Ep. 159 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson, and this is Enhance Life with Music, where we explore the ways music makes our lives better. Joining me today from Portland, Oregon, is Parents Choice award winning singer songwriter Jessa Campbell. Jessa bridges the worlds of music and ecology, enchanting young audiences with the wonders of nature. Through her songs, she infuses a joyful sense of humor into her upbeat educational shows and songs. Jessa has an impressive background as a singer and dancer, and her songwriting is informed by the styles of the adult bands with which she regularly performs, which means her upbeat, danceable stem and ecology based songs are enjoyed by kids and their grown ups, for which I thank you on behalf of adults everywhere. Welcome to Enhance Life with Music, Jessa.

Jessa Campbell: [00:00:53] Oh, thank you so much. It’s so great to be here today with you, Mindy.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:56] Well, I do honestly mean that when my kids were young, I really gravitated toward those very few at the time songwriters for kids whose music I could enjoy too, and didn’t drive me crazy. So thank you. Laurie Berkner was a huge fan of mine when my kids were young and at the time anyways. My kids are now 21 and 18 at the time felt like there weren’t a whole lot of options that fit that description. So whenever I find, you know, songwriter singer songwriters now since then whose music does fit that description, I’m like, Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Jessa Campbell: [00:01:35] I hear you on that one for sure.

Mindy Peterson: [00:01:36] Well, I think that learning facts and concepts through song is one of the most underutilized and really foolproof ways of learning and ways of education that are out there. We all learned our ABCs through the ABC song and a while back when one of my kids was probably in sixth grade, I remember him learning the periodic Table song and I was like, Oh my goodness, what a brilliant way to remember all those elements. And so like I say this though, this powerful tool I feel like is really underused and underutilized. So when I heard some of your songs and also when I saw the videos that went with them, I thought, okay, here we go. Wonderful. Learning about refracting light and rainbows. Both are made through song. Brilliant. I love it. So good. So starting out, just tell us how. How did you start teaching science concepts to kids through song?

Jessa Campbell: [00:02:33] Yeah, well, actually, I was a teacher at a learning center here in Portland called Village Home, and I wanted to explore sort of a different way to approach the concepts of simple science concepts for 5 to 8 year olds. I wanted to incorporate some song and movement and activities into the lesson plans, so we actually would brainstorm ideas as a class and then sort of flesh out some song ideas in the classroom. And then I’d go home and sort of work them into an actual song that by the end of the ten week course, I realized I had ten songs written for this particular age group, just exploring simple science concepts in ecology lessons.

Mindy Peterson: [00:03:15] So just some examples of some of those ecology lessons and science concepts that are included in those songs, Which sort of became the basis for your first album? Yeah.

Jessa Campbell: [00:03:25] So the the title track, can you Feel it was written about the salmon life cycle? We were studying life cycles as a class and so we sort of we start from, you know, the eggs in the red all the way through the adult salmon’s journey out to the ocean and then back. And we sort of we made a little game out of it as well, where the kids got to pretend to be the salmon on their way home and they had to swim past bears and they had to avoid other predators and keep swimming upstream through the salmon life cycle journey and then all the way back home to where they started. So yeah, that’s one of the songs off the album. And we had another one called The Waltz of Trillium and Ant, and that that lesson was discussing seed dispersal and all the different ways that seeds are dispersed. I know a lot of us are familiar with, you know, the helicopter seeds and sort of by wind and but one that I actually learned through this work was that ants are actually responsible for taking the Trillium seeds, bringing them to the larva. And then by that process, the larva eating the elaiosomes off the seed. It’s then discarded in the the frass or the area that the ants use for their waste. But that soil is very rich in a lot of nutrients. So the trillium seeds do really well and actually germinate from ant frass.

Mindy Peterson: [00:04:48] Oh wow. Fascinating. Yeah, I didn’t know that.

Jessa Campbell: [00:04:51] No. Yeah.

Mindy Peterson: [00:04:52] And I can just hear like these five year olds coming home from this event using some of those words that you just used.

Jessa Campbell: [00:05:01] Wow. What?

Mindy Peterson: [00:05:02] You didn’t know about. What is that? Yes.

Jessa Campbell: [00:05:05] Yes. And we loved. They loved the word frass. And every time we said it, the kids would just go. They knew it was ant poop, so they thought it was hilarious. You know, any chance to sort of work in some humor that the kiddos like tends to go a long way?

