Apple In My Teeth: 10 Year Anniversary

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Ten years ago today I released my very first album, Apple In My Teeth. I was 18 years old. I thought I’d share a few memories and also give you all the album for free. Enough time has passed that the fondness and nostalgia I feel about this record now outweighs the crippling embarrassment over some of the more angsty lyrics.

So, it’s the summer of 2008 and 17 year old me has been dreaming of recording an album for the last three years. Over this time I’ve been busy writing songs of various degrees of quality and playing as many gigs as possible without completely failing my A-levels. Through the wonders of Myspace (remember that?) I became friendly with a group called Tim and Sam’s Tim and The Sam Band with Tim and Sam (now recording as Golden Fable, and still making brilliant music). They recorded their records with Tim’s brother-in-law, a chap called Marc Joy.

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Now I’ll be honest, I can’t actually remember how or why I ended up getting in touch with Marc, whether we emailed each other first, or really anything about this, but I do remember standing in my parents garden having phone call with Marc. He said he’d be very happy to record my album, and suggested that I come and stay in Wales where his studio was for a week. I nervously asked him how much this would cost and he replied that he would charge me £800 for the week. This, incase you weren’t sure, was ridiculously cheap and generous. The albums I’ve made more recently have been many many more times this. Whilst £800 was still a lot of money for a 17 year old, I had a little bit of money I’d inherited from my Granny, and recording my first album seemed a sensible way to use it.

The date was set, and Marc had suggested that I stay with Tim’s (of Tim and Sam’s Band) mum’s house for the week, who’d generously offered to put us up. I had assembled a merry band of friends and acquaintances to come and play on the album. My friend Joel Gylnn Davies, who I‘d played in bands with on and off since I was 13 was on drumming duty. Julian Butt, who later played with me in David Gibb & The Pony Club, and who went on to have a huge influence on my career as an musician and artist, played accordion. Elly Lucas, who I’d go on to perform with in a duo as ‘David Gibb & Elly Lucas’ played fiddle on the record. Chris Harding, who later recorded albums by David Gibb & The Pony Club and David Gibb & Elly Lucas, came to play some percussion and, bizarrely for that week only, had decided to grow a moustache similar to that of the Mario Bros.

The two gentleman who played brass on the record were called Ian and Bernard. I think that I had seen them playing in a jazz band that was busking on Derby high street at Christmas. I must have given them my phone number and asked them if they’d play on the album. I don’t remember much except that they were trad jazz veterans, and that Ian kept taking snuff during the sessions.

The backing vocals on this record were by Robyn Johnson, who lived nearby and who I’d got to know from her being part of a brilliant band called Mexican Kids At Home (sadly long disbanded). Robyn came up for a couple of days. There seem to be pictures of us from that week in a green house with secateurs. I’m not entirely sure why.

The week with Marc is a bit of a blur, but the one thing I remember is how exciting it was to be making an album. Thinking back to that time, all I really wanted was to play gigs, anywhere and everywhere and make music. Just the very fact that I was recording was incredibly exciting. I had no idea at the time how I was going to release the album or even what I was going to do with it.

Looking back at it, I’m struck at how much this album signposts the music I was going to make in the future for families. Whist some of the arrangements and lyrics are a bit dodgy, there’s that sense of excitement and jubilation that I still try and put into my music today. There’s even a couple of songs that would easily be at home on one of my family albums.

Even the artwork, by brilliant illustrator Katie Viggers (who now makes beautiful books and prints) looks like it could easily be for an album for families and children. I often feel that it took me about 6 years to work out that the thing I wanted to be doing was making music for families. And yet when I look back at this record, it seems blindingly obvious that this was what I was going to end up doing. All through my teens I’d been obsessed with picture books, bright colours, children’s TV and the sunnier side of songwriting.

I’m pleased that my journey to making family music was a long one, as I learnt so much along the way, and the songs I write today wouldn’t be half as good without that journey. But it also makes me smile so see this first step on the road of that journey, especially now that I know where I was going to end up.

