Yahoo!News (2021)

Jenn Cleary’s children’s album ‘All Together Now!’ resonates with audiences of all ages

The blues musician will perform Saturday at Grossen Bart in Longmont

Ziggy Marley, the six-piece salsa fusion band Ozomatli and even the man in black himself, Johnny Cash, have all crafted albums specifically geared toward children, proving that artistry for youth goes way beyond the tunes of Barney and Lamb Chop.

Boulder-based blues songstress Jenn Cleary — a staple of the Front Range music scene — released her first full-length children’s album earlier this month. Doused with feel-good anthems, environmental ethics and plenty of tight musicianship, “All Together Now!” is proving to be a favorite among kids of all ages — the audio salve to the chaos of last year.

Cleary has always had a bit of an altruistic spirit — raising money for charities, such as the Leukemia Society, since she was a girl growing up near Boston.

In the ‘90s, she founded All Together Now International — a nonprofit that brought much-needed health programs to Nepal, India and Tibet until 2010.

Not knowing the native language of the children in the countries she worked in, Cleary relied on her guitar and gift of song to be a connector and communicator.

Her charity work would eventually lead her to her adopted daughter Dorje Dolma, now 36, who came to the states at age 10 to receive life-saving surgeries. Cleary made the decision to bring her into the family, as Dorje’s health at the time was too compromised for her to return to living at 14,000 feet in her remote Himalayan village.

We caught up with the selfless creative and beekeeper ahead of her Saturday show at Gossen Bart Brewery in Longmont to find out about her latest danceable release, the joys of working on this project with her mother and daughter and what iconic ‘70s group she is looking forward to seeing live this summer.

Daily Camera: Love the latest album. What inspired you to craft a collection of songs for children at this stage in your career?

Jenn Cleary: I have recorded several children’s songs, woven into my acoustic rockin’ blues tunes on past albums. “Those Boys” — from “Back to the Wheel” (2010) — has been very popular and often requested at many of my live shows and I had written a few more that I have been playing for years live, but hadn’t yet recorded. So, when time for writing opened up this past year, I was able to focus on doing a full-length children’s record.

I always loved kids songs growing up and was very inspired by Marlo Thomas’s “Free to be You and Me.” I also loved how Kenny Loggins was able to go from being an incredible jamming rock band with Loggins and Messina and then to go on and write awesome kids songs — “House at Pooh Corner” and many others. The Beatles, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Jerry Garcia, Peter, Paul and Mary, Queen, Lisa Loeb are all adult-focused composers that also have great family-friendly tunes. Disney is full of rockers singing kids songs. There are so many great inspiring artists out there that have influenced me through the years.

DC: What was the most rewarding aspect of collaborating with your mother and daughter on this latest project?

JC: Oh wow, if there is a silver lining to the immense difficulties of the pandemic for me, it was being able to spend focused time with my mother, Margaret Cleary, and my adopted daughter, Dorje Dolma, author of “Yak Girl: Growing up the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal.” They both are book authors and very inspiring people, but neither had written a song before.

As this unexpected time opened up in our collective lives, I thought it would be a great opportunity to be creative and to collaborate. I didn’t really expect that we would end up with recordable songs, but thought it was worth a try — and if nothing else, something really fun to do together.

My mother lives next door to me now and every morning we walk a mile together. One morning this past summer, she turned to me and said, “with this new album you’re working on, I think you should write a song about caring and sharing with one another because that’s what we’re all about.” I immediately liked the idea and by the time we got home, I had the melody in my head. Within a few hours, I had the song written and ready to finalize with my mother. Having lost my father and my brother many years ago, I cherish each moment that I have left with my mother. For her to be able to co-write this song was an amazing gift from the universe. “Love Right Now” is one of my favorites on this new record and I hope that many others experience its beauty.

Dorje brought the topic of “All Kinds of Families” to me and I said, “great, now go and write down all of the words that come to mind with that topic.” Dorje had worked at the Elm Tree Preschool here in Boulder for eight years and had witnessed many different versions of families, let alone her very unique growing-up experience of being a nomadic yak herder in Nepal before coming to Boulder for life-saving surgeries back in 1995. We sat down on a Sunday with that sheet of words and created a song. It was a great exercise to do together and I feel that it is an excellent song with an excellent message.

DC: When composing music for kids, is the process very different? How did this album evolve as compared to the other ones you’ve done?

JC: There is no specific process for me. Every song’s creation has been a different one. I would say the main difference for me on this album is that I was more collaborative than ever before. I have built up a trust in my musical creations and I wanted to invite others into the possibilities of that kind of space.

DC: I know you have been steadily performing locally in recent months. How does it feel to finally be on stages again and what can attendees expect from your gig at Grossen Bart Brewery?

JC: It is wonderful to be out performing live again. And, it is really fun to be emerging out of this most surreal time with new songs, stronger guitar skills and a new appreciation for live music. Both performing and listening to others. The audiences this summer have been very engaged and appreciative, as well. On Saturday, at Grossen Bart, I will be playing with my harmonica player, Mad Dog Friedman and plan to do two hours of all original music.