Mindy Peterson: [00:05:21] Oh, yes, I’m sure. So after that ten week course, you had ten songs and that led to you creating that very first album that you made for kids. Can You Feel It? Which landed a Parents Choice Silver Award. It was featured on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live channel. It enjoyed the High five Album of the week Spotlight on Australia’s Kinderling Kids Radio. So highly successful. One quote of yours that I read that really caught my attention. You’ve talked about a concerning trend that you see in today’s childhood is experience. You said, Here’s the problem. Children today spend less time outdoors than any other generation, devoting only 4 to 7 minutes to unstructured outdoor play per day, while spending an average of 7.5 hours in front of electronic media. As a result, child obesity has reached unprecedented levels and continues to rise. Children are carrying the sedentary lifestyle and disconnection with nature into adulthood, which creates a troubling national trend for the future of conservation, our economy and the health and wellness of our communities. Which read that and thought, Oh wow, what a succinct way of summarizing some of these trends that are happening and some of the implications for the future. Talk to us a little bit about how your music can be a tool in changing this trend.

Jessa Campbell: [00:06:54] Yeah, so I see the music that we create as an access point into nature. We I live in a city fortunate that Portland is very green city. There’s a lot of outdoor green spaces for families to enjoy. But, you know, I grew up in in New York and often, you know, spend a lot of time in New York City and realize there might not be many access points to to nature for a lot of a lot of kiddos. So I like to sort of start the conversation through these songs. Through our performances. We try to perform in outdoor public spaces as much as possible, just, you know, having a performance in a park and then encouraging some outdoor play. I like to incorporate a lot of movement and activity into the shows. So often if you come to a just Campbell on The Sapling show, there might be a little activity or workshop before the performance in which we just, you know, have have that unstructured play. But also sometimes we’ll bring in I’ve worked with folks from trackers, Earth and Families for Climate, different organizations that can step in and maybe lead a workshop or an activity before the performance starts. So I’m looking to just sort of be that conversation starter or that sense of wonderment for the kiddos. And then maybe from there they’re encouraged to to go check it out. I want to go, you know, see the salmon and, you know, just sort of be an access point for families to to dig a little deeper.

Mindy Peterson: [00:08:22] Sure. Well, just the movement that you incorporate into your songs does get people moving, gets the kids moving. And I just want to throw in here, too, that a lot. Maybe all of your songs have music videos that go along with them, and those are really great too. I mean, it really exponentially increases the effect of your songs when you can see the videos of the salmon or see pictures of kids creating rainbows with how they’re bending light and things like that. So that really increases the effect, the educational value of the songs and just helps kids understand the concepts for later when they’re singing the songs, then they’re not in front of the video. Yeah, so I like that part too. When you’re talking about New York City and some kids being in urban areas and not having access to nature and parks, I’m also thinking about the fact that the world has changed so much. Parenting has changed so much even since I was a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, where you could have a lot more free range parenting, so to speak, where kids just went out and played and came back home at dinner time. And that’s not the way parenting is really done anymore. There’s been kind of some scary things that have happened. Parenting has changed. There’s more dual working dual income parents, so things have just changed so much.

Mindy Peterson: [00:09:50] And I remember even when my husband and I were looking to move about 17 years ago, our kids were 1 in 4. Or at the time we were looking at some houses that were in more urban settings and we really liked the communities and the style of the homes and the character of the neighborhoods. But then we thought, you know, these homes were designed for a day and age where you could send the kids out to play and have them come home at dinnertime. And you can’t do that anymore. And we’re all going to be right on top of each other all the time in this house. And so we ended up getting further out into suburbia with a bigger house. And so all of those things really do play into the dearth of outdoor time that kids have. And so I love that these songs are reintroducing kids to nature, and I think just singing the songs, learning the songs can get the family talking about these things. And like you alluded to, create the intrinsic motivation in the kid for learning more and digging deeper into these topics and maybe saying, Hey, do we have a fishery near us or a fish ladder? I know the town I grew up in had a fish ladder.

Jessa Campbell: [00:11:06] Okay. Yeah. Yep. Go see it.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:08] There’s a place where we could go. Yeah, right in that town to watch the fish going, swimming upstream and being helped along with that ladder. I’m thinking too, these songs are probably great for dance parties at home. Oh, yeah. For those summer family road trips. Yeah. For the kids and adults to be learning together about these songs.

