Friday, November 7, 2014

Pheaturing Jonathan Sprout

Hey there, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Friday. How was your day? Don't ask me about mine. I didn't mention this in yesterday's entry but it's Movember. Sorry there's a whole month dedicated to reminding you of your inability to grow facial hair.  A federal judge from the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, thus pretty much guaranteeing that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy... as the court's sole swing voter, will have to decide the matter on a national scale. This will also give Justice Antonin Scalia an opportunity to oppose marriage equality in defiance of every other legal decision he's made in the course of his career. Procreation argument cited in 6th Circuit ruling against gay marriage which means you unmarried infertile couples better not get any ideas.  It hasn't even been a week since the Republican Party wrested control of the Senate away from the Democrats, and we're already seeing the unemployment rate drop down to 5.8 percent, the lowest it's been since July 2008, way back before Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential primary. Expect plenty of commentators on Fox News to make this eminently salient point.  You've now had seven years to recover from the gut-wrenching denouement of the original Toy Story trilogy, so it's probably time to put yourself through the wringer all over again. Pixar has just announced that it will be releasing a brand new installment to the series in 2017. That gives you about three years to practice your not-crying face. You know, Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm means Toy Story 4 could potentially have an all-Star Wars figure cast. It is suddenly totally fine for straight dudes all over the world to stare longingly into the deep folds of muscle tone belonging to exotic-dancing Magic Mike star Channing Tatum. The chiseled-from-alabaster actor has just joined Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Samuel L. Jackson and a bunch of already-bro-acceptable actors in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film, The Hateful Eight. In twenty years Quentin Tarantino is going to cast Martin Lawrence as an old kung fu master and I'm just gonna love the shit out of it.  The people behind the beloved space opera film series that gave us such classic titles as A New Hope, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones just announced the newest silly-sounding title that we'll all eventually get used to: The Force Awakens. Don't worry; eventually, you'll forget how underwhelming that is. Kind of like how you forgot how awful the name Star Wars actually is. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens? Guess it slept through the prequels too. Haha. I'm a huge Star Wars fan so I can say that.  Did you kids vote on Tuesday? I mentioned this yesterday, some places where you could go vote were handing out some very odd stickers. Check this one out...

Hmmm... I want a cronut.  Have you seen the latest baby food that Gerber came out with?

I don't like Big Mac's but I kinda wanna try this. Okay, this entry is making me hungry. By the way, that Gerber food picture is terribly edited. Oh, well.  Do you kids watch "The Big Bang Theory"? Everyone tells me I would like it, but I'm not sure. Then I saw this...

It's Penny, right? Actually I met that actress... Kaley Cuoco back she was on "8 Simple Rules..." I was working Disney World's 50th anniversary press event and her and the other two kids from "8 Simple Rules..." were there.  Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah.  Today's pheatured guest is a guy who writes and records records for children and one of his songs on his latest album is about Dr. Seuss. I wonder if he knows of this little not-so-well-known Seuss book...

Oh. Boy. Y'know, I was so hesitant on showing that. Moving on... And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is another...

Phive People Who Will Probably Be Looking For Work This Week.
5. The Atlanta hostess who was fired for mocking Asians at a BBQ restaurant.
4. The fireman who shot sex videos with his mistress in the station bathroom.
3. Dean McDermott, who quit his miserable gig on "True Tori."
2. The head of prisons in Mississippi, who is being investigated for taking millions in bribes and kickbacks.
And the number one person who is probably looking for work this week is...
1. The California cop who stole nude photos from a DUI suspect's phone and shared them with other officers.

This one is a pretty hard to figure out Mindphuck. Good luck.

The 29th artist to be pheatured in the Phile's Art Gallery is Andry "Shango" Rajoelina and this is one of his pieces...

Andry is gonna be the guest on the Phile next Thursday.

Today's guest is a songwriter, performer and children's recording artist whose latest CD "American Heroes #4" is available on CDBaby and iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Jonathan Sprout.

Me: Hello, Jonathan, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Jonathan: I’m well, thanks!

Me: Okay, do you like to be called Jonathan or Jon?

Jonathan: Thanks for asking. I prefer Jonathan.

Me: Before we start I have to congratulate you on your Grammy nomination. When were you nominated, Jon?

Jonathan: December 2, 2009 the nominations were announced in Los Angeles.

