Jeanie B

Don't let it ever be said that PEV doesn't love the kids - our latest feature, Jeanie B, is one of the most essential names out there on the children's music scene. And there's a great story behind her rise to prominence - after a hand injury, it seemed like Jeanie's career in music was over after collecting hours and hours of experience in college. Some time passed, the fire returned and she was turned on to the world of children's music, where she has excelled ever since. Check out "Sugar Buzz" with your kids today - her latest release is a danceable good time. There's more to get into, so check out the answers to the XXQ's.

XXQs: Jeanie B (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Jeanie B (JB): My sound is Roots Rock Americana with a little Country and occasional punk/grunge thrown in, for kids! What I have been told is that my music stands out because I explore a variety of genres and the songs are well written with catchy hooks and lots of good humor. Danceable as well! I don't skimp on production value either. There are layers of instruments and harmonies galore so you get a lot for your ear to enjoy on my CD's.

PEV: What kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

JB: I worshipped Neil Young and Crazy Horse as a kid and still do! I think I've seen Neil Young 20 times or more in concert and have endless bootlegs of live shows etc.. When my oldest son turned 10, I took him to see Neil and Crazy Horse for his Birthday! Rite of passage! He fell asleep as the concert neared 11 pm.( my son, not Neil) I asked him if he wanted to go home to bed. He, in the true offspring of Neil groupie nature said, "No, he hasn't played Rockin' in the Free World yet!" Had to stay until he delivered the goods! YES!   My more recent favorites are Foo Fighters, Train and Indigo Girls.

PEV: Tell us about your first ever live performance.

JB: I was in Middle School and it was the 7th grade talent show. Covered in pimples and akwardly pubescent, I played my 1972 Alvarez guitar, which I still own and cherish to this day, and played a Neil Young song. (surprise!) I think it was Southern Man!

PEV: What was it like for you when you first started out and making the transition to professional musician?

JB: Like most kids I started out playing for my friends when I was in highschool. I have been writing songs since I was 15. I am pretty sure my song writing has improved since then, but that of course is subjective!  I played at parties and jammed with my pals in the true folk singer troubadour fashion. My first steady paying gigs were in college where I made a pretty darn good buck playing in clubs and coffee houses either solo, as a duo and sometimes with a full band.  We did covers and those early originals. I got to play with some really great musicians in and around Cleveland, the rock and roll capital of the world, and was truly on the road to a career in music.   Then I had an injury to my left hand late in my college days that caused me to have to stop playing guitar for quite a long while. It really derailed the train. 

Though I continued to play and have bands during the next couple decades, I didn't go back to playing professionally until after a long and successful career as a film editor and business owner! I started playing full time as a professional again in 2002 and this time it was as a Children's musician, quite by accident. I was really working hard at my adult music around Y2K and had my sights set on opening for The Indigo Girls or some trick like that! (me and 10,000 other wannabes) Then someone who owned a music business for children approached me after seeing me play a concert and essentially said my style would be perfect for Children's music. Long story short, the rest is history as they say! I still write adult songs for my alter ego, but I really think this is my best platform. 

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

JB: I think it was after my 3rd Children's CD "Joy" was released. There was a family that played the title track every morning in their home as their wake up song. I realized that I had become part of the soundtrack of their life and they had embraced something that I wrote so completely that I must be doing something right. There was another moment at a concert when we were playing "The World is A Wonderful Place" and had all the bubble machines going. Everyone was dancing and there was a father holding his young daughter in his arms, dancing around in the bubbles with her with tears rolling down his face. He told me afterward that he will never forget that moment. How could I give up after that?

Also when I started having enough money to buy groceries and pay my bills just from playing music I figured it was a sign that I should keep going forward, even if the groceries were Mac n Cheese!! Every time I think I need to quit and get a legit job, someone will tell me how one of my songs touched their life in a meaningful way and I know that this is what I was put on this earth to do.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Jeanie B show?

JB: Party time!! Dancing, singing along, kids on stage with me, bubbles, hand instruments to shake, and the finale is always my song "Bubble Wrap" where I roll out reams of bubble wrap for the kids to jump on while I sing my "pop" song!

