Singing, songwriting, & pandemic parenting
Contributed by: Sarajane Mullins
Janine DeSouza worked for Kidstock! for 7 years between 2006 - 2013 as a music director and songwriter. She currently lives in Berkeley, California where she continues her life as a parent, singer, and songwriter. Janine has that kind of affirmative energy that can wake you up and give you a boost, even during a global pandemic. I know because I had a chance to work with her several years back and no one ever forgets having that kind of uplifting joy in a colleague. Janine is a perfect example of someone who channels their energy directly into their creativity. Do yourself a favor and spend just a few minutes listening to her “Ad Demo Reel” on her website. You’ll hear exactly why marketing and advertising professionals gravitate towards her tunes to catch the attention of people in a positive, bright, and uplifting way. All this helps explain why I was so looking forward to catching up with Janine for this interview and knew she would have positive reflections to share about creating and parenting during a pandemic.
What is one example of how you use creativity in your current career or why you think creativity is helpful for success in your career?
Wouldn't our lives be so boring and uninspired without it? Creativity is essential in our lives! I think that it's really important to keep a sense of wonder, play, possibility and fun in whatever you do. It doesn't matter what the occupation! For me, it’s personally about how you get the best results when writing or co-writing a song. Working with my co-writers whom I adore, is pure joy! I love the process of creating a song: brainstorming, talking, and usually there is a whole lot of laughing too.
In other words, a sense of creativity helps envision or fuse together a final product?
It's incredible to take an invisible idea and create something out of it at the end. Finally, when a song really resonates with someone and inspires, entertains, and connects him/her, that is the absolute best.
Do you have a fondest memory from working at Kidstock! that you would like to share?
This is a hard one as I have many amazing memories over the 7 seasons that I worked there, but I would say that seeing my kids participate in the Kidstock shows when they were older was a real thrill and a wonderful experience. It was great to see them on stage, singing a song that I had written in their colorful costumes, dancing with their art project, and delivering their lines and a part of this musical theater magic.
Are there any skills you established at Kidstock! that you feel you took with you into your future?
I learned to think like a kid and enjoy your work! I can still hear Brian's voice ringing (nicely) in my ears each week saying, "I need a song about aliens on a beach dancing" or "I need a song about Italian tourists visiting Hawaii and there's a volcano erupting!" This was always followed by "Oh, and I need that done by Monday at 8 a.m." Those song assignments really expanded my thinking fast in the most fantastic and wonderful ways! There would usually be a few changes to the original song too which also taught me to have flexibility and that nothing is ever set in stone. It's a motto that I still subscribe to this day in trying to make a song the best that it can be! Finally, writing songs for kids really trained and taught me to write in a very singable way with catchy melodies which can be repeated and remembered easily. It taught me to write very clear and distinct verses and choruses that jump out. I still always ask my co-writers in our sessions, "How does that sing?" It's really important that the lyrics flow and are easily sung. These were lessons that I learned at Kidstock and I'm very thankful for that.
I like that you tie together the skills of Improvisation, Flexibility, and Clarity. Three such necessary skills for artists to have and yet sometimes these skills are so difficult to craft during certain moments of anyone’s career. Speaking of flexibility, anything you would want to share with other parents or artists on how you’ve navigated the pandemic?
Be kind to yourself and give yourself compassion, grace, and frankly, a break. In the big scheme of life, having a few extra slices of pepperoni pizza is perfectly okay. Everyone is adapting, coping, and figuring it out in his/her own way. For me, I try to get out of the house in some form or another each day whether it's a run to the grocery store, a family walk, or a quick run. I'm also trying to limit my exposure to the news....catch an hour of TV in the a.m. and then an hour later on for the wrap up of the day's events. I want to be informed and knowledgeable about what's happening in the world, but it can really cause a lot of anxiety if I watch too much.
Any creative ideas you stumbled upon?
A great idea that I heard about from a friend of mine was to ask each family member to write down something new and fun that he/she would like to try (Yes, you too parents!) and then every week, the family will pick one idea from someone's list and do it together. My friend was dancing in her very first Tik Tok video soon after! I thought that was very cool! This is also a great time for artists to create a treasure trove of new work. As for new skills, I'd like to learn how to play the ukulele and work on a screenplay/musical idea that I've been thinking about for a couple of years. Use your imagination and go for it!
ABOUT JANINE: An accomplished songwriter, Janine is a graduate of the Professional Music program at Berklee College of Music and holds an impressive list of pre and post-Kidstock! songwriting accomplishments. A Broadjam Top 40 winner, for the song, "What's It Gonna Hurt?" (Ft. Xander Hale) co-written with Russell Fogg and produced by Jamie Foulds, Janine and her talented co-writers/producers are also Finalists/Semi-Finalists of many other songwriting contests. Most recently, "Let's Go" (Ft. Goldduster) co-written with Cassandra Howell and produced by Bill Lefler, became the tune of a Regional McDonald's ad. The song, "Army of One" (Ft. Xander Hale), co-written/produced by Jamie Foulds and also co-written with Cassandra Howell, has also been used in the "Race the Storm" episode of "Bering Sea Gold (Discovery Channel), a musical she put forth called “A Brand New Day” hit the stage for her 40th birthday and the song, "Can't Break Me (Ft. Xander Hale) co-written/produced by Jamie Foulds and also co-written with Gil Polk, has been used in 2 online ads (Nova Scotia Tourism & Truman's Cleaning Products). Although Janine wrote all of her Kidstock! songs and many others solo, she loves co-writing and is the first to point out that it's a team effort involving many different elements from the very beginning inklings and concept of a song idea to the final lyrics, melody, vocals, and production. She is always incredibly thankful to everyone involved as the goal is to always create the best song possible. To read more about Janine and keep up with her after this interview you can visit her website at www.janinedesouza.com.