So if you’re intrigued by all this nostalgic navel gazing, you can download the whole album for FREE on my Bandcamp page.


And of course don’t forget that my NEW album Rolling Down The Road is also available to pre order. It’s out 23rd August and there’s a whole bus full of music for you and your family to enjoy together. All aboard!

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5 Songs That Inspired My New Album 'Rolling Down The Road'

Photo by Mark Howe.

Photo by Mark Howe.

On August 23 2019, my new album Rolling Down The Road is going to be released into the world…
This will be my third album for families and when making this record I really wanted to push myself and try new things. I thought it would be fun to share some of the music that inspired me in the making of this album and, in doing so, give you a taste of what’s to come!

Below are five videos of songs that have in someway inspired or influenced the making of Rolling Down The Road. As you’ll see, it’s a fairly eclectic mix… I hope you enjoy listening/reading!


#1 Once In A Lifetime - Talking Heads

I’ve always loved the Talking Heads and admired the way they make music that’s eclectic and sophisticated without sacrificing brilliant, uplifting and catchy melodies. I was listening to a lot of their music when I was writing this new album, and I was really inspired to try and replicate their use of layers of rhythms and melodies. You can really hear it in the song above ‘Once In A Life Time’. I don’t think I’d ever be able to match David Byrne for sheer charisma though…

#2 Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? - The Shirelles

I wrote at least four songs for Rolling Down The Road inspired by the music of those early 60s girls groups, two of which made it onto the album.

About two years ago I caught a BBC 6 Music documentary all about the 60s girl groups. Groups like The Supremes, The Shirelles, The Marvelettes and Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, who’s music bridged that gap between British Invasion rock ‘n’ roll and bubblegum pop. There’s such a charming innocence and beauty to these songs, sung by groups who were often teenagers themselves. I think I wrote at least four songs for Rolling Down The Road inspired by the music of those early 60s girls groups, two of which made it onto the album. The song above, written by Carole King and performed by The Shirelles is one of my all time favourites.

#3 Have You Seen My Baby? - Randy Newman

His song writing has such a swagger to it and I just can’t get enough of it.

To be honest every record I’ve made has been inspired by the music of Randy Newman (see ‘The Cat Came Too’ on Climb That Tree, and ‘Monkey See Monkey Dream’ on Letters Through Your Door). His music is very special to me, and my partner Ellie has had to get used to hearing his albums and film soundtracks played at regular intervals in the car and round the house. With this record I wanted to try and capture that rock and roll feel he does so well. His song writing has such a swagger to it and I just can’t get enough of it. The track above is a perfect example.

#4 My Perfect Cousin - The Undertones

I’ve always tried to avoid worrying about genre when I’m writings songs. If it feels good then it probably is good is what I’ve found in the past (see Teddy At The Disco). Anyway after watching a (not spectacular) film about Good Vibrations, the record label that discovered The Undertones, I has a bit of a binge through their back catalogue. There’s a freedom and joy in punk rock that I think is missing from music these days. It doesn’t have to be clever it just has to feel good and come from an honest place. At least one track on Rolling Down The Road was directly inspired by that punk rock sound and ethos.

#5 Spring Spring Spring - Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

I wanted to go all out with a track on this new record and create a song that’s all jazz hands and tap shoes

I’m a big fan of musical theatre, particularly the old MGM films and the classics. You can hear little glimpses of this in my song writing, but I wanted to go all out with a track on this new record and create a song that’s all jazz hands and tap shoes. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers has some of the finest songs ever written and, whilst these days not remotely in any way politically correct (kidnapped women who eventually fall in love and marry their captors… just no!), is still a beautiful, hilarious and moving piece of cinema. It’s always been an ambition of mine to write a musical for families. Watch this space.


So there you are! Don’t forget you can order my new album Rolling Down The Road below, and see if you can spot all these influences when you’re listening. I really hope you enjoyed reading!

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#5 Stuff I Like You Might Like Too: Brady Rymer - Under The Big Umbrella

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Ok so this one’s a little cheeky, as I technically have an invested interest. However, my good friend from the USA Brady Rymer has released his new album, and it’s really rather good.