Jessa Campbell: [00:11:30] Absolutely. Yeah. We sort of go into, you know, into the forest and some songs and then other songs are around a body of Water. One of our songs off the new album, Ripple. Ripple Splash is actually I encourage kids to use the water as a drum and sort of create the beat playing the water, and then at the end they splash up. So it’s sort of designed to be a song that you can sing while you’re swimming with your friends in the river or at a pool, wherever you are.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:58] Oh, love that. Tell us some more about your new album and the songs that are in it. Your new album, Forest Flow, is the second album for Families. It just released on June 9th. Congratulations on that. But tell us some more about the new album, Forest Flow and the songs that are in it.

Jessa Campbell: [00:12:17] Sure, Yeah. This new album, I wanted to create something that sort of brought in my community of musicians. I perform in a lot of other bands that are not only for kids but for adults too. And so a lot of these artists I’ve worked with in other contexts, and so I invited them to be featured artists on this album. Our first two songs feature a Talking Heads cover band that I perform in. We’re called LW, and the lead singer of that project. His name is Lawrence Orlich. He has a son who’s also seven. So he right there the same age as my kiddos Cedar and Rye, who are both seven. And so I sort of invited him into this project so that our kids could come to the show. And so they are featured on Rainbow Flow, which is our song all about how rainbows are formed. And we’ve actually worked on this song in My Son.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:10] So your kids sing on the song or they’re in the music video or both.

Jessa Campbell: [00:13:14] So they sing on a lot of the tracks. They’re actually not on Rainbow Flow, but we did I did bring that song into my son’s classroom. We taught a little music class for for the kiddos, and the teacher just appreciated that she no longer had to just say Roygbiv. We could just sing the chorus of the song together. So yeah, on a couple tracks we do have Saulpaul, who’s a Grammy nominated artist. He’s on Rainbow Flow as well, and then I’ve got it, then goes into the forest with our third track is called Spooky Forest, and this is a song I wanted to create because I think a lot of kids might see, you know, wilderness or nature as a little bit scary. So this is sort of a play on that, that, yeah, there might be some sounds that you hear in the forest that that are different than you would normally hear. You might hear a hooting owl or, you know, a swooping bat, something that might be seen as scary. But the more time you spend in nature, those songs actually become really comforting. And the spookiest sound of all is when you have to come back inside. If a parent is calling to you, come on in time for dinner. So yeah, just to sort of step into nature and understand that it might be a little different than what we’re used to, but it’s a really inviting place, especially when enjoyed with, with your family. Yeah. And then we’ve got voila, Voila Fly, which is one of our bilingual songs on the album that was recorded with my friend Paloma. She’s currently living in Mexico, but we did spend some time together in the Northwest. We lived together for a couple of years, and so you’ll hear her voice in Spanish on that track. And it illustrates the monarch butterflies migration from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. All. All the way to Mexico. So it’s a really cute song that you sort of go through the entire journey of the monarch through through the lens of the butterfly.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:08] And is that the song that starts in English? And then as the monarchs progress closer and closer and then enter Mexico, the lyrics switch to being sung in Spanish. Yes.

Jessa Campbell: [00:15:21] Yep.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:22] Okay. Okay. Yeah. So I thought that concept was just brilliant. I loved it where it tells about that sort of pilgrimage of the monarch butterfly starting out as eggs on milkweed plants in the US and then traveling all the way to Mexico where the song’s lyrics changed to Spanish. And again with the videos, you get to see sort of what these plants look like and, you know, learn. Add that visual aspect to the educational value of the songs too.

Jessa Campbell: [00:15:51] Yeah. And we we do have a little Monarch butterfly patch that Pao. She’s also an incredible artist. She designed the artwork for that song. So I have this little patch that kids can receive by planting some milkweed. So if they want to earn their monarch butterfly patch, just to let me know and I’ll send them a monarch patch in the mail.

Mindy Peterson: [00:16:14] Oh, cool. What a great idea for like summer camps and stuff to utilize this music and the patch and they could sort of build off and kind of develop their own little incentives for some of the other songs and develop projects around those too. Uh huh, uh huh.

Jessa Campbell: [00:16:29] Yeah. There’s a couple other tunes I should mention, some other friends of mine, Travis T, he’s a part of a really wonderful award winning hip hop duo called Eastern Suns. Incredible rapper. And I wanted to sort of bridge into some other genres with this music as well. So we do feature him. He has a little rap moment on our song Owls Game where he voices the owl and he he talks about, you know, what, what you can find in an owl pellet. So it’s sort of a fun look into what owls are eating and the predator prey relationship. So it’s a fun one. And then my friend, 28, the native, he has a little moment on our song Swim With Me and just talks about the sacred water and how we just need to get out there and experience it together as a community.

