An album that’s not just for children

  • Carrie Ferguson. Contributed photo/Georgia Rae Teensma

  • “The Grumpytime Club” cover art by Wishbone Zoe. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 6/3/2021 12:55:15 PM

Feeling a bit grumpy? Maybe you need to listen to “The Grumpytime Club,” a new children’s album from award-winning singer-songwriter Carrie Ferguson. The 11 tracks on the album are geared toward kids but are sure to delight grumps and non-grumps of all ages. “The Grumpytime Club” offers children and families welcoming and inclusive messages about accepting feelings, celebrating differences and loving themselves exactly as they are. In addition, the music is joyful, upbeat and is guaranteed to have you singing and dancing along.

“The Grumpytime Club” will be released during Pride month on Friday, June 11.

Ferguson will celebrate the release with a family-friendly virtual show on Sunday, June 13 at 6 p.m. The show is being broadcast from the Shea Theater in conjunction with CouchMusic.Live and is supported in part by a grant from the Orange, Wendell, and Montague Cultural Councils.

Ferguson will be backed by a full band for the show that includes members of the Gaslight Tinkers: Joe Fitzpatrick on drums, Peter Siegel on guitar and mandolin, and Garrett Sawyer on bass. Some surprise special guests will also be on hand.

A resident of Northampton, Ferguson has been a presence on the local scene for many years, having released three albums and opening shows for the likes of Catie Curtis, Cheryl Wheeler, Patty Larkin and many others. She is also the musician-in-residence for the Piti Theatre in Shelburne Falls.

Ferguson said that young listeners have always responded well to her poppy songs like “On the Way to Ashfield,” so in many ways, a children’s album is a natural evolution in her career.

“I started working with the Piti Theatre in 2012 and have written tons of songs with Jonathan Mirin ... for kids,” Ferguson said in a recent phone interview. “Then, over the years I’ve written songs that sound like kids songs. People kept asking me, ‘When are you going to make a kids album?’ So, eventually, I decided I would. If you look at the titles and the album covers, they all look like they are for kids. I think it’s just naturally been there.”

“The Grumpytime Club” was recorded at Northfire Studios in Amherst with musician Garrett Sawyer (The Gaslight Tinkers) serving as co-producer. He is also one of the local musicians that play on the album.

This album was years in the making and was further delayed by the pandemic. One song on the album, “Tavi’s Song,” was written 19 years ago. It came about when friends of Ferguson’s asked her to write a song for their soon-to-be-born child who was going to be named Tavi.

“It was mostly an a cappella tune for all these years, but then Garrett and I put it to music,” Ferguson said of the song. “The wonderful thing is that Tavi and his brother, Aza (who also has a song called ‘Aza’s Song’ that appears on the album) sang harmonies on the song. Tavi’s parents sang this song to him every night before he went to sleep and now he’s at Yale and is an amazing musician — so this was a full-circle moment.”

“Tavi’s Song” won a Gold Award in the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest and First Place in the 2020 New England Songwriting Competition. The New England Songwriting Competition honored the song “Cat and Piggy,” which appears on an album as a finalist in 2019.

“Tavi’s Song” has a klezmer feel to it, which is one of many musical styles you’ll hear on “The Grumpytown Club.” The bouncy song “Up and Down” benefits from some New Orleans style horns and “Do It Again” is a straight-ahead rocker. Elsewhere, you will hear traces of bluegrass on “Cat and Piggy.”

“We kind of cover the map, which you can get away with on kids music, but it’s something I’ve dabbled in before, at least with ‘The List of Whales’ because Garrett can do just about anything,” Ferguson said.

The lyrics are as varied as the music and range from the silliness of “Mishy Mashy Mushy Mooshy Moo” to the thoughtful “Lend Me Your Glasses.” The idea for that song came from Godelieve Richard, co-director of the Piti Theater. Ferguson co-wrote the lyrics with Mirin, who is also from the theater. It’s a song about tolerance and understanding of others by seeing the world through the eyes of others: “Lend me your glasses/Let me see what you see/Lend me your glasses/Let’s see what the world can be.”

The idea behind the title track comes from Garrett Sawyer’s daughter, Samara, who is now 11. When she was 6 years old, she created a magical, imaginary place called the Grumpytime Club. When Ferguson heard her speak of this, she asked Sawyer if it was okay to write a song about the imaginary club; Sawyer agreed.

The imaginary Grumpytime Club is a terrific place to be, as you can embrace your grumpiness and you can get a snack, a hug, play grumpy games and sing grumpy songs. In addition to being the creator of the Grumpytime Club, Sawyer plays trombone on the album and will also play at the show.

The video for the song was created by musician and visual artist Wishbone Zoe (Sara Kochanski) and will debut tomorrow. Kochanski also created the expressive monsters that grace the album’s cover and did the video for the song “Cat and Piggy.”

Ferguson looks forward to playing in front of an actual audience in the near future, but she likes the fact that, with a virtual show, she can reach viewers from all over. “

I’d be curious to see how other folks beyond the United States would react to this album,” said Ferguson.

She hopes that kids will have fun with the album, but also hopes they benefit from its positive messages.

To me, this record is about the process of accepting yourself and loving yourself, and then using that love and self-awareness to be available to the rest of the world,” Ferguson said. “And by that, I mean to the beauty of the world and for showing up for other people.”

Ferguson knows how important this self-love and acceptance is, especially in the context of what is going on in the world right now.

“There is a rising awareness of white supremacy and backlash against trans people, especially trans children. And that is a subject that is near and dear to me as a queer person and someone who has trans friends and is a gender non-conforming person,” she said.

Ferguson added that she hopes that listeners feel like they are receiving a big hug when they listen to “The Grumpytime Club.”

“I want this to be encouraging so that kids realize you are valuable just as you are and your voice is important,” she said.

The Grumpytime Club will be available on all major streaming services and on a CD, which can be purchased at carriefergusonmusic.com. There is a suggested donation of $10 to $25 for the live stream show on June 13. Visit couchmusic.live or bit.ly/2Rs35gK to register.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundsl ocal@yahoo.com.




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