Brady and me seeing the sights in Oxford.

Brady and me seeing the sights in Oxford.

Even before I became pals with Brady he was one of my favourite songwriters - he’s got such an amazing gift when it comes to melody and song, underlaid with an inherent sense of rock ‘n’ roll. His new album, Under The Big Umbrella, is a beautiful record all about kindness, sharing, respect and, of course, having a good time!

Brady very kindly joined me on my last album Climb That Tree to add some guest vocals on my song Rain Rain (You Can Stay) and I was thrilled when last year he asked me to return the favour and sing on his version of The Beatles’ A Little Help From My Friends. The perfect song for a UK - USA collaboration!

So here’s the title track from album. Make sure you order your copy now, and enjoy some of the best family music you’ll ever hear!

Check out Brady’s website here.
Check out his Facebook here.
Follow him on Twitter here.

#4 Stuff I Like You Might Like Too: Mark Bradley's Bugbops Comic

If like me you love comics, then you’ll love the new Web comic from illustrator Mark Bradley - Bugpops.

These days it feels like lots of the web comics I come across seem to go out of their way to be edgy and explore controversial issues. There’s obviously nothing wrong with that, but perhaps this is why when I first came across Bugbops I was struck by the wonderful sense of joy and innocence in this comic.

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Mark Bradley's Bugbops

The two main characters (who are also best friends) are made up of brightly coloured shapes and occupy a world beautifully rendered in sketchy pencil lines and small details. Whilst only 4 strips in (and one of these is technically a bonus strip) Mark has already set the tone for his comic exploring themes of friendship, happiness and general everyday goings on. There will be a new comic every Wednesday and I highly recommend that you check it out!

You can find Bugbops here: https://t.co/08fMNkXGmL

And you can find Mark Bradley’s social links below:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/markbradleyart
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/markbradleyillustration/
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/Bugbops

#3 Stuff I Like You Might Like Too: Laura Sayers

If you’ve always wanted to know what your house would look like if it was tiny and made of paper, then you’ll probably want to check out paper artist Laura Sayers.

Creating the most exquisite creations out of nothing more than tiny pieces of delicately and precisely cut paper, Laura is fast making a name for herself in the illustration world. She’s already been featured on Not On The High Street’s TV adverts and has even been commissioned to make a scale model of The Royal Albert Hall. I’ve been very lucky to have Laura create some beautiful artwork for me on two occasions, including for my song “I’d Like To Build A Rocket With The Things Found In My Pocket” which you can see below.

Laura currently offers bespoke creations via her shop on Not On The High Street, where you can commission her to create a miniature version of your house, family and friends or even your favourite fictional character. This is the perfect one-of-a-kind present for that special someone!

Visit Laura’s website.

Visit Laura’s shop on Not On The High Street.

#2 Stuff I Like You Might Like Too: YKRA rucksacks

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Whilst on holiday last year in Budapest, my partner Ellie and I spent a joyous day wondering round all the independent design shops that the city seems to have so many of. One of those shops, Zun Store, immediately caught our attention due to the window display of beautiful brightly coloured rucksacks in the window. After entering the shop, we discovered that the rucksacks in question were made by a brand called YKRA (I’ve no idea how you pronounce it) and they were a Hungarian brand that manufacture all their rucksacks and other accessories in Hungary. The brand was started by Balázs Lakatos who was a child of the 80s in former Yugoslavia. The bright colours and bold designs are inspired by a love of hiking and the outdoors, and of the styles and colorful retro polyester fashion that was so characteristic of the communist eastern block.

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As soon as we laid eyes on these rucksacks we knew we were going to have to take one home with us. I chose one based around primary colours, as that’s my favourite colour scheme and I thought it’d go well with all the other bright things that I like to wear. Ellie went for a white one with a really cool tree print.