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

JB: Do I have food in my teeth? Is my nose clean? Then, I always tell myself "Smile! You're here to bring joy to these people and help them have fun! AND I hope my microphone is working! "

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

JB: Kids, kids and kids. My kids, other peoples kids! They are an endless treasure trove of curiosity and subject matter. I love that they are so eager to embrace all of life, yet they know so little about it. Writing for kids is a wide open pallet. I try to listen to and observe kids and then write songs that reflect their own lives back to them or write about subjects they may like to learn about. I most of all love to make them laugh and dance and sing. I also write a lot of songs for the parents, from a parents' point of view. I figure they have to listen to the CD's too, so some of it should at least be for them!

PEV: Tell us about your latest album, “Sugar Buzz” – an exciting children’s album with 16 super catchy tracks. What can fans expect from this work?

JB: I am so thrilled with this CD. I think it sounds really fresh and sassy and has a lot of variety to offer. IMHO The songs I feel are some of my best songwriting and my band has been together long enough now that we really understand each other and what the songs want to be. I haven't released a CD in 3 years, which is a long time for me, and many of these songs were written a few years ago so I've had time to really get to know them and shape them. Michael Freeman did an amazing job mixing all the ingredients to bake the perfect Jeanie B! cake!

PEV: Describe the kind of mindset you had to be in to create this album?

JB: You have to be crazy to be in this business so that's a good place to start!! Recording a CD is always a huge undertaking. Whenever I'm in the studio recording I have to imagine that I'm playing for a huge crowd of excited kids and remember that they are my inspiration. It can be exhausting to do that take after take and then listen to all the tracks with a critical ear. I again have to credit my fabulous Jelly Beans Band, Jamie Martinez  (Bass), Paul Bivans (Drums), Airan Wright (Sax & horns) and Andon Davis (Guitar, Mandolin) who knocked these songs out in one or two takes each. They are also big goofballs and keep me smiling so that the fun of the music comes through. The mindset then is to be ready to run the marathon because all the layering can take, and did take weeks to complete and then, many more hours of mixing and re-recording and mixing and finally mastering! I think we first started recording this CD in March for an October release!

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Jeanie B?

JB:I had crippling stage fright for decades! I finally got over it one year by deciding to play in as many venues as I possibly could with as many people as I could and I finally got over it. Now it seems impossible that I was ever intimidated by a stage! You'd never know it to watch my show!

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew you wanted music to be a large part of your life, if not the biggest part?

JB: I think I knew it in my heart when I was in High School. College proved it to me and then life got in the way! I have always said from an early age my two callings were music and horses.

PEV: What one word best describes Jeanie B?

JB: Love. I love life, I love people, I love kids, I love music, I love a challenge, I love what I do. I try to spread love. Love.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

JB: The best part is that every show is like unwrapping a present. There are always those wonderful surprises from the kids I meet and when I am with my band it's like I'm at a party and I'm the guest of honor! It's like surfing a wave of fun!   I just rarely have a bad experience performing. I've had a few wardrobe malfunctions and bubble machines blow up, but no disasters. The worst part is that the driving gets tedious and trying to be a Mom while working all the time. Thank God my kids can come with me sometimes since what I do is certainly okay for them to participate in. They also play bass and drums and accompany me on occasion. I love that I can share my career with them!

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

JB: I have focused most of my energy on the Chicago area and the Midwest. I would love to play the rest of the country and would go crazy to play in Europe!

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

JB: My friends and family are my biggest fans! My parents are in their 80's and they come to my shows and dance and sing a long. My Dad comes up on stage with me and dances to my song "Hey Daddio" which I wrote for him. Since I try to write songs with adults in mind too, my friends enjoy what I do as well. My job is to make people smile. What's not to like?

I played in my hometown of East Grand Rapids Michigan over the past Summer and it was a huge success! We played at a beautiful park on Reeds Lake to a huge crowd and danced the night away! What a Blast!

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

JB: I love this Miss America question! I enjoy biking, skiing, both water and snow, traveling and I used to be an avid horseback rider which took up most of my spare time back when I actually had some!  Now I'm lucky to get to ride my bike a few times a Summer! In truth, I try to spend any extra time I have with my kids. They grow up so fast and I tear up every time I think about them going off to college and how quickly that will come.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

JB: In the children's music world? I love Super Stolie and Laura Doherty. Two great song writers and performers.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

JB: Teaching. Guitar, horse back riding, elementary school. Yeah, teaching.

PEV: So, what is next for Jeanie B?

JB: Right now, I have to make dinner for my kids! As far as music, only the universe knows. I'm hoping this new CD will get noticed and just keep me moving forward to wherever I'm supposed to be. I'd love to be on TV, we'll see.  

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