a free download.

We talked with her about music, mom essentials, how children are like artists, Forest Park, and her perfect day.

Many parents aspire to create a home environment that fosters a love for music. What musical rituals does your family have—how do you encourage a musical lifestyle at home?
My husband is a producer and curious person. So we’re always listening to records when we’re home. Just having music around is so important for children. We listen to all kinds of music. African, Appalachian. And we sing around the house.

My son loves drumming. We have a basement room with instruments, and we’re not precious about them. Even at his age, my son knows not to hurt them. But we also play drums with whatever is at hand. Ordinary objects. While we’re just sitting at the table together.

Music is also a useful tool for us. Today I was making lunch and we put on the new Wilco album. He plays while I get to do other things.

Name three people, places, objects, or things that are inspiring you right now.
1. Peggy Seeger’s Animal Folksongs for Children. Her mother wrote those songs. She was an interesting woman. A music historian—an archivist.

2. Forest Park. We’re really just discovering it. How magical! My son loves it. The sounds of nature are very calming.

3. It may be cliché, but … my son. He’s one and a half and so full of joy and life. Children of that age are so curious and full of wonder. He makes even the mundane seem exciting. In many ways, that’s the artist’s role, too.

What’s your favorite rainy day kids activity?
Having friends over to play in our basement playroom is fun, and going to people’s houses, and also just getting out and braving the elements. My son doesn’t care if it’s raining or shining, so I’m getting more used to being out in the weather.

Tell us what’s in your bag?
I don’t have a personal bag. I just keep my phone, wallet and keys in my jacket. In the diaper bag there are diapers and wipes (duh), ample snacks (to keep the wolf at bay), one or two toys and a jacket. I try to keep things minimal, but it often means I’m borrowing things from better-prepared parents.

Tell us about your must-have mommy essentials.
The dear people around me! My husband who gets up with our son every other morning so I can have that time to go for a run and to a coffee shop. My brother and sister-in-law who are great parenting mentors. My friends who I gather with as much as possible for moral support and play time for the kids, and my parents who come to help when my husband goes out of town for work (and who were the “granny nannies” on a three-week European tour we did when the baby was four months old). I feel so grateful for the people in my life who make parenting so much easier and more fun.

What’s your go-to dinner recipe when you don’t have lots of time?
We do this so much that now we’re all kind of sick of it, but it’s a recipe my mom made a lot growing up and it is spreading like wildfire around Portland because it’s sooooo easy.

Leslie Veirs’ Mexican Quiche Recipe
It’s rich, delicious, and easy to make. Just mix all this together:

10 beaten eggs

1/2 c. melted butter

1/2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Dash of salt

1 8-12 oz can of mild green chilies (use jalapenos if you really want to blow someone’s socks off)

2 c. cottage cheese

4 c. grated jack cheese (1 lb.) (1/2 pound also tastes good … I usually do that)

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until the top is browned.  Test with a knife in the middle. Cut when hot and ENJOY!

Tumble Bee features many other Portland-based artists (and parents) like Colin Meloy from the Decemberists. Was this a project a long time in the making or how did it come about? Did it spring from collaboration with these artists?
The album was about a year in the making. We listened to hundreds of songs.

A friend (a musician) had suggested that we make an album for kids because their kids like my music. And we wanted to make something we could listen to and share with our friends and their kids.

What songs do you sing to your child? Songs you wrote? Songs from your youth?
I made a song up just for him. A little melody. I also sing a bunch of songs from the record. “The Fox.” “Jamaica Farewell.” “Prairie Lullaby.”

Some songs on the album, like “The Fox” and “Jamaica Farewell,” were songs that my parents sang to me. 

How has motherhood changed how you work or perform?
Being a new mom, it’s more challenging to dedicate time to music. It was kind of a relief to step out of the songwriter role for this album. My performances for Tumble Bee will be goofier. And very interactive.

How motherhood will affect my music is still becoming clear. I’m in the discovery phase.

Complete this thought: My best-day-ever day with my family in Portland would include…
Up early at 8:00 am

Go to the farmer’s market in our neighborhood (Alberta) with friends


Run around the park


Walk in Forest Park or the zoo

Big dinner.

Stroll down Alberta Street to one of the many ice cream shops

Maybe a show, like You Who

Oh, and full sun all day.

–Cheyenne Terbrueggen