When singer-songwriter Mary Karlzen had her first child, she decided to slow down her rigorous touring schedule. Prior to the birth of her daughter, Karlzen spent a lot of time promoting her music, but decided parenting on the road wasn’t how she wanted to roll.
Karlzen, who now has two children, struck a balance between music and motherhood by forming her family-friendly band The Chickadees. The band also features Anjl Rodee and Carmen Nickerson, and recently, its debut album, "Songs from the Great Outdoors," won a Parents’ Choice award.
On Saturday, March 7 the Chickadees perform a free show at the Central Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., at 10 a.m. in conjunction with "Dr. Seuss Day."
Currently, the group is finishing up a second album and booking shows for this summer at festivals and in libraries. At the same time, Karlzen -- who released albums on Atlantic, Dualtone and Y&T music labels -- continues to carve out time to work on her solo, "grown-up" career.
OnMilwaukee.com met up with Karlzen and asked her about how making kids’ music is different from making adults’ music, her future plans and more.
OnMilwaukee.com: How is the music you make for kids different from the music you make for adults?
Mary Karlzen: Writing songs for grown-up CDs is very self-indulgent. You get to write about yourself, your problems, your joy ... your story, really. When I write kid songs, I’m thinking in terms of how I can make the song educational, interesting and fun.
Also, can I make it enjoyable for the parents who have to listen in the car as well? So much of kids’ music is tedious for the parent to get through. I try to keep that in mind and give it a bit of adult sensibility and humor. We do this at our live shows as well.
OMC: What are you live shows like?
MK: The live shows are much different than shows for adults. At grown-up shows, people are stoic and show up sometimes with arms folded with the attitude, "OK, entertain me." At the kids’ shows, from the first note, the kids are smiling, dancing, laughing. We don’t have to have the serious rock pose. We are completely silly, spontaneous and constantly making bad jokes. By the end of the show, the kids are like Mexican jumping beans and the joy is contagious.
OMC: Why did you decide to make kids' music?
MK: When we had our first child, I knew traveling around the country wasn’t going to be for me anymore. We have two now, and they went to Audubon Nature Preschool at Schlitz Audubon. I would volunteer in their class and wrote songs around the preschool’s curriculum. It was a way I could continue with music and not have that portion of my life separate from my kids. It was something we could do together.
OMC: Where do you normally gig and do you have any upcoming shows?
MK: We play mostly at schools, libraries and festivals like Summerfest. We have a great summer schedule coming up and you can see all the dates on our Web site.
OMC: Who else is in the band?
MK: Carmen Nickerson and Anjl Rodee were singing with me in the grown-up band, and I knew I wanted three-part harmonies, so it just made sense for them to be in this band, too.
OMC: Are you working on a second album?
MK: Yes, we hope to have it done and out by the summer. We also have three new videos in the works due out on the Web site soon.
OMC: You describe your music as "educational children's pop." Can you elaborate on this?
MK: There’s a lot of kids' music out there that might be fun, but not a lot of substance, like Hannah Montana, "High School Musical," Jonas Brothers. So I would guess if you can learn something while you listen, that would be education children’s pop.
Remember between Saturday morning cartoons there would be "School House Rock?" All short songs about history, grammar and math like "I’m Just a Bill," "Conjunction Junction" and "The Preamble?" Man, I love those!
OMC: What else are you working on right now?
MK: I’m working on an acoustic Mary Karlzen CD. I hope to have it done by the end of the year. Very self-indulgent!
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.