Ben Rudnick: How My Daughter Inspired My Favorite and Best-Known, Musical Project

by Ben Rudnick

As a songwriter, I aim to be like my good friend Jeff, who plays harmonica and mandolin in an internationally famous Canadian rock band. The band had a big hit in the late 1980s and my pal is now a “micro celebrity.”

Inspired by Jeff and his Canadian rock and roll cool as the measure, I place myself in the sub-micro-celebrity realm. My band and I have played over 900 shows, recorded twelve CDs, accumulated seven Parent’s Choice Awards, have a play based on characters I’ve created in songs and have recently started releasing digital singles.

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Rock daddy Ben Rudnick of Ben Rudnick & Friends (Photo credit: Susan Wilson)

It’s also safe for me to say that this fun and rewarding ride never would have happened had I not sang silly songs with my daughter Emily when she was very young.

When we were crossing the street to go to preschool, we’d sing “I need a hand, when I’m crossing the street.” Pretty straightforward and to the point for sure! We’d sing it over and over and skip our way to school. Good times indeed. With that seed I wrote a song called — wait for it! —  “I Need a Hand.” That song went on our first CD, Emily Songs, and was a runner up in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Yoko liked it!

[RELATED: Stay-at-Home Rockin’ Dad Gunnar Madsen on Parenthood & New Projects]

At some point Emily and I were coloring and started singing about the colors we like. Ultimately that led to us dancing around the living room naming all our favorite colors. “I Like Silver, I Like Gold” kicked off that first album and has been the most played song in our repertoire. Colors never go out of style!

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Singer-songwriter Ben Rudnick with his daughter Emily.

Another everyday endeavor that led to one of the band’s most-requested songs was making macaroni and cheese for lunch. Or dinner. Or lunch and dinner! Whatever. The point is I made a lot of macaroni and cheese, which led to Emily and I singing “macaroni and cheese is so good to me, macaroni and cheese makes me say please” and the song, “Macaroni and Cheese.”

So okay, I’m an extreme example of where singing silly songs with your offspring can go but the point is it was really fun. The songs we created came from everyday activities. It’s all a state of mind. That it’s given me actual sub-micro-celebrity status is gravy.

Have fun with those kids! Enjoy these days.

Ben Rudnick is a father and the band leader of Ben Rudnick & Friends. See the band perform the 17th Annual Holiday Extravaganza at the Cabot Theater in Beverly, Mass., on Saturday, Dec 8.

Rockdaddy Johnny Clay of Ants Ants Ants Discusses Making Music and ‘Soaking it All In’

Each month, Rockmommy talks to parents who make music about life, work, play time and more. Today, we chat with rockdaddy Johnny Clay of Ants Ants Ants, a fun (and family friendly) musical project. Scroll down to check out their new music video for “Pinwheel” Ants Ants Ants

Rockmommy: When you think about fatherhood, what do you love best about being a dad?

Johnny Clay I love seeing them experience things – it definitely takes you back to being a kid and remembering what it was like. Hearing their perspective on things too. I’m lucky in that I get to walk my daughter to school every morning, and our walks are filled with her questions and observations about the world around her. I hope she never stops wondering about the world and asking questions.

Rockmommy: Tell me about your latest musical project — how did it come about?

Johnny Clay: It’s been a long time in the making. Friends have been encouraging me to write a kids’ record since our almost 8-year-old was born. But it wasn’t until we starting seeing clips of classic Sesame Street songs and School House Rock songs that I really got inspired to do it. Such wonderful music. And when I saw “The Point” by Harry Nilsson again, that put it over the top.

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Rockmommy: Has your music changed since you became a dad? If yes, how so?

Johnny Clay: Well, I certainly wouldn’t have gone down this path as a songwriter had it not been for the kids – both our soon to be 8 year old and our 5 year old daughters are constantly inspiring new song ideas. The way kids think about things and notice things is just so amazing.  Whether it’s pointing out the “helicopter leaves” falling on the way to school, or asking what the biggest animal in the world is (and not believing how big a blue whale really is), their curiosity about the world around them is just so cool.

Rockmommy: What’s it like trying to balance music with parenthood? Are there other factors in the mix — e.g., time with a spouse or partner, a day job to pay the bills, etc.? Is your partner involved in the music project?

Johnny Clay: It’s definitely an adventure. I’m very, very fortunate in that music is my full-time job, so the kids are growing up with music constantly in their lives. They both feel comfortable hanging out in the studio with me and they see how songs get put together. I love seeing them sit down at the piano or the drums or whatever and play the instruments, see what they sound like. It’s not all on a computer. My wife Christi is a musician as well and so music is definitely a constant in our lives.

Rockmommy: What’s your advice to other rockin’ dads?

Johnny Clay: Probably the same advice I was given years ago: just to try and soak up this time with the kids, because it really does go by so fast. And of course keep rockin’!

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Stay-at-Home Rockin’ Dad Gunnar Madsen on Parenthood & New Projects

This month, Rockmommy talks to rocker dads about music and work-life balance. Here, we chat with Gunnar Madsen about his new projects (including a new video co-created by his 15-year-old son) and parenthood. I Am Food Cover 300 Square
 

Rockmommy: What do you love best about being a dad?