DC: As live music starts to return, are there any acts you are hoping to catch this summer? Who are some musicians right now you find yourself listening to on repeat?

JC: I have tickets to the Doobie Brothers which was canceled last year, but rescheduled. The Doobies were my first live concert when I was just a wee little one myself. In terms of streaming, a couple of my new tunes have been put on editorial playlists on Spotify. So, I have been merged in with other artists like Raffi, Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes, Blippi, Sweet Honey and many more. I have been listening to many of these children’s artists to further educate myself, so I can write more and more songs in this genre.

Geekdad (2021)

Jenn Cleary Sings the Sustainability Blues

If there was ever a time to sing the blues, it was during our shared pandemic year. Contrary to popular belief, the blues are not exclusively gloomy or unhappy. Blues is a song style that can convey many positive sentiments, such as family, environment, and community. Leading the 2021 blues brigade is Boulder, Colorado-based Jenn Cleary, with her first children’s release, ALL TOGETHER NOW!

Cleary’s journey to children’s music took a circuitous path that went through Nepal, India, and Tibet. Making a difference on that side of the planet, she founded and ran a non-profit that promoted locally sustainable health and economic sufficiency programs in those countries. During that time, Cleary became acquainted with Dorje Dolma, a girl raised by nomadic yak herders in Nepal who needed life-saving surgeries. Cleary brought Dorje to America and subsequently adopted her. After college, Dorje went to work in a preschool and the duo cowrote the song, “Families Of All Kinds,” based on Dorje’s firsthand experiences. Dorje also contributed the cover artwork, “Healing Heart,” for ALL TOGETHER NOW! (For more about Dorje’s journey, you can read her book, Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal.)

During the past two decades, Jenn Cleary has released three adult-oriented blues CDs and performed around the world, including at the Sundance Film Festival and Colorado Rockies games. Her playlist always included a handful of infectious, kid-friendly tunes, leading her to develop ALL TOGETHER NOW! for family audiences. Cleary shares flights of fantasy on songs like “Dinosaur Friend” and “Bubbles.” Similar to Tom Chapin’s “This Pretty Planet,” Cleary mixes social consciousness with traditional family interests. An avid beekeeper, the pollinating creatures make appearances on several tunes, most prominently on “My Sisters And Me” about a beehive working in harmony. The theme is crystal clear in numbers like “Clean Water,” Love Right Now,” and “Backyard Farm” (her zydeco variation on “Old MacDonald”).

Having traveled extensively and helped families in far-flung countries, Cleary doesn’t break a sweat singing about the disparity of families. What makes a family different doesn’t make it any less relevant as a family unit, she points out on “Families of All Kinds.” That also goes for the animal kingdom, on “Our Wild Family.” Thanks to technology, the pandemic showed kids that their concerns are no different from other children around the world. On ALL TOGETHER NOW!, Cleary celebrates the amazing variety of universal values that surround and sustain our civilization. That’s clear cause for upbeat blues, sunny skies, and honey bees.

Cox County Clappers (2021)

Jenn Cleary’s collection of children’s songs would be a valuable addition to playlists of parents, teachers and counselors of young children. Ranging from mellow to energetic, the music is reminiscent of piano rock-jams of Three Dog Night, maybe some Jackie DeShannon. On “Clean Water,” and “Love RIght Now,” you’ll swear it is 70s all over, and we are singing in perfect harmony.

The lyrics throughout introduce and reinforce messages that are simple, positive and essential.

The main message throughout is that we are part of a greater ecosystem, and if we learn to live in it the right way, not only will the earth be better off, we’ll be happier, as well. Of course, Jenn doesn’t put it that way. She says it as simply as possible: “Let’s care for one another, share with one another”….”We need streams for our fishes, oceans for our whales, rainforests for fresh clean air….”

The one exception to the simple-rule, is her ode to bees, “My Sisters and Me.” Here Jenn gets into the real nitty-gritty of life in the hive, describing the number of bees that live together, the months in which they pollinate. But it is so light-hearted, that
the more detailed it gets, the funnier it gets. This one is educational for listeners of all ages.

Some of the songs are just plain fun–“Less Gravity,” and “Bubbles” would be great with accompanying animated videos. Teachers wanting to let kids work off energy, might want to play these during the kids’ activities.

Kids and the people taking care of them will be singing along with Jenn Cleary’s collection.

Kinderling Kids Radio (2021)

High Five – Feature Album

Each week Kinderling gives a HIGH FIVE to music, artists, albums and other stuff we think is awesome!
This week’s High Five is Jenn Cleary’s enviro-focused album All Together Now!

Celebrating animals, nature and our wild world, the folk blues singer delivers an important message through fun, playful songs like ‘Backyard Farm’ and ‘Our Wild Family’.

All Together Now, by Jenn Cleary, our High Five Album of the Week this week. For your chance to win a copy of the album, just head to the Kinderling Facebook page and enter the competition.