Ellie’s rucksack

Ellie’s rucksack

My rucksack

My rucksack

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It’s worth pointing out that these rucksacks come at a price. Even with things bit a cheaper in Hungary they worked out at around £90 each, and if you order from their online shop (prices are in euros but they ship internationally) you’re looking at something closer to £120. Whilst that might seem an awful lot for a backpack, I will say that not only are they all beautifully handmade in their workshop, they’re also very good quality. The straps are incredibly thick leather and all those buckles and fixings are very sturdy and solid. The bottoms of the bags are also made of leather to reduce wear and tear when you’re constantly putting it on the floor to get things out.

All in all if you’re looking for a day sack that’s a bit special and will help you stand out in the crowd, then you could do a lot worse. There’s so many amazing colours and designs to choose from. Here’s me modelling mine somewhere in Derbyshire last summer. And if you’re planning a travelling adventure then here’s a song to get you in the mood.

I'm starting a podcast and I need your help!

Making serious disco faces with my teddy bear crew.

Making serious disco faces with my teddy bear crew.

I'm offering to write you a song on the subject of your choice... 

So here's the thing. For a long time now, I've been thinking about starting a podcast for families all about the music I make and the music I love. I've been looking for a way to engage with all the lovely people who enjoy my music, and also for an opportunity to challenge myself to write more songs and this felt like a really great way to do both. I've done a lot of thinking but now I need your help... 

Each episode I'm going to be asking one of you to challenge me to write a song on a subject of your choice. It can be anything you chose, from playing on the swings at the park to finding out that your dog can secretly fly. The only rule I've got is that I don't write songs about poo or bodily fluids (sorry). 

What you need to do...

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To have a chance at being featured on the podcast all you need to do is:
1. Send me an audio recording of you requesting your song. You can do this on any smart phone just by using the audio recording app.  The recording should go something like this:

- [say your name nice and clearly]
- "Dear David, please could you write me a song about [whatever you'd like your song to be about!]

[Tell me why you would like the song to be written - for example it could be a song to help you get to sleep, or a song to play when your family are in the car and stuck in traffic]. 

2. Email your audio recording to me at info@davidgibb.com along with your name, age, name of a parent or guardian and, ideally, a contact telephone number. 

What happens then?

If your idea is picked, then I'll turn it into a song which will be featured on an episode of the podcast. I'll also send you a copy of the song and a David Gibb podcast badge (like a Blue Peter badge except that it won't get you into anywhere). Unfortunately I can't guarantee that all suggestions will definitely be made into a song, but I can guarantee that we'll listen every suggestion sent to us. 

When will I be able to listen this podcast?

The fan club out in force.

The fan club out in force.

The short answer is at some point this year. I want 2019 to be a year full of exciting things so I'm working really hard to make that a reality. I'm about to start recording my third album, I'm busy planning my next theatre show based on my music, and there's also something very exciting which I'm not allowed to talk about at the moment (isn't it annoying when people say that?). This podcast will be just one of a whole series of ways to engage with my songs and music. When it launches I'll be sure to let you all know so you can listen in!

#1 Stuff I Like You Might Like Too: Billygoats and Rain Coats

As a musician I’ve played enough music festivals to know there’s still a big problem with litter and waste when everyone heads home, with some people even choosing to just ditch their tent at the end of the weekend rather that pack it away and take it with them. These days you can pick up ridiculously cheap basic camping gear like tents, chairs and sleeping bags from your local supermarket.

That’s why I was pleased to hear about a new children’s clothing company called Billygoats and Rain Coats. These guys go around festivals collecting up all the left behind tents, and then lovingly turn them into one-of-a-kind raincoats, bags and other accessories.

Living with someone who is a bit of a sewing fanatic (https://www.instagram.com/turningshirty/) means I can really see the appeal of owning a coat that’s bright, colourful, unique and ethical. It looks like they are only just starting out but I’d definitely recommend having a look at their website. Apparently they’re planning to do adult sizes in the future so expect to see me strutting around in a brand new rain coat any day now. And if you do decide to buy a new rain coat for the small person in your life, here’s the perfect song to enjoy whilst wearing it.