Gunnar Madsen: I love working on being a better dad all the time. The idea that there is no end to parenting used to scare me – in school or in work, every project has a due date, or a production, or has a finished product. But the growth of a child is never-ending, it presents constant new challenges, things I could never have imagined. And the learning goes on and on, no due date, no completion. That’s an amazing teaching to get ahold of.

Rockmommy: Tell me about your latest musical project,  “I Am Your Food”  — how did it come about?

Gunnar Madsen: I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for all of my son’s school years (he’s 15 now). Parenting took up much of my time, but in spare moments I dreamed of my next album, and I had the idea that it could be about food (which I love). I wrote some of the songs from this album over the course of many years. It’s only in the past 2 years, as my son matured and required less of my time, that I was able to focus on bringing this album to fruition – finishing up the writing of the songs, recording them, and preparing to launch the project.

Rockmommy: Has your music changed since you became a dad? If yes, how so?

Gunnar Madsen: I think the things I’m learning from fatherhood, like patience, generosity, and a greater awareness of myself and who I am, are coming through in my creative life. I’m still writing funny, sometimes goofy, songs, but I sense a different spirit in them.

Rockmommy: What’s it like trying to balance music with parenthood? Are there other factors in the mix — e.g., time with a spouse or partner, a day job to pay the bills, etc.?   Is your partner involved in the music project?

Gunnar Madsen: The main shift in my music career came when our son was born. It was not reasonable to go on tour and leave my partner at home alone with the care of a baby. And I didn’t want to be away, — the gravitational pull of fatherhood kept me at home. I continued performing locally, but over time my desire to perform diminished. I found that I was happiest just writing music at home, and left the stage. Luckily, being a stay-at-home composer and a stay-at-home dad work pretty well together. My partner is not involved in my music – she’s has a store she runs with her mother, antiques and fine things for the home and such, which has paid the bulk of our bills over the past years. But I trust her opinions very much, and share everything I’m working on with her to see what she thinks.

Rockmommy: What’s your advice to other rockin’ dads?

Gunnar Madsen: If you’ve got to rock, you’ve got to rock. It’s not like I made a decision to become a musician. It was a calling, a fire burning inside, that wouldn’t allow me to do anything else. It has maybe saved my life, it’s a joy, and it’s also caused a heap of trouble and pain. I can imagine a whole lot of easier ways to get through life, but this is the only way I know how to do it 🙂 In the end, I’m grateful for having such a passion.

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— Marisa Torrieri is the editor and founder of Rockmommy

NYC’s Danny Lapidus, of Hot Peas ‘n Butter, on Fatherhood and Making Music

This month, Rockmommy talks to rocker dads of (mostly) young children about life, music and more. Here we catch up with father of two Danny Lapidus, lead singer for the super-fun Brooklyn band Hot Peas ‘n Butter. Their new album  features guests artists Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes and Peter Yarrow! Catch them in Union Square Park in NYC for a free show on July 12.

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Rockmommy: What do you love best about being a dad?

Danny Lapidus: When I stop to think about being a dad (which is not often because….I’m a dad!! who has time to think about anything?!) there are many things things that I love about it. One thing that will seem obvious to people who have kids, but may sound strange to others, is that there is actual joy in realizing you are no longer the center of the universe! It hits you like a ton of bricks! There is someone here who is more important to me than anything else and even myself!! Makes me appreciate my dad even more. Another thing that I absolutely love about being a father to young kids is that they think I’m the strongest person in the world, literally. 

 


Rockmommy: Tell me about your latest musical project — how did it come about?

Danny Lapidus: My latest musical project is a new album with my band Hot Peas ‘n Butter called Back to the LandIt started with an idea of trying to go back to musical roots. I wanted to explore everything from bluegrass to Gospel music… real Americana, because that is what I grew up on and what feels so sincere to me. I honestly thought the album would contain mostly new arrangements of traditional music, but then I started writing with my partner Steve Jabas, and we realized that that the songs all had similar themes of unity, equality, and protecting our environment. We immediately felt we had something special.

 
As a New York City studio Producer and Mixer, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing musicians and as we wrote I realized I could ask around and see who would join us on the album. I never expected to get Peter Yarrow! (Peter, Paul & Mary), Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes, a gospel choir led by Marcelle Davies-Lashley and all the other amazing musicians who helped us bring this album life. This was the most fulfilling album I’ve had the pleasure of working on so far.


Rockmommy: Has your music changed since you became a dad? If yes, how so?
 

Danny Lapidus: Maybe the music has not changed so much but the songwriting definitely has. I think the main difference now is that I feel like I always want to say something in my songs, to have a positive message, and even to take a stand on matters that mean something to me, because, I want my kids to know I stand for something.
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Rockmommy: What’s it like trying to balance music with parenthood? And are there other factors in the mix? 

 
Danny Lapidus: Wow, now you’re asking the hard questions. YES there are many factors in the mix these days! It’s extremely hard to balance music with parenthood but I wouldn’t change a thing;)
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.