Mindy Peterson: [00:17:20] I love how the album is about the rich biodiversity of the forest and you sort of reflect that rich diversity within the different musical genres that are represented in the album too, with pulling in elements of hip hop, pop, dance folk to really create this very diverse sound as well with the music and the songs that are included.

Jessa Campbell: [00:17:46] Yeah, that was such a fun. I loved doing this project because I feel like I can draw on all these genres and all of this network that I’ve created as a musician. It’s just been so fun to learn from all of these other artists and to collaborate and see what we can create together.

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:01] And along with creating music and a style that’s palatable and enjoyable for adults as well as children, I love the fact that the science concepts are also interesting to kids and adults alike, because some of the concepts that you explore in the songs are concepts that adults may already be familiar with. But then there’s there’s stuff for us to learn as well, like the The Ant and the Trillium, you know, I didn’t realize that was a way of, you know, a method of seed dispersion. But you also cover topics relating to the food chain and migration with the butterflies and tree canopies and things like that. So there’s, there’s definitely concepts in there for us adults to learn about as well, which keeps it interesting for the grown ups involved in, in listening to.

Jessa Campbell: [00:18:51] Yeah. And it’s been fun for me to research as we’re writing the songs. There’s a lot that I’m learning and right alongside my kids, So it’s been a fun experience for the whole family, really just to, to dig into these concepts and to understand what our urban tree canopies and why do we need them, you know, so sort of helping with our our work there as well.

Mindy Peterson: [00:19:12] Yeah. And these albums for families have sort of been inspired by your kids. You mentioned their names are Cedar and Rye, which love those very organic sounding names. Thank you. Can you tell us a little bit about your own kids? Are they twins? I think you said they’re both seven.

Jessa Campbell: [00:19:29] They are both seven. We’re actually a blended family. So I met my partner, Doug. He brought Rye to one of my sapling shows when she was three. So, yeah, we met and the kids have, you know, they’ve known each other since they were three. So it feels to them like they’ve known each other their whole lives. So yeah, so it’s been fun to sort of as we represent this blending of genres and ideas with the music, we’re also doing that as a. Family and from our various backgrounds. So yeah, we’re all about blending. Over here.

Mindy Peterson: [00:20:04] Yeah. So how do your kids sort of inspire your musical taste? Did they do, like, does one of them like certain musical genres and another like another, which kind of inspires this blending of genres or how they sort of inspired and influenced your music writing?

Jessa Campbell: [00:20:21] Yes. Well, Rhye is a phenomenal dancer. She’s sort of has that like hip hop dance ability that we’re all envious of. And so she’s always looking at like Kidz BOP kind of vibe. And just as soon as a good song comes on, she just breaks out into dance. So I know that, okay, if I want Rhye to get up there and move, I got to write songs that she enjoys. And then Cedar’s really he’s like loves the classic rock, kind of the, you know, he’s just wants that like, guitar work or that heavier music. So Tree Canopy was one of his favorites. So it’s funny how both of their musical tastes have informed the music that I write, and I just found that, you know, the last album that I did was very folk based, and so this has been a lot of fun to sort of get into the worlds of pop and hip hop and more rock sounding that as their musical tastes have have grown and changed. My my albums have reflected that.

Mindy Peterson: [00:21:22] Oh fun. Yeah. Well, kind of convenient that you have that little test market of two right there in your own living under your roof. That’s awesome. Yes. Yes. Well, you mentioned that Rye came to the Sapling show and that your kid’s band called Jessa Campbell and the Saplings, right?

Jessa Campbell: [00:21:39] Yep, that’s.

Mindy Peterson: [00:21:40] Correct. Okay. So in addition to having these albums that people can listen to and purchase, you have shows that you put on as well. Tell us a little bit more about those.

Jessa Campbell: [00:21:50] Yeah, so we do in the summertime, we tend to do a lot of outdoor shows, often hosted by libraries or public parks. So we we do have all of those listed up on our website, but also throughout the school year. I do some school performances. I’ve performed with some preschools and daycares, so really a lot of different settings. We’ve also done a show at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and put on a big production there. So really depends on the venue. But I play anywhere from like a little solo gig in a classroom, just hanging out with the kids and workshopping some ideas with a little music lesson or anywhere to like a 5 or 6 piece band on a on a big stage. So there are many iterations of the project, but I like to think of if I am doing a solo show, then the kids involved become the saplings and I always encourage them to play along and dance along. So they very much become a part of the show as well.