Me: How did you find out you were nominated and did you celebrate?

Jonathan: I was in a hotel room in Connecticut when I received an email from an industry insider whose husband worked for the Recording Academy 30 minutes before the official announcements were made. I recall literally jumping up from my seat when I realized my album had been nominated. I celebrated by calling a couple of my fellow nominees and friends. But I had concerts to perform the next morning. So I did what any other professional would have done. I got a good night’s sleep.

Me: So, who beat you? Who won?

Jonathan: Bob Marley’s son, Ziggy Marley.

Me: Tell the readers what category and what record of yours you were up for a Grammy for?

Jonathan: The category is Best Musical Album for Children. My record is "American Heroes #3."

Me: Did you go to the Grammy's?

Jonathan: Yes, I was there in Los Angeles for several very exciting days. All six children’s nominees were asked to perform at the Grammy Museum the day before the Grammys were announced. I put a band together which included some of the people in Los Angeles who had helped me write and record the album.

Me: Jon, you are known mostly for writing songs for children, which is not a big niche. By the way, ever hear the Barenaked Ladies children's album?

Jonathan: You’re right, the children’s music niche is small compared to other fields of music. There are something on the order of 75 Grammys given out. One Grammy goes to a children’s recording artist. But the year "American Heroes #3" was nominated for a Grammy, there were more than 1,000 children’s albums made. And yes, I’ve listened to the Barenaked Ladies album.

Me: When did you first start to write children's songs, Jon?

Jonathan: In 1974 I wrote an accidental children’s song with my college roommate. It’s called “The Shower Song.” It was written in seconds. It was a novelty song that I didn’t know what to do with until seven years later when I began singing for children.

Me: Do you have children of your own?

Jonathan: No. In a way, that’s enabled me to think of all children as under my care. It’s a big responsibility to write, perform and record for children, you know. You’re dealing with very impressionable minds. One should proceed very carefully and compassionately into the art and business of performing for children.

Me: You play a lot of shows for children and hold workshops as well. What is your typical audience like and what are the ages your normally play for?

Jonathan: My typical audience is an elementary school audience, grades K-6. That would make the kids 5 to 12.

Me: Adult audiences could be difficult sometimes, I can't imagine every show show the children just sit there and listen and watch you? Ever have a problem with an audience member?

Jonathan: Children’s audiences are far more interesting than adult audiences. I could write a book about the bizarre things I’ve experienced in the 5,250 concerts for kids I’ve performed. I’ve seen countless vomit and pee puddles on cafeterium and gym floors. During one show in South Amboy, New Jersey, termites began flying up from the tiles on the floor in the front row. The show just went on. The kids had no clue what was happening. Maybe I had captivated them!

Me: Jon, where are you from and how long have you been a musician?

Jonathan: I’m from Hightstown, New Jersey. I’ve been a guitarist for 51 years and a professional musician for 42 years.

Me: Let's talk about your latest album "American Heroes #4." This is your tenth album but the fourth in the "American Heroes" series. What were your other 6 albums about?

Jonathan: My first album, "Angels Everywhere", was a folk album for grown-ups. My second album was a rock album for grown-ups, "A Light in the Night." My third album was a rock album for kids... only the 2nd rock album for kids ever made, to my knowledge. That was in 1986. My fourth album was another kids rock album with empowering songs, called "Kid Power. " My fifth album, "Lullabies for a New Age", was the first synth/new age album made for children. My sixth album was a rock album for kids that logged 2,000 hours in various studies in California and Pennsylvania, and came within 100 yards of literally burning up when forest fires in southern California nearly burned down the studio where the master tapes were housed.

Me: How do you choose who do you sing about and what type of research do you do? I bet you do more research than I do for my interviews? Haha.

Jonathan: I know a lot of smart teachers who help me select quality heroes. And I know a very smart renowned heroes expert, Dr. Dennis Denenberg, author of “50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet.” Dennis helps me select the heroes and he helps outline the highlights of each hero. For "American Heroes #4", I read 110 books and spent a year getting under the skin of the 10 heroes. I took research field trips to Maine, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and Florida.

Me: On the new album you have a song called "E=MC2" which is about Einstein. Einstein wasn't American, right?