Source: https://www.billygoats.co.uk/

5 Reasons Why You Should Start Making Music For Families...

To any fellow musicians out there feeling a bit disenchanted with the rat race, here’s 5 reasons why you should start making music for families.

1. It's liberating!

Kids don’t have any real concept of genre. They don’t care if it’s punk rock, gypsy jazz or hip hop. This means that as a songwriter you can write in any genre and any style you want without someone saying “but I thought you were an ‘insert genre here’ artist?

2. Your audience will always be honest.

If children like your songs they’ll tell you by dancing like crazy, or sitting at the front and singing along to every single word. They haven’t learnt all the rubbish stuff about being cool which goes with ‘grown up’ music.

3. Your music will have a lasting impact!

Know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when as an adult you revisit your favourite book as a child? That’s the same feeling children will have when they hear your songs as an adult and, if you’re lucky play them to their own children too.

4. Your fans will be grateful.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times parents have said that my albums have saved them on a long a car journey! In the UK there’s really not much children’s music out there but there is a huge appetite for quality music for families.

5. It’s inspiring.

So many of my songs have come from things that children have said to me in workshops and gigs (such as this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KZroKtezdk). Children’s minds lack that boring grown-up filter we all acquire and I regularly feel humbled to be able to make music for an audience with such a huge imagination and inspiring outlook on the world.


So there you are. If you’re looking for great music for families I’d highly recommend (and this is just scratching the surface!) Brady Rymer and the Little Band That CouldThe Okee Dokee BrothersDog on Fleas,Andrew & Polly and in the UK nick copeMrs H and the Sing-along Band and Johnny and the Raindrops.

New video: TIFFY TAFFY TOFFEE

I’m delighted to reveal a brand new music video! I’ve always been a huge fan of poet, author and all round smarty pants Michael Rosen, so I was delighted when he gave me permission to turn one of his brilliant poems into a song!

The poem is called Tiffy Taffy Toffee and is a wonderful bit of nonsense word play to get your tongue around. We had a lot of fun making the video and finding all sorts of strange things to appear behind me whilst I performed the song.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel if you enjoy it!

Songs Across The Pond

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I'm incredibly excited to finally announce a brand new musical collaboration with USA children's-artist Brady Rymer!

I've been a huge fan of Brady Rymer's music for a long time now, and even invited him to join me on my song Rain Rain (You Can Stay) on my latest album Climb That Tree. Now Brady and myself have put together a brand new musical show for families called 'Songs Across The Pond'. 

Brady is flying out specially for a tour of the UK this October, and we would love you to join us on the road! 

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2 NEW DATES ADDED
FRIDAY, OCT 19: THE STORY MUSEUM, OXFORD
MONDAY, OCT 22: KIRKGATE ARTS, CUMBRIA

As well as playing some of our own favourite songs, we'll also be sharing some brand new song we've written together specially for the tour! You can here a sneak preview below:

I just know you're going to love Brady's music! You can here his stuff on Spotify and on iTunes and make sure you check out some of the great videos on his Youtube channel

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We really hope you'll join us on this exciting new family music adventure! 

A Magical Musical Tree...

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Around two years ago I decided that the title of my new album was going to be Climb That Tree. I was getting more and more theatre bookings and decided that when I toured the album I wanted the show to be a touch more theatrical.  However I was also very keen to avoid the music getting lost amongst props, stage sets, lighting cues and dodgy scripted dialogue. I firmly believe in the mantra of stick to what you know. I’m not an actor, and at this point had very little knowledge of children’s theatre.

So, how could I make a family gig more visually appealing and theatrical whilst ensuring that music and song still remained the focus? The solution I came up with was a set piece which could add a framework and structure to the songs being performed. I decided that the best option would be a tree. After all, the album was called Climb That Tree and a tree is also something that’s familiar and friendly to almost all children. I decided that this tree would absorb objects related to the songs I would play and, when the time came to play the song, a flower on the tree would open to reveal the object.

