Hullaballoo is a children’s music band led by Steve Denyes who, in February of 2018, embarked on a creative mission to create “20 Songs in 20 Days.” Steve wrote, recorded, and posted a song a day for twenty consecutive days. The result is a first-rate collection of family-friendly songs, which has become the 14th Hullabaloo album titled “20 Songs in 20 Days” which is scheduled for release on April 27, 2018.
Over the past fourteen years, Hullabaloo has taken flight with a foot-stomping, wing-flapping blend of American folk and roots music that embraces a decidedly kid-friendly angle and has been rewarded by plenty of enthusiastic praise along the way. With “20 Songs in 20 Days,” Steve Denyes wanted to give back, so he invited loyal fans to donate to the charity Happy Star Melodies in tandem with the submission of a song title. Each morning for twenty days, Steve pulled an entry from a hat and wrote a song to fit … no matter what! In this way, every track on “20 Songs in 20 Days” originated with a fan-sponsored song title, and every penny of the album’s proceeds has gone — and will continue to go — directly to Happy Star Melodies.
“20 Songs in 20 Days” begins with “My Best Friend, Riley,” embracing listeners with a friendly ambience that communicates love, humor, and a deep respect for man’s best friend. On “Silly Swan,” Steve Denyes couldn’t resist taking the idea of the “Swan Lake” ballet and writing about a swan who doesn’t fit in. “Penguin in My Bed” is a hilarious number based on a true story, with the protagonist assuming an animal identity in order to protect the guilty. Steve Denyes adroitly captures the essence of an era on the Elvis-inspired “Let’s Play Telephone.” Other highlights include “My Trip to Paris,” which introduces French to kids in a humorous way, and “Bubble Gum Blues,” an a capella ode to blowing bubbles that revels in this musician’s fascination with the sheer sound of language.
Among the seventeen major awards garnered by Hullabaloo are those presented by Parents’ Choice, NAPPA, and Children’s Music Web. Parents’ Choice and the San Diego Union-Tribune praised Hullaballoo as did Scholastic Parent & Child and People Magazine. Hullabaloo has performed more than 3,000 shows throughout the United States at venues ranging from birthday parties to fancy concert stages.
Steve recently discussed this album and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in music and how did you zone in on children’s music?
Steve Denyes (SD): I’ve loved music since I was very young. It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do. It started by singing along to the music my parents would play. Eventually, I learned a few instruments and was able to create music of my own. I started making music for kids when my sisters had their kids. It was just a fun way to connect with my nieces and nephew. It didn’t take long to realize that making music for kids was a lot of fun!
MM: What prompted you to write 20 Songs in 20 Days and was it harder if easier than you expected?
SD: I did a similar project years ago where I wrote and posted a song a day. I enjoyed it so much I decided to do it again. This time around, I made it a fundraiser for Happy Star Melodies and had fans submit the song titles.
MM: You said you literally pulled ideas out of a hat, so how did you come by the initial ideas, how did you select 20, and were you aware of some of the content/prompts beforehand?
SD: Rather than choose the song titles myself, I reached out to our friends and fans and asked them to submit song titles along with a modest donation to Happy Star Melodies. I had seen all the song title submission before they went into the hat but I didn’t know which ones I would end up writing until I drew them out of that hat.
MM: Which subject was the easiest to write a song about, and which was the hardest?
SD: The easiest title to write a song to was “Go Surfing”. Since I surf pretty much every day it was right up my alley. The most difficult song title was “Carrie, the One”. It’s a tough one. . . It’s not strictly a math song because that would be “Carry the One”. Carrie is obviously a person’s name so I made it a parent/child love song with a math theme.
MM: Which songs are your favorites?
SD: My favorite songs on the album are “My Trip to Paris”, “Go Surfing” and “Supermoon”.
MM: Do melodies or lyrics come to you first?
SD: I almost always start with a lyrical idea. The natural rhythm and flow of the words usually suggest a melody right from the start. So, in a way, the two come almost simultaneously.
MM: Was it challenging to actually write and record a song in one day? What was the most and least time this took you per day?
SD: It was definitely a challenge but one I really enjoyed. The hardest part was when I had other things to do in the day like playing shows or just doing grownup stuff like going to the grocery store. I think the quickest song was “Best Day of Fishing” — it just sort of came to me when I was out surfing. I stopped surfing, came to shore and wrote it down because I didn’t want to forget it. The longest one was “Carrie, the One.” I labored over that one for about eight hours.
MM: Given the rushed timing, are you pleased with how this collection turned out?
SD: Yes. I didn’t initially plan on releasing the songs as an album but when I finished, I was really pleased. It’s definitely not as fancy or polished as a proper studio album but I like the raw creative energy behind it.
MM: What can people expect from the album and songs?
SD: First and foremost, I think it’s a good, fun collection of songs for kids and families. Beyond that, this project was sort of a celebration of songs, songwriting and the creative process. These songs aren’t dressed up with lots of production and studio trickery. The ink was barely dry on these songs as they were recorded.
MM: Might you do this sort of thing again in the future?
SD: Definitely. I love a challenge. I imagine that I’ll change things up a bit to keep it fresh and interesting but I’ll definitely do it again.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
SD: This album is a fundraiser for Happy Star Melodies (http://www.happystarmelodies.org). That means every time anyone streams or downloads the album 100% of my royalties go directly to them and continue their work of bringing music and musical instruments to kids facing life-threatening illness. So, the more people listen, the more it helps kids!
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