Famed children's author Sandra Boynton is set for a career first come Sept. 3. The famous scribe – who mixes her words with music – will be releasing "Frog Trouble and Eleven Other Pretty Serious Songs" via Warner Brothers. It's her first collaboration with country music and Nashville artists, and she is very excited, to say the least.
"This is actually my fifth book / CD, but my first country one and first one recorded in Nashville," she tells Billboard. "I had done one single recording in Nashville with Alison Krauss about seven years ago, but this is actually my first time to get both of my feet wet all the way to my neck here in Nashville. It's been great," she said of the process.
For readers not familiar with Boynton's books, she fills us in. "Every CD I have done comes with a book with the lyrics and liner notes," she explains, also allowing that the music she has created runs the gamut. "I've done everything from Broadway to rock to jukebox-era music. It is always very eclectic, even within the genre. With 'Frog Trouble,' it's sort of retro-country, and a pretty broad range of country."
The album is a mixture of country artists and ones with Nashville ties. Among the highlights are Dwight Yoakam's "I've Got A Dog" and Kacey Musgraves' "Heartache Song," which reminds one of 50s musicals such as "Bye Bye Birdie." When asked about her experience making the record, Boynton said "It was incredible. This was my absolute dream team of artists – the people you imagine in your wildest dreams - Darius Rucker, Brad Paisley, and Josh Turner, and also Ben Folds and Fountains of Wayne. It was the most breathtaking group of artists and musicians."
If you have any pre-conceived ideas about the genre of children's music, leave them at the door before entering, she says. "I have a quirky philosophy. I don't think you should know that it's children's music. If you are hearing it in the next room, it should speak as just music, and be produced with the same care and complexity and have the same variety of nuances that any music does. The only difference is thematic – obviously, your average five year old is not as interested in heartbreak, but other than that, I put the tag on it ‘From ages one to older than dirt,' and that's the target demographic."
Music has always been important to Boynton – going back to her youth. "I'm the same age as rock and roll, and I grew up in Philadelphia. I have always been fascinating by not only that era of songwriting, but also recording. My room was strewn with 45 RPM records. Obviously, rock and roll came out of country. My favorite singer ever was Buddy Holly, and I loved the Everly Brothers. So that's where the heart and soul of this record is – a very strong heartland sensibility to it."
While she serves as the producer of the album – and wrote the songs, she says the artists also are responsible for where the performances wind up. "I don't tend to have the entire thing in my head. I certainly know where I want to explore, but I like to be open where it goes. I tend to hear a particular singer when I'm writing a song, but every song transforms when an artist records it. I produced the session, so I'm behind the board talking with the artists, and it's a really cool thing. Each of them encounters the material in a different way. That kind of collaboration is my favorite thing to do in the studio. You can't discount the fact that hearing someone sing a song that you wrote is wonderful."
Equally inspiring to Boynton are the many comments she has received over the years concerning her work – which includes best sellers Philadelphia Chickens and Dog Train: A Wild Ride On The Rock & Roll Side.
"It's a wonderful part of it. Certain songs matter to you, and change your life. To encounter people who will come up to you and say that a particular song of yours is my favorite song is always pretty exciting. It's cool when it's no longer yours, and it's out in the world and you encounter people who have loved what you've done."