04 Nov Los Angeles Couple Kaelie and Nate Highfield, Inspired by Parenthood, Create Paper Rainbows
by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Parenthood brings out the most incredible emotions in all of us, and unexpected bursts in creativity. Los Angeles songwriters Nate and Kaelie Highfield already had successful careers in writing for shows like Tumbleleaf and Llama Llama when they gave birth to their daughter, Juniper, in October 2020, yet the process of becoming a family of three created a new rush of excitement and ideas.
Teaming up with longtime collaborator Rob Chiarelli (Street Lamp Records) Nate and Kaelie embarked on a journey to create pretty, cozy pop songs that are perfect for evenings by the fireplace or early-morning playdates. Paper Rainbows was born. And this fall, the indie-pop outfit released their debut record, Imaginations.
Kaelie’s voice is warm and ethereal, as it sails between the French-waltz-styled “Big Balloon” to the upbeat indie-pop “Anything At All,” which encourages children to see the world as a wide-open place. It’s the kind of optimistic tune we need during these crazy times.
We recently caught up with Kaelie to talk about Paper Rainbows, being a girl mom, and more.
Rockmommy: For those who aren’t familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound?
Kaelie Highfield: I would describe our music as warm, whimsical and fun. But the arrangements aren’t simple. We worked with some really great musicians who played drums, trumpet, strings, guitar, bass, percussion and even an accordion! We really tried to make an album that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Rockmommy: You both have been involved in so many impressive projects. How did you get into the kids/family music writing scene?
Kaelie Highfield: It really evolved naturally. The Paper Rainbows project started taking shape when we learned we had a baby on the way. It was an exciting time and we were inspired to write songs about imagination, wonder and the journey ahead.
Rockmommy: We’d love to know more about Paper Rainbows. What were your goals, musically, in terms of what you wanted it to sound like and feel like?
Kaelie Highfield: We already had our inspiration to write songs for children, but the project really began taking shape when we shared the idea with our partner Rob Chiarelli (4x Grammy winner).
We all believed in the idea of making an album of songs that sounded memorable for children but was arranged in a way that might appeal to adults. We really tried to capture the sounds of life, adventure, fun, and creativity in a way that reminded us of our own experiences as kids. Lyrically, we wanted explore imagination. It’s such a wonderful part of childhood and we wanted to bring it to life.
Rockmommy: What kind of music did you write together before your daughter was born, and how is this new material different?
Kaelie Highfield: We have always been inspired and influenced by indie rock and pop songs. We love writing songs for artists, movies, television shows and the world of advertising. As a classically trained violinist, I also enjoy the beautiful orchestration in motion pictures and the symphony.
Nate loves indie rock and Rob loves British rock, Jazz and R&B. I would say we complement each other well! All these different musical influences really helped us to create a kid friendly, melting pot of sound; from French Waltzes to The Beatles. Juniper was born October 7, 2020. She is 2!!
Rockmommy: How’s life been, trying to balance the needs of a young child with creative work? Any new parenting hacks or advice?
Kaelie Highfield: Balancing work and family life can be challenging, but I have to say it’s been a complete joy. Like all parents, we are constantly tired (of course), but it’s so worth it. And with two Grandma’s living within a mile of us, we have a lot of help. We are very blessed in that way. We (mostly “I” haha) try to remember to ‘go with the flow’. I love planning our busy days together, but our daughter has taught me to slow down.
Last week we planned a trip to the park, but didn’t get there because Juni saw a grasshopper. Suddenly all she wanted to do was spend time with the grasshopper! I had to laugh because… did it really matter if we went to the park that day? The important thing is we are exploring this big, wonderful world together. It’s such a joy to see the look on her face as she is discovering something new! It’s priceless! She helps me stay in the moment, so I guess my advice would be to stay flexible, enjoy every moment, and make some memories.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.