The next step was to find someone to make this tree for me. After speaking to lots of friends and colleagues, someone recommended that I get in touch with Vortex Creates, a theatre design company based in Coventry.

We talked a lot about what the tree might look like, and I sent them over a Pinterest board that I had put together when I first came up with the idea of the tree. I also sent them the album artwork created by the lovely Pippa Curnick, as I was really keen that the tree look similar to the tree featured on the album cover. We all agreed that the tree would need to be taller than me (I’m 6″5) so as to look impressive on stage. We also decided that the flowers show be really bright and colourful to fit the feel of the show and music. They thought that the best way to have the flowers open would be to use electromagnets triggered by a series of foot switches which I would control.

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Nicola and Marianne went away and started work, and after a week or so I received a concept drawing from them. It looked amazing and I very quickly sent them an email to say that I was really happy for them to start work on building the tree. Around three weeks later, I got another saying that the tree was ready to collect. To say I was excited would be something of an understatement. It was a very special moment when I arrived at their workshop and finally saw this thing that I’d been holding in my head for the past two years. It was HUGE and it was also beautiful, just the right balance of magic, welcome and intrigue.

Since that day my beautiful, magical, musical tree has appeared all over the country in countless theatres and art centres. As a concept it’s given my show a real structure and I will never get tired of hearing children and families gasp with delight every time a flower magically opens to reveal a song within.

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Climb That Tree was made possible thanks to generous funding from Arts Council England.

With special thanks to Nicola and Marianne at Vortex Creates. www.vortex-creates.co.uk

Behind the song: The Cat Came Too

Quite a common question people ask me is where do I get the ideas for my songs. 
So I thought I'd try and shed a little light on what is probably my favourite song from my latest album Climb That Tree

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The song is called The Cat Came Too, and is essentially about a cat and a dog who are best friends and go everywhere together. They were based on my Mum and Dad's pets they had when they first met. The Cat was called William, named after Prince William, as the day my Mum got him was the same day Prince William was born. The dog was called Toby, which was short for his kennel club name 'Tobias Cinamon'. Together they were usually known as 'Toby and Wills'. 

I was only one when Toby died, and I was eight when William died, so sadly I have no memory of the former and very little of the latter. However I grew up hearing stories about Toby and Wills and how when they took Toby for a walk, William would follow, often for long distances along the canal path in Shelton Lock in Derby where they lived. They also used to share baskets together and get up to all sorts of mischief. As far as a cat and a dog could be best friends, they were. 

William

One day I was I was wandering round Sainsbury's doing the shopping, and a tune popped into my head. I still have no idea why, but for some reason the words that best fitted that tune were:

"We've got a dog named Toby, his best friends our Cat called Will."

I thought it would be fun to write a song about these two animals that clearly held such a special place in both my parents hearts. It took a long time to finish the song and to work the lyrics into a coherent story. Quite often the songs I write are snap shots - they sum up a moment or a feeling. But with this song I knew I wanted to tell a proper story. 

Toby

When it came to recording the song, I knew from the start that I didn't want to use a proper posh grand piano all perfectly tuned and fancy. Instead I used a slightly old and battered upright piano that was sitting in the studio. It had that wonderful warm tone, or full of imperfections and character. 

When I listen to the song, I like to think of my Mum and Dad with Toby and Wills starting their lives together and all the adventures they had.

You can listen to the song in full here:

10 songs that should've been written for children - 'secret family music'

Sometimes when I'm listening to the radio, I hear a song which, although written for 'adults', sounds like it could have been recorded by some of my favourite artists making music for families today. So here's a rundown of some of what I like to call 'secret family music'. 

1. REM - Shiny Happy People

Whilst REM are arguably more known for their more serious output (Everybody Hurts, Losing My Religion) - I challenge anyone not to feel uplifted after hearing this song. It's the perfect tune for dancing round the living room. If it still doesn't put a smile on your face, try the Sesame Street version - 'Shiny Happy Monsters'.

