Under the Hat: The Journey of Songwriting
Making Songwriting Twice As Fun
I started writing songs long before I learned how to play an instrument. My parents still tell stories about me banging on pots and pans and making up nonsense sounds with melodies before I could speak. You may have a kid like that too. Lots of kids love to experiment with rhythm and sound. It’s all part of the joy of using your imagination and creating something from nothing. It’s not that unusual, after all.
What’s unusual is to find someone who doesn’t love music. There’s a saying that music is the universal language. Over the last few years, I’ve learned some other wonderful lessons that have made me understand how true that old cliché really is. And the best part about the lessons I’ve learned is that they really happened by accident.
Here’s the story: my first CD, Pizza for Breakfast, came out four years ago. I’d been writing and performing for grown-ups for a long time, and I thought it would be fun to make a record for kids. The songs on Pizza for Breakfast were inspired by my former elementary school students at the Smith College Campus School in Northampton, MA. Shortly after the CD was released, my wife (Missus G) and I took a trip to Colombia in South America…
One day we were sitting under a palm tree in the jungle and I had a new and simple thought: if I wrote songs in Spanish maybe we could travel around performing for kids in Latin America? I already spoke Spanish, but somehow the thought had never occurred to me to write songs in any language other than English.
The next day, I found myself sitting under a different palm tree at the beach with my guitar and I wrote, “Vamos a la Playa,” which means “let’s go to the beach.” The next day I wrote another song and I was on a roll.
It was so much fun that I couldn’t stop writing new bilingual songs and eventually I had enough to make an album. Sure enough, when my next album, CHOCOLALALA, came out, Missus G and started booking concerts in Latin America and around the United States.
I’ve been traveling and performing around the world for many years, but singing my bilingual songs on a big stage in Mexico City or a little mountain village in Guatemala was the most fascinating and rewarding experience I’d had as a touring musician.
Last month I released a new album of original, bilingual songs. ABC FIESTA, like all my CDs, draws upon a lot of different musical influences: rock, funk, blues, reggae, country, and a host of Latin percussion styles. The common theme of my newest CD is the joy of music, reading and learning to speak both Spanish and English.
I never could have imagined sitting under that palm tree in the Colombian jungle, how my life as a musician was about to change. And that’s truly the best part of writing songs; you never know where they may end up taking you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children. His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com