As one-half of Teeny Tiny Stevies with her sister, Beth, the duo have released two albums, Useful Songs for Little People and Helpful Songs for Little People.
Before you and your sister formed Teeny Tiny Stevies, you were (and still are) fronting folk-pop band The Little Stevies. Was the transition to children’s music a conscious/strategic one or more organic?
It was conscious and strategic! But also very organic. We had reached a place where if we wanted to keep being working musicians/songwriters we had to diversify and get really creative about the way we were doing things.
I'd had my first child and taking big chunks of time to travel overseas to play festival circuits wasn't sustainable, for us. I was now existing in that new parent landscape, so I was aware that the kind of kids’ music I'd be happy to play my own kids over and over again was limited.
Like most, I didn't find the transition to becoming a parent easy and kept coming up against big challenges with my little one, so the idea was born that we'd have a go at writing some music that would fall within that genre, but our rule was it had to be useful.
We decided that if we were going to write music and lyrics that will likely be played over and over again (and get stuck in kids’ heads) we wanted the words to be purposeful and useful. We started with learning to use the toilet.
Do you have a different creative approach when writing Teeny Tiny Stevies songs? Are there different constraints or freedoms to children’s music?
Yes. Lyrically for our kids stuff we usually decide on a bunch of themes and then go about writing specifically about them. It's an excellent feeling because there's naturally a lot more of a plan in place. Like, we're on a mission and we mostly know how we're going to get there. We're not relying on personal emotional outpourings, we're writing to a theme.
Having said that, there definitely are TTS songs that have a lot of emotional outpouring in them, and they often end up being listeners' favourites, and that's not surprising – we connect deeply on shared feelings, not instructional lyrics about how to put your socks on.
Musically speaking, sometimes Beth and I will come up with musical ideas all on our own and bring it to the other, and sometimes we'll work together from the start. I find sitting together in a room when you're not coming up with anything good excruciating, so often Beth will email me some awesome riff she's had for a while and I'll start putting a melody (if it doesn't already have one) and words to it – this seems to work pretty well for us.
The best thing about creating this music is the freedom to delve into any genre we want. With our adult stuff it's kind of expected you'll 'stay in your lane' in terms of genre, but with our kids stuff we can get away with much more on the musical landscape and that's really fun.
How do you test run the ideas past the intended audience?
This is an interesting question because I think for us, even though our music appears to be 'for kids' it's secretly actually for parents, or at least as much for parents as it is for kids.
A different kids artist might have a proper answer about what 8-year-olds like vs what 5-year-olds like (and I'm sure they wouldn't be wrong), but that hasn't been our approach. A good song is a good song. So for us it's as much about if the adults around us like it as much as the kids around us.
What is one essential songwriting tool for creating children’s music?
In my opinion that can be the difference between good kids lyrics and not so good kids lyrics, take real time on making the phrasing and rhyming great, don't settle for less because it's 'kids' music'. And when you think it's done think again, go back and make it even better.
Can you share a tip or two on how to build a fanbase for children’s music?
Well, when we made our first TTS record we basically let our friends, family and The Little Stevies fanbase know about it. We were lucky because TLS fans were starting to have kids or becoming grandparents. Then word of mouth really took off for us. A few people who have big followings on social media starting talking about our stuff which helped.
I'd say find your niche. For instance, if teachers really dig your content, then really focus on getting in with teachers and schools, follow educators on Instagram, etc. If your content is about fairies become friends with everyone who does fairy stuff, collaborate, help each other.
Always have an email list when you play live.
Once you have a social media following, engage with them like a human person. People like helping people.