 

2. Andrew Gold - Thank You For Being A Friend

This is a great song for teaching children what it means to have a friend, without ever feeling preachy or, for that matter, too saccharine. It's also got such a nice groove to it. Apparently a cover version by Cynthia Fee was used as theme to the TV series The Golden Girls which is not a series I'm familiar with, but the original by Andrew Gold is definitely my favourite version.

 

3. The Rumble Strips - Motorcycle

Perhaps a slightly obscure one, but I can't get enough of this song. What kid hasn't ever ridden their bike and dreamt that it was a motorbike roaring down the street. Some of us may have even take if that bit further and put an old tin can against the tyre so it made that authentic motorbike engine noise. The Rumble Strips (R.I.P) capture the freedom of childhood and make-believe perfectly. 

 

4. Feist - 1,2,3,4

1, 2, 3, 4 tell me that you love me more, sings Feist, a.k.a Leslie Feist. I certainly love this song with it's steady swinging rhythm that builds so perfectly throughout the song, ending in a rousing swell of brass and strings. Be prepared to have it stuck in your head for days. 

5. David Bowie - Starman

Most children at some point have dreamed of blasting off into space. Bowie's Starman - the precursor to his Ziggy Stardust persona - perfectly captures the otherworldliness that makes the idea of space travel so appealing. Also that guitar riff from Mick Ronson is dreamy.

 

6. Sweet Baboo - Walking In The Rain

Another earworm and a rather lovely one at that. There's such a simplicity to this song that makes it almost impossible not to fall in love with. Be sure you watch the video, which is equally charming. 

 

7. The White Stripes - We're Going To Be Friends

A lovely nostalgic song about the first days at school, and a surprisingly mellow offering from the brilliant White Stripes. 

 

8. Noelie McDonnell - Nearly Four

Irish singer songwriter Noelie McDonnell wrote this beautiful song for his nephew and again it's its simplicity that makes it so appealing. My favourite line is definitely - "I like to take a pee all on my own" - something which I still do to this very day.  

 

9. Stornoway - Zorbing

A song inspired by Zorbing - which is essentially rolling down a hill in a giant inflatable ball. If you can think of a better way to get in touch with your inner-child I'd like to hear it. There's only one word to describe this song and that's 'soaring'. Be prepared to hit repeat. 

 

10. Jools Holland ft. Suggs - Jack O' The Green

Between Squeeze and Madness, there were plenty of songs that could have ended up on this list, but it's a collaboration from the two bands most famous members that I've decided to include. There's something wonderfully eccentric and infectious about this upbeat ska tune celebrating the coming of summer, complete with an English country dancing motif, brass bands and maniacal laughter.

 

So there we have it! Obviously there's no end of brilliant songs that could have made it onto this list, but I wanted to share a few of my favourites with you. Let me know what you love listening to with your little ones via the comments section below!

Climb That Tree music video shoot

So a few months ago I was chatting my with my good friend Andrew Walmsley, wildlife photographer and film maker, tree climber and tallest man in Oxford, about music videos. I remarked casually that it would be great if we could wheel a piano up a hill and put it by a tree for a nice 'outdoorsy' music shoot. Andrew replied, equally casually, that if I wanted we could even put a piano up a tree...

At first I thought he was joking - anyone who's ever had to move a piano will know that they are HEAVY - half a ton kind of heavy. This is because of the frames inside the piano, which are usually either iron or steel. Andrew informed me that he's previously put a 4-seater Chesterfield sofa up a tree at a music festival for a musician to perform from. As you do. He thought that a piano, whilst perhaps a bit tricker, would be achievable.

So when it became clear that Andrew was serious, I decided that this was an opportunity that was too good to pass up and we started to plan. The first thing to do was to get a piano - ideally one that was on the lighter side. I was aware that you can get what's often referred to as a 'mini piano' - a very small piano, originally designed to fit in small houses in Edwardian times when a piano was very much a thing to have in in your parlour. They're much lighter and shorter than normal pianos as they tend to be missing an octave. I started hunting for one on Ebay and, as luck would have it, found a lovely little one about half an hour away (made by Collard and Collard), which was going for a 'buy it now' price of 0.99p. Bargain!

