Dan Zanes: Award-winning Musician, Co-author of Two Picture Books and Radio Show Host of Sirius’ Rocketship Beach Radio Show with Dan Zanes
By Sean Traynor, Editor-in-Chief
Dan Zanes is a zany, fun-loving musician that makes you want to sing and get up and dance. He writes and performs “homemade” family music and encourages the same in everyone he meets. Whether it is old songs that he is reintroducing us to or new songs that make you laugh and wiggle, he helps us reconnect with music. With many awards under his belt, including a Grammy and an Independent Music award, Dan continues to record music and sell albums. In addition, he has been featured on Playhouse Disney and co-authored two picture books. Recently he was named the radio show host of Rocketship Beach Radio with Dan Zanes, featured on Sirius XM’s Kid Place Live, a program catering to kids 10 and under. Dan Zanes will always be known for his music for all ages and his diverse instrumentation. The New York Times Magazine called his music “cool”, and added, “Mostly, though, Zanes’ kids music works because it is not kids music; it’s just music – music that’s unsanitized, unpasteurized, that’s organic even.” Let’s get to know this musical leader.
AK: You began playing guitar at the age of 8. How did you decide on what instrument you wanted to play? How did you pick up the other instruments you play? What’s the most unique instrument you’ve ever played?
DZ: I started playing guitar because I was inspired by Leadbelly Records. I tried violin for a few weeks, but it wasn’t for me because I wanted to be able to sing songs and play at the same time. Once a person learns one fretted stringed instrument, it’s fairly easy to pick up others. You can get started on mandolin, banjo, ukulele, jarana, vijuela, and many more once you learn the guitar. Probably the most unique instrument I’ve played is something called a marxaphone. You press on some thin metal bars and they hit the strings and bounce up and down. That’s not a great description but here’s a picture to help you understand how it works.
AK: Describe how you are able to write songs that seem to speak to kids everywhere.
DZ: I really just try and stay in the chair long enough to write down what lands in my head. There’s nothing complicated about writing songs. You just do it!
AK: How do you remain a “kid-at-heart” both when writing your music and on stage?
DZ: I’m always around young people and youthful people.
AK: You are a big supporter of family bands and have even been called the “granddaddy of the family-friendly folk music movement”. Why?
DZ: Granddaddy??? Wait a minute, I’m not THAT old! That sounds like I should be in a rocking chair listening to all of the younger bands. How about the “Rascally Uncle?” Besides, I’m not doing anything that hasn’t been done before. Peter Seeger, Leadbelly, Ella Jenkins, Woody Guthrie. I’m just taking what they did and reconfiguring it a little bit with a crazy cast of characters for the 21st century.
AK: Can you describe the mission you are trying to support through your music?
DZ: I hope that when people listen to my CDs or attend the shows it makes them want to make their own music. So my goal is to try and help make this a musical country again – a music making country.
AK: How did becoming a Grammy award winner change your career?
DZ: It makes people a little more curious about what I do. I don’t think it gets me better seats in restaurants, but fortunately I don’t care about that anyway.
AK: How has your band changed over the years?
DZ: I’ve always been lucky to play with amazingly talented and spirited musicians. Many great people have come and gone over the years. I believe that the perfect band has men and women (or boys and girls) from different backgrounds. It should look like this country looks.
AK: You have written music for a movie. How is writing music for a movie different than writing music for something you’re going to put on a CD?
DZ: It is about the same. I try and make music that sounds emotional and homemade and hope for the best.
AK: You are now hosting the Rocketship Beach Radio music Show on Sirius XM Radio on “Kids Place Live”. This is an original six-show satellite radio series where you play music for kids and families from the Sirius XM archives, your personal library and your own albums. What type of show are you trying to create and what message are you trying to get across?
DZ: There’s so much music out there that can be good family listening. Music can open people’s hearts. It can build bridges between cultures. It can also make people dance like wild beasts! I think about all of these things when I plan my show. I love the people at Kids Place Live because they let me play whatever I want.
AK: If you could offer one message to kids who love music and dream of having their own band someday, what would you tell them?
DZ: Don’t wait for someday. Start today. You don’t have to play an instrument to have a band. Sing and clap your hands!
AK: What ‘s a funny thing that has happened to you while on stage?
DZ: I looked down and saw someone changing a diaper at my feet.
AK: What is the favorite age that you’ve been and why?
DZ: 49, because that’s how old I am now! 8 was pretty good too.
AK: Who has been a mentor that has guided you throughout your musical career path?
DZ: Many people! For example, my friend Peter Wright helped me start a record company and he’s made sure that it’s stayed in business for the last 10 years. That hasn’t always been easy, but he’s done it! And we’re just about to start a new CD – our 11th one.
Dan Zanes’ Night Owl Video:
Dan Zanes’ Smile, Smile, Smile Video:
You can purchase Dan Zanes’ book called Hello, Hello
through the Amazing Kids! Online Amazon Store: Buy here!
You can purchase the below listed Dan Zane CDs and DVDs
through Amazing Kids! Online Amazon Store: Buy here!
- Catch That Train
- House Party
- Family Dance
- Rocketship Beach
- The Fine Friends are Here
- 76 Trombones
- How to Grow a Family Band Gift Set
- All Around the Kitchen! Crazy Videos and Concert Songs
- Cool Down Time
Or a complete selection in Dan Zanes’ shop at: http://danzanes.shop.musictoday.com/?band_id=1295&sfid=2