Sunday, December 15, 2002
At her weekly gigs at the Eldridge Hotel, Melanie Dill sings a lot of jazz standards about people in love with people.
What's so refreshing about her other passion - making children's music - is that kids just tend to be in love, period.
"Children are just so into life. I can write a whole song about macaroni and cheese. All it is is 'macaroni and cheese' over and over," the 31-year-old Lawrence mother said.
"It's just seeing the wonder in the most mundane, simple things. That's what I like to do with my music is bring that to the forefront."
Pulling that off in a more musical way than, say, the people who write songs sung by Barney the purple dinosaur, has made Dill a hometown favorite. Her first children's CD, "Alphabet Parade," hit select store shelves in 2000 and has sold about 1,700 copies regionally; more than 1,000 of those were snatched up in Lawrence alone.
A few weeks ago, Dill released her second album, "Rainbow Lemonade." She describes it as a tad more sophisticated than her first collection, with musical styles ranging from calypso to classical, bluegrass to punk rock. She tosses in a little jazz for good measure.
"I wouldn't say that I love children's music. I just love music," she said. "There's no reason why children's music cannot reflect the genres that are there already."
A temperamental baby
That's not to say that the album is at all serious or scholarly. Frogs, butterflies, roly-polies, skeeters and singsong kitties inhabit the whimsical tunes played and sung by Dill and more than 80 other local musicians on "Rainbow Lemonade."
One of the artists featured on Dill's first album who returns as a major voice on the second is her 6-year-old daughter, Siel Snowden.
Siel taught Dill a lot about the value of music for children. Dill and Siel's father used to sing impromptu duets - like the "Macaroni and Cheese" song on "Rainbow Lemonade" - to calm Siel's infant fits.
"She was a pretty temperamental baby," Dill said. "But every time we would sing one of her songs, she would be quiet and listen."
Siel and several other children sing and narrate some of the songs, so kids will recognize voices in the music that sound like their own.
Dill sees her albums filling a giant gap in children's music - one that wants for tunes that appeal not just to the often undiscriminating tastes of children, but also to the adults who hang out with them while they listen.
"Alphabet Parade" and "Rainbow Lemonade" do more than just NOT drive parents crazy, Dill said. She has heard from adults who say the simplicity and wonder in the songs strikes a chord in them.
"For most people, there are at least glimpses of childhood that are incredibly sweet, incredibly poignant, magical," Dill said. "Kids will listen to anything. That's why they like Barney." But when she sees adults being touched by something in her songs, "it makes it so worthwhile."
Some of the songs on the album tell personal stories. "Answering Machine" is simply Dill's answering machine message that Siel recorded when she was 2 years old.
"My whole point in doing that was to preserve it," Dill said. "Now I can finally change my message."
"Sticky Icky Face" comes from rascally moments when Siel would try to kiss her mom with peanut butter or some other sticky substance on her face.
|Lawrence musician Melanie Dill's new children's music CD, "Rainbow Lemonade," is available at the following stores:¢ Borders Books Music & Cafe, 700 N.H.¢ The Children's Book Shop, 937 Mass.¢ The Raven Bookstore, 8 E. Seventh St.¢ The Bay Leaf, 725 Mass.¢ The Toy Store, 841 Mass;¢ Oread Books, Kansas Union¢ Reading Reptile, 328 W. 63rd St., Kansas City, Mo.|
Dill already has begun writing music for a third album. She also has considered turning some of her tunes, such as "After the Rain," into children's books. Plans for a piano music book for children are in the works as well.
When she's not recording children's CDs at Neighborhood Studios (formerly Z'Gwon,th Studios, 920 1/2 Mass.), Dill works on her master's degree in education at Kansas University. She also leads singalongs at bookstores, preschools, day cares and libraries.
All the creative energy floating around Dill's home is rubbing off on Siel, who just may take after mom and become a musician.
"She sings about as much as I sing. She's making up songs," Dill said. "I'm definitely learning to respect her own artistry."