So, with piano purchased and Andrew and his team of tree climbers having built a platform for the piano to sit on in the tree and a worked out a complicated system of ropes, pulleys and general hoisting sophistication, the day of filming had arrived.   

We started on Friday night, giving Andrew a chance to test the rigging system in his back garden and also check the platform that the platform was going to be big enough for the piano. As you might notice from the picture below, all of this was done in the dark, making head torches a necessity!

The next morning we set off about 8am. Andrew had very wisely borrowed a very hefty trolley from a friend which, with much difficulty we eventually got the piano and all of the climbing and rigging gear onto. We were going to be using a beech tree (nicknamed 'Beechy') in Shotover Woods that Andrew had climbed several times before. He had removed all the deadwood, and assured me that it was perfectly safe - or at least as safe as putting a piano up a tree can possibly be. 

After a tricky journey with the trolley to the site of the tree, Andrew and his team set to work. Their plan was to set up the wooden platform in the tree, which the piano would then be hoisted onto and secured. When he showed me the branch that they were going to be using, the reality of what we were doing did start to hit home a little. It was ten metres up, and it was a very windy day. I've never been that bothered about heights but I was aware that what we were doing could, in theory, be very dangerous if something went wrong. 

However I needn't have worried - Andrew was very safety conscious, making sure that everyone was wearing helmets at all times, and clearing an exclusion zone to ensure that no interested members of the public might wander over and put themselves at risk. In Andrew's own words, "the worst that can happen if that piano comes down, is that it makes a bloody big hole in the ground".

In turns out that it takes about 4 hours to put a piano in a tree. Who knew? I'll be honest with you, I didn't really know what was going on at this point and got very cold and bored, but tried hard not to show it as I could see that for Andrew and his team it was a skilled and difficult job. Here's lots of pictures I took to keep busy:  

After lots of hoisting, securing, tightening and testing, the piano was finally up, and the time had come for me to go and play it. They had rigged a kind of seat out of my old suitcase for me to sit on and the idea was that I would wear two harnesses; one underneath my dungarees and one over the top. I would then climb up to the piano, remove the outside harness and transfer the rope to the one underneath. In theory, aside from the single safety line, it would look as though I'd just casually shinnied up the tree and started tinkling the ivories.

Climbing up was hard work. Unlike rock climbing, you don't climb from foothold to hand hold, but rather hoist yourself up on the rope whilst you dangle merrily in mid air. It's all about upper body strength, which is not something I've got much of. 

Ten metres might not sound like a lot, but when you're up there it feels HIGH. Also the act of taking your harness off (even when you know you have another one underneath your trousers) feels just plain wrong. Like jumping off a cliff with only a wingsuit. 

I'd been so focused on getting up there that I hadn't really thought about how I would actually have to play the piano and sing along to the track whilst ten metres up on a very windy day. 

Andrew and his friend Luca were both filming on ropes of their own and got to work as soon as the piano was up to try and limit the time we all had to spend up the tree getting cold. One thing I hadn't considered is that when you're high up on ropes there's nowhere to put anything. Simple things, like where to put your phone, your coat or a spare battery for the camera, suddenly became a lot more complicated. 

In total we spent about an hour up there doing different takes from every angle we could think of. We were very aware of the fact that this was a one time chance - we weren't going to be putting a piano up a tree again anytime soon!

Coming down was very surreal, like stepping on to land after a week at sea. I've never been so glad to be on the ground! It was quite sad to see the piano coming down - we did talk about leaving it there for the fun of it, but there was too much of a chance that it might come down on some poor unexpecting dog walker on a windy day. 

So there we have it. A thoroughly exhausting, exciting, weird, wonderful, cold, and occasionally boring, day. The video is now edited and will be up soon so do keep a look out. 

Huuuuuuge thanks to Andrew and his team for pulling of the unnecessary and ridiculous feat of putting a piano up a tree. 

The man himself. 

The man himself.