Grammy-nominated Morgan to perform children’s shows today
December 28, 2007
Steamboat SpringsSteamboat Springs — Children's songwriter Zak Morgan didn't plan to make a career out of writing songs about melancholy bullfrogs. — Children's songwriter Zak Morgan didn't plan to make a career out of writing songs about melancholy bullfrogs.
Steamboat Springs — Children’s songwriter Zak Morgan didn’t plan to make a career out of writing songs about melancholy bullfrogs.
He didn’t plan to start that career with an entertainment gig at a dude ranch in Wyoming, either. But Morgan is a natural ham with a Cat Stevens voice and a Randy Newman wit, and he took in stride the events that turned him into a Grammy-nominated children’s performer.
Morgan will play two shows today for the Strings in the Mountains Holiday Youth Concert, at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and Conference Center. In a
recent phone interview, Morgan talked about how he got into children’s music, how he keeps his young audiences involved and how kids are a lot smarter than they get credit for.
Pilot & Today: How did you get into writing songs for children?
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Zak Morgan: I have a very clear memory of my own childhood, and I remember that kids are not simpletons.
If you think back to second or third grade, it’ll jog your memory and think, ‘Gosh, I was not an idiot.’ And I think people make a mistake and underestimate how intelligent children are.
P&T: Does the songwriting process change when you’re targeting 5-year-olds?
ZM: It’s the same. I write songs about my own childhood. But when I sing those songs, I get myself back in that mindset. When I write it’s about childhood experience – I don’t dumb down the language at all, and I use a lot of wordplay.
P&T: How does that go over in performances?
ZM: They are the ones teaching me a lot of the lessons during the show, rather than me preaching to them. I’m careful not to patronize. I think kids really respond if you respect their intelligence and don’t preach to them.
At the same time, when you’ve got kids in front of you and are keeping them entertained, it gives you a great opportunity to send out positive messages.
P&T: So when you’re writing one of these songs – a ballad of a depressed dragon, a country tune about frogs meeting their ends – what’s your process?
ZM: I want to write the best song I can possibly write. So, if I’m writing about being a little jealous of younger siblings, I’m not just trying to imagine what that would be like, that happened to me. So, I know kids can relate because I’ve been there.
I use as rich as language as I can. I’m a big fan of Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss, who use a lot of wordplay.
P&T: Do you try to keep most of the show kind of light?
ZM: I’m careful not to take away any of the naivete and innocence of children, and I think we don’t have it for long enough in today’s culture. I think that (innocence) is a beautiful thing, but at the same time, I try to challenge them.
The analogy I use is that it’s like when you get a brand new computer. You have a brand new hard drive and it doesn’t have any programs on it yet, so it doesn’t know anything yet, but it’s lightning-fast.
It’s not cluttered up. It’s not jaded. It’s not fragmented like we are when we get older.
If you don’t dumb it down, it’s just incredible to watch how smart they are and how easily they pick up on things.