Q & A: Rock musician dials it down for kids

Seth Warden has gone from screaming vocals and distorted guitars to playing acoustic guitar for scre

Seth Warden has gone from screaming vocals and distorted guitars to playing acoustic guitar for screaming kids.

It’s been a gradual change. The former guitarist and vocalist for local hard rockers Wetwerks began shifting his music in a more acoustic-oriented direction about five years ago, stripping his band down and playing cover gigs at bars in Saratoga Springs.

Between then and now, Warden also started a family and now has two young daughters at home. One day, he decided to try to write a song for his first daughter, which ended up becoming “Pickle Pie,” one of the tracks on his new children’s band Seth and the Moody Melix’s debut album, “Hi, Hello, How Do You Do?”

At the encouragement of his wife and daughters (who were singing the song nonstop) Warden teamed up with percussionist Brian Melick and violinist Doug Moody, his bandmates in Kevin McKrell’s Train of Fools. The trio officially released their album at a show at the Spa Little Theater on Sept. 23 and is now lining up workshop gigs at schools in the area.

Q: Where did the inspiration to write children’s music come from?

A: Being a dad now with two little girls, I’ve watched my fair share of Nickelodeon and all these other kids channels, and I noticed I was slightly disappointed in the musicians and the music out there for kids today. I was just getting my master’s degree in elementary education at The College of Saint Rose in December, so I put what I learned from that into my music. I really tried to tie in a lot of educational and developmental ideas, the frameworks of what psychologists and teachers use, to put into the music — and that’s big words for simple things like rhyming, alliteration and fun themes that keep kids excited. And then, I’ve been performing with [drummer and percussionist] Brian Melick and [fiddler] Doug Moody in Train of Fools, so I approached them with a couple ideas.

Q: How did the songs and the album “Hi, Hello, How Do You Do?” come about?

A: “Pickle Pie” was the very first children’s song that I wrote, and my daughter just kept singing it every day. I thought, oh my gosh — that kind of reinforced that I was on to something. I wrote nine more tracks, and had those guys come into the studio to record it. It was the fastest record I’ve ever recorded, and the easiest. There was no pretense. It’s not like an adult, where they have to sing your favorite song and tell you the story of your life in music. It was really easy to come up with this.

Q: For many years, you were known as more of a hard rock musician on the Capital Region scene. Was it difficult for you to switch gears so drastically?

A: I come from a pop background — I grew up listening to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Simon and Garfunkel and James Taylor. Nice acoustic music has always been a part of me, and I guess the hard rock got out my teen angst. Now I’m very happy being a dad, and I really don’t — I don’t pick up my electric guitar and turn on the distortion anymore. Of course, I do at times but professionally I’m not doing that anymore.

Q: Were there any specific musical influences — children’s music or otherwise — that shaped this project?

A: These songs are definitely folk-based, roots-based genre, if you will, with some fun beats in there and stuff. With this project, there’s a woman on Nickelodeon Jr., Laurie Berkner. My daughter fell in love with this woman, and we bought everything — we bought all the DVDs, all the CDs. And then, when we saw she was playing somewhere in Connecticut last year, we went to, kind of like their version of the Palace Theatre, and, man, it was sold out. The place was full of kids and full of parents, full of merchandise. This woman was making a fortune — you can look at it as a business sense as well; there’s a huge market for children’s music. . . . But yeah, Laurie Berkner, of course the local guys, The Zucchini Brothers, who everybody knows. So hopefully we’ll follow a bit in their footsteps.

Q: The album release party was on Sept. 23. How have audiences been reacting to the material?

A: So far it’s all been extremely positive feedback. We’ve sold CDs from New York to Colorado and California, so it’s a real thing. We’re not shipping five a day, but five a week — it’s happened. We’re seeing it can happen, and right now we’re in the whole challenge of marketing, how to get it to the masses. But I’m confident; the kids that have heard it so far are liking it; you’ve just got to get it to them.

Q: You also have a children’s book coming out, based on one of the songs on the album. How did that come about?

A: We’re following up the first CD with . . . “Pickle Pie” the book in November. I worked with an illustrator, the same woman who did the [album] cover artwork, Kara Kniffen. She’s a tattoo artist; she works on Lark Street, and my wife met her through her job, and we became really great friends. She did the mural work for our daughter’s nursery. When I told her about this idea, she said she’d love to be a part of it, and she did such a great job on the album cover. She approached us later and said she’d like to illustrate one of the songs, “Pickle Pie,” so I said of course. That instantly makes me an author, which is really weird. But the roots on this tree just keep growing.

Q: How is writing a song for children different than writing other songs?

A: One, it’s OK to be goofy and silly. For some reason, that’s such a no-no in rock ’n’ roll, to have a sense of humor — even though bands like the Foo Fighters are fantastic and have such a great sense of humor. I love bands like that.

But it’s definitely a different mind-set. You spend a lot of time finding cool things that rhyme. I’m working on a song called “Where in the World Have You Been?” When you think about it, it’s kind of a funny statement, to hear somebody say that. But then I thought about it — where have you been? Have you been to Boston, to Maine? I try to make it somewhat educational, but at the same time being cool. I remember a lot of music from school that was definitely educational, but it surely wasn’t cool. I guess my goal is to educate children without them knowing they’re being educated.

Q: Everyone hears a lot about the importance of music in education. What makes it so important, in your mind?

A: It teaches discipline, it teaches teamwork, it teaches social interaction, it teaches what’s important. And obviously, there’s the joy of music — if you could stick your head in anybody’s car, chances are their radio is on and they’re listening to music. It was such a big deal for me in school — I did marching band, band, chorus; I had a concentration in music, so I did more music classes than a lot of other classes in high school. And it also just teaches the joy of music, the history — it’s been a part of the world and culture since it began.

And if people don’t think it’s a real career, clearly it is. I’m playing full time as a solo artist, in a duo and this now. It is a real thing; the music industry is still a viable industry. It’s not easy, but when you love what you do you can look past that.

Categories: Life and Arts

Leave a Reply