Jonathan: Correct. He wasn’t. But then he was! He moved to the U.S. in 1933 from Europe and became a U.S. citizen. He went to work at The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. His job there was to, you know, think up stuff. He was asked what he needed to do his job. He replied, “A desk or table, a chair, pencils and paper. Oh yes,” he exclaimed, “and a large waste basket so I can throw away all of my mistakes!”

Me: Some people you sing about I have to admit I have never heard of, but then again I'm British... even though I spent most of my life in America. Who was Wilma Rudolph?

Jonathan: I can make the same admission. But I’ve learned on the job. Wilma Rudolf was the first American woman to win three Gold Medals in a single Olympics. What makes that amazing is her medals were track and field sprint medals, and… when she was a child, she lived in a house that had no electricity or running water with 21 other children, and she spent most of her childhood sick in bed. At the age of seven, she was told by a doctor she’d probably never be able to walk. At the age of 12, she was finally able to walk without having to wear a metal brace. At 16, she won a bronze medal in the summer Olympics. At 20, she won her three Gold Medals!

Me: Okay, and who was John Muir?

Jonathan: The most influential nature lover America has known, the father of our national parks, and the “greatest Californian.”

Me: One person who do sing about on the album is Walt Disney. I have worked at Disney for almost 27 years so know about him pretty well. How did you come up with the title "Through the Eyes of a Child" about him?

Jonathan: That’s very cool that you’ve worked at Disney! The title was my co-writer Dave Kinnoin’s idea. I wanted us to convey that “his work was his play,” and Dave derived the title from that. By the way, in 1975, I auditioned to work as a performer at Disney World. I had a mustache at the time... as had Walt. After my audition, I was swarmed by some very excited staff who evidently loved what they heard. One of them asked me if I’d be willing to shave my mustache. I stubbornly and stupidly said, "No.” That was the end of that. I was respectfully shown the door.

Me: So, Jonathan, do you have a favorite hero?

Jonathan: Honestly, no. There are so many who speak to me at different times in my life.

Me: Are you already planning a volume 5? Do you need help coming up with American heroes?

Jonathan: I’m not planning to make another album. Unless circumstances change, I don’t think I can afford to make another one. Each costs me tens of thousands of dollars, and from each I make a small percentage of that back. It used to be I could at least break even from the sale of my albums. Now, living in a culture where people are not accustomed to paying for their music, I think I’ve made my last album. I hope not. I hope that will change.

Me: Oh, that's a shame. All our heroes are real people, right? Otherwise I would say Superman would be a good one.

Jonathan: I have written about real true heroes. Superman is what I refer to as a super hero.

Me: So, how do you decide on what style of song each song should be done in?

Jonathan: I let my muse tell me. Each song has its own story.

Me: Jonathan, do you play all the instruments yourself on the albums?

Jonathan: God, no! With each successive album of mine, I’ve played less and directed more. Others can play the musical parts far better than I. One of my co-producers, Joe Mennonna, played literally dozens of instruments on "American Heroes #4", including a krummhorn, a medieval flute-type instrument.

Me: I have to ask you about two other songs on the album... "Powerful" and "Unstoppable." Who are those songs about? "Powerful" could be a political song easily, am I right?

Jonathan: “Powerful” is about 10-year-old Samantha Smith who innocently wrote a simple letter asking for peace to the new leader of the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War in 1982. He wrote back and invited her to visit. She did. She won the hearts of Millions in the U.S.S.R. and then in the U.S., helping to show us all we are more alike than different. And then she tragically died in a plane crash two years later. “Unstoppable” is about founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low... a remarkably persistent and generous woman.

Me: Jonathan, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Ready? In which activity would you like a lesson from an expert?

Jonathan: Installing solar panels on my roof.

Me: Not what I thought you were gonna say. Thanks for being on the Phile, Jonathan. Please come back if you ever have another release. Go ahead and mention your website and anything else you want to.

Jonathan: Thanks for your insightful questions, Jason. I’m at My preferred Internet store is, where we artists are given a better cut of the sales price than we are at Amazon and iTunes. And we need to thank Ariel Hyatt at for introducing us to each other.

Me: Continue success and take care.

Jonathan: Thanks. All the best to you!

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Jonathan Sprout for a great interview. The Phile will be back next Monday with Phile Alum Kyle Carey. Spread tbe word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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