Mindy Peterson: [00:22:53] Okay. And the Saplings theme. I saw a quote of yours where you said as collective saplings, we develop compassion, creativity and confidence rooted in the wisdom of nature. May we grow this beautiful forest together, which I love that thought. Oh, that kind of helps me understand where she’s going with this sapling thing. Anything else you want to say about that word? Saplings that you refer to and use in the name of your band? Yeah.

Jessa Campbell: [00:23:20] Well, I feel like I have my little sapling cedar and just sort of have always thought of him as as like a a little, a little tree that I get to foster and help, help grow and provide the right atmosphere and environment for him to really flourish. And then through meeting Doug and Ry, we just see how we are sort of this, you know, we’re a biodiverse forest here and we are each needing different things. The kids are very different with what their needs are and what they, what they like, what they appreciate. So it’s been fun to explore that as a family. And really that’s, that’s all we can do is just sort of help maintain a positive environment for them. And I think that by by focusing on that, we we are raising the kids that can, you know, keep things going in the right direction.

Mindy Peterson: [00:24:11] Sure. And just kind of letting them grow in their own natural inclination, you know, So they’re all different. Exactly. Sure. As any parent will agree. Yeah.

Jessa Campbell: [00:24:22] Absolutely. Takes all kinds.

Mindy Peterson: [00:24:24] Yeah. Well, where is the best way for listeners to learn more about the shows that you offer? Find your music, any other resources that you want to mention in terms of your YouTube channel or blogs or things like that. Tell us some more about how listeners can connect with you.

Jessa Campbell: [00:24:41] Yeah, I do have a website. It’s just Jessa Campbell saplings.com. You can find all my music up there. There are links to the videos which are all on YouTube. I also have what I’ve started this past year is the Saplings Club and that’s a private Facebook group and through that group. I go a little deeper and will often provide some some resources or some ideas for activities for families at home. We’ll post little experiments that we’ve done, little games that we’ve developed. So that’s sort of another another way if parents are looking for some ideas. We do have a lot of homeschool families that are a part of that group. And yeah, I’m currently working with another woman to develop sort of a a ten week curriculum for for this album as well, since I sort of had a similar thing for Can You Feel It? So I’m hoping to release that maybe by the school year we’ll have ten lesson plans that go along with the song, with some activities and some more resources around those topics.

Mindy Peterson: [00:25:45] Fantastic. Well, definitely include those links in the show notes, and I could definitely see these songs and this music being such a great catalyst for summer projects and also, of course, school year projects, but summer projects, summer camps, teachers, parents, students and families. Just like I said, listening in the car as as families do those road trips for through the summer. And then once they arrive at their destination, they have all these ideas of things to do and sort of the educational foundation to understand a little bit more of what they’re seeing when they see those ants crawling around or see the salmon or. Yeah, absolutely. Or once they get to the river or the lake and they can, you know, use that as the drum and splash around. So what a great, great learning activity and something that’s fun, too, at the same time. Oh, good. Love it. Well, your new album, it’s for all ages, especially for ages four through eight. But as we mentioned, something in there for everybody, including the adults, force flow. It’s available on all major platforms Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Bandcamp, anything else that you want to mention to our listeners before we close out with our coda?

Jessa Campbell: [00:27:06] Oh, well, I would just like to thank you, Mindy, for having me on and I hope that this inspires many more outdoor adventures. We’re a big fan of just getting outside and seeing, you know, I think it starts with just a sense of of wonderment. So in curiosity. So I’m excited to I’d love to hear about any games or activities that that families end up partaking in after being inspired by this album. So thank you so much for having me on the show.

Mindy Peterson: [00:27:33] Oh, my pleasure. I love that idea too. So listeners, if you have any activities, projects, anything that is inspired by listening to these songs, be sure to either let us know by connecting with her through the links in the show notes or let me know and I’ll pass it along to her because I’d love to be able to hear about those too. I love that I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending coda by sharing a song or story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Tell us about the the song that you’re going to be sharing with us today in closing.

Jessa Campbell: [00:28:11] Yeah, I’ll be sharing Rainbow Flow and that features SaulPaul and it is our song all about how rainbows are created and we hope this replaces the old roygbiv and you can sing the colors of the rainbow from here on out.

Transcribed by Sonix.ai