When you become a parent there are so many experiences you get to do-over. But for whatever reason, the one area where I’ve been loathe to surrender my adult sensibilities is music. I am a picky at the turntable. Recently we discovered The Fuddles, a trio of seasoned musicians that include Scott Kaija, Daniel Brooks and John Hunter, who chose to combine their love of indie-rock and children’s entertainment (Kaija is also a professional clown). Fuddles’ songs are accessible, silly, catchy and yes, “age appropriate.” My six-year-old requests this album during arts and crafts time, and took it to school for Show and Share. Sometimes I have to sing along to “Warm and Fuzzies,” or “What Do You Want For Lunch?” and that’s ok. I realize now that if I want to build real music lovers, I have to give them their own tunes. But it helps when the music is actually good.
We talked to The Fuddles’ Scott Kaija about kids’ music, clowning and why I need to get a Raffi record in the house.
Jacquelyn Francis: I know you as a musician in a band but you’ve actually been around kids longer than music.
Scott Kaija: As a shy teenager, I began learning the guitar and how to write music. At the same time, I was also busy learning some simple circus skills and taught myself how to juggle, ride a unicycle and the fundamentals of being a clown. Learning to clown actually helped me break out of my shell as a musician, and gave me the confidence to perform in front of audiences. In the early 1990s, when I moved from Sault Ste. Marie to Toronto to pursue a career in music, I paid the bills by using my circus skills to entertain children while slogging it out in music clubs at night.
JF: What’s the big difference between writing for kids versus doing it for a 20-something university student?
SK: When I was writing songs in my teens, 20s and 30s, it was a lot of emotional, “heart laid bare” kind of stuff and that just got exhausting and a little embarrassing the closer I got to 40. After my band, controller.controller, broke up, I started clowning a lot more and decided to introduce a bit of singing and guitar into my clown act. It was a simple take on traditional nursery rhymes but I was amazed at how receptive child audiences were to these timeless songs mixed with a bit of silliness.
JF: Who are some of your kids entertainment heroes?
SK: For kids music, hands down it would be Raffi. I also love Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie’s albums for children. From the performance side, I love silent era clowns like Keaton and Chaplin but also the comedians I grew up watching like Rick Moranis, Martin Short, John Candy, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, other SCTV performers and The Kids In The Hall.
JF: Finally, do you guys have kids of your own?
SK: When we started, we were just proud uncles, but since the release, my wife and I have had our first child. He’s still too young to appreciate The Fuddles, but I’m looking forward to writing the next batch of songs from the perspective of a parent.
JF: What’s next for The Fuddles?