As the parents of an extremely active three-year-old daughter, Lexi, my wife Christine and I can get pretty tired trying to keep up with her. With our baby boy due this August, Christine’s not just tired – she’s pooped.
But when it comes to getting Lexi to finally go to sleep, we’ve got a new secret weapon: Julie Garnett’s new rest time songs and lullaby CD, “Pooped.” While the title will draw laughs, most parents will confirm that the word, or some variation of it, is said by a toddler dozens if not hundreds of times a day. And it’s those energy-filled tots that Julie hopes to quiet with her award winning production.
Originally from Pawtucket but now living in Cranston, Julie’s musical talents began at an early age.
“I have been a performer for, I would say, since I was 15, professionally, really working in acoustic music, folk, and writing my own songs and working all over New England,” she said. “I have so much fun. That’s my personality, and I’m a kid at heart. I’ve been doing children’s music, I would say, gosh, 25 years now.”
She used her voice working in commercials and voiceovers, even meeting her husband Mike while working on a United Way advertisement. She would also work four or five nights a week singing in restaurant and clubs until she had daughter, Vanessa.
“At that point I was working 9 to 1, and I was like ‘You know what, I’m finished. I’m done.’ Other than doing piano and lessons and some studio work, I said, that’s it,” Julie said. “But with my daughter Vanessa, when she was about two or three, they needed class volunteers, so I’d pull the guitar out and do a few things and then there was the, ‘Oh, we’re doing this event, could you come?’ So my thing has always been, if God wants you in something, you’re in it, because the next thing I know, it started to snowball.”
She started doing more with children’s music, eventually working with schools and ESL students. She would play at local libraries and malls, and also performed at the former Warwick Musical Theater.
“The last five years of its life, I was there. They used to have the children’s program at 11 in the morning on Tuesday,” Julie said. “There was a song that I would do called ‘Ham and Eggs.’ I did not write it, I wish I did, but it was hysterical, and every time I would show up someone would ask for it.”
She’s also opened for the Canadian music family Sharon, Lois & Bram and the group Rockapella of “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” fame.
“I always swore I would never do a lullaby album, because I am a very interactive performer. Every song I do, the kids are moving. I am not somebody who claims to be a great musician, but I’m good at what I know,” she said.
After a bad experience last year which left her with an injured back and laid up for six months, however, she found some time to think. It was during that time that the concept for her fifth CD, “Pooped,” materialized.
“So I came up with the title ‘Pooped’ because kids love the word, I say it constantly,” Julie joked. “The majority of these songs are original, but I did take a few that are public domain and I tweaked them. You can do that with public domain, you can change the words because nobody owns them. So, I took ‘This Old Man’ and turned it into a song about astronauts, and it starts out with sounds from NASA and a countdown. So I was very thoughtful as to how this would be absorbed by kids to make it fun.”
Julie’s CD, on which she sings and plays music, is geared for rest time at early childhood centers and for all children under the age of five. The Parent’s Choice Foundation, the nation’s oldest non-profit guide to quality children’s media and toys, recently awarded Julie’s CD with a Parent’s Choice Award. She was also recently featured in Rhode Island Parents Magazine.
While Lexi found the album’s feature song, “Pooped,” more funny than drowsy, the record does find itself with traditional and original pieces sung in a folksy manner that incorporates aspects of children’s lives into the works.
Christine and I found that some of Julie’s finest tunes are “Time for Bed,” “Riding in the Car” – which is a great place for a kid to nap – and “My School.”
Having been to Wales, my personal favorite is Julie’s take on Suo Gân, an old Welsh lullaby, which she has masterfully reworked into her song “Softly Slumber.” To me, this lullaby certainly sets a soft tone for a peaceful nap time.
“‘Sweetest of Dreams,’ one of my songs, was something I said to my daughter, the last thing I’d say to my daughter before she went to sleep was ‘sweetest of dreams,’” Julie said of the CD. “I even wrote a song about how yawning is contagious.”
Julie is taking her new project in stride and continues to work on new pieces. Recently, she completed a music video for the CD at Tender Hearts School in Warwick. She’s hopeful that her works will help young children and their families find the rest that they need.
But be cautioned – there is a warning on her CD which states, “Listening to these songs may cause extreme drowsiness.” So be careful using while driving. Her work is available for purchase on her website, juliegarnett.com, for $15.
“I’m noticing in children’s music you’ve got a lot of performers out there, but there’s not really a concentrated area, it’s a very limited venue because you have to truly love children,” Julie said. “Because if you do that, kids know it.”