Take Effect (2022)

JENN CLEARY
September 30, 2022

Happy Day

Self-Released, 2022

8/10

The Boulder, Colorado award-winning songstress Jenn Cleary returns with a 2nd family album, where her charming folk-rock welcomes plenty of diverse influences as she brings an upbeat appreciation for our earth.

“Happy Day” starts the listen with Mad Dog Friedman’s spirited harmonica before Christian Teele’s thumping drums enter alongside backing vocals from children, and “Magical Musical Train” follows with a playful approach that’s full of fun storytelling that’s vocally adventurous and musically warm.

Halfway through, “A Walk In The Woods” brings an anthemic quality that’s full of grit and melody, while “Turtle Time” embraces some folky ideas into the banjo friendly delivery.

Further still, “Fly Seagull Fly” is an acoustic guitar fueled and pretty album highlight, and “It’s Time To Go To Sleep” exits the listen with a dreamy intimacy that’s quite soothing,

A record that’s clearly steered towards the young ears, but will also be appreciated by adults, Cleary and company have a great time while also touching on very important issues such as self-care, enjoying nature and relaxation across the aptly titled body of work.

School Library Journal (2022)

Folk-rock singer-songwriter Cleary introduces 10 original tunes on this follow-up to her 2021 debut album All Together Now. Each song on Happy Day is a positive celebration of life and the world around us. The album opens with the title track, a catchy, interactive, sing-along that big and small kids will enjoy. This is soon followed by the Louisiana zydeco sound of “Plant a Garden” and the humorous “I Like Candy,” an ode to many familiar sugary treats that ends with the realization that moderation is a good thing. The middle of the album focuses on self-care—encouraging listeners to put down their screens and “Take a Walk in the Woods,” slow down a little by adopting “Turtle Time,” and finding strength within themselves in “Only One You.” The album concludes with the unique sounds of “I’m a Yak,” a tribute to the early years of Cleary’s adopted daughter’s life in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal and the beautiful lullaby, “It’s Time to Go to Sleep.” VERDICT This gently empowering collection will engage and entertain children of all ages.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Family Choice Award (2022)

The Family Choice Awards recognize the best in children and parenting products. Now in its 27th year, the Family Choice Awards is one of the most coveted, family friendly consumer award programs in the nation. Happy Day is an extraordinary product that makes a positive difference in the lives of our families.

KIDS FIRST! Video Review (2022)

“The most appealing thing about the music on Happy Day is that it is upbeat and it should capture the attention of little kids very well. The guitar and harmonica bring a fun vibe to the music. The vocabulary is well chosen and the words are easy to understand and sing along to.” By Ava C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

Travel Boulder (2022)

New Family-Friendly Music from Jenn Cleary

Jenn Cleary, who makes blues-leaning rock music, looked to established artists who made children’s records when writing her second family-oriented album “Happy Day.”

“There are a lot of artists who, once they went and had kids, created children’s albums,” Cleary says. “Like Kenny Loggins from Loggins and Messina, I’m a huge fan of them. I’ve got so many – Sweet Honey in the Rock, Marlo Thomas’ ‘Free to be You and Me’ was an influence when I was a kid. Even Jerry Garcia did a kid’s album.”

She says the record, released on June 17, was a bit of a gift from the pandemic, to be able to have the time to sit down and write two cohesive children’s records. The other is “All Together Now,” released last year.

“I’ve always had some kids’ songs in my other albums,” she says. “But it was just like one or two on each album, which didn’t make it as cohesive as these. With this I could focus on the kids and create a kids act.”

She hopes to get her live act into schools, museums and libraries because the songs are educational in nature. Kids can be heard singing on the record and she brought some of them on stage at a recent performance at the Junkyard Social Club in Boulder.

“I had seven kids come in and sing the songs,” Cleary says. “Several of the kids were there. They get up on stage with me and sang the songs. It was hilarious. It was really cute. I did (the record) from beginning to end and did a couple from last year’s album.”

Both albums are very collaborative, and about half the songs are written with others. Topics tackled in songs include imagination, snack time and candy and its relation to good oral hygiene. She’s also tackled going to sleep and animal poop on a song that appeared on last year’s record, the Billy Holiday-inspired “Scat’s the Word for That.” That song is a crowd favorite, especially among kids, for obvious reasons.

“A lot of the songs have a positive message,” Cleary says. “Some of them touch on appreciating the great outdoors. ‘Take a Walk in the Woods’ is a message to myself and kids that we live in this beautiful place in Colorado and New Mexico but I find myself too much on my phone or my TV.”

The song, “I’m a Yak,” is a collaborative effort with her daughter, Dorje Dolma. Dolma is originally from a rural area of Nepal but came to the United States as a child. She was adopted by an American family and grew up in Boulder. She has detailed some of her experiences in the book “Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal.”

“She sat down and told me all these ‘yak facts’ about her experience of raising and herding yaks up until about the age of 10 on the border with Tibet,” Cleary says. “I was able to write out the lyrics.”

The song is built around a damyen lute melody played by Dolma’s birth father, who still lives in Nepal, and a recording of villagers in her home village singing a traditional Nepalese folk song that weaves in and out of “I’m a Yak.” Dolma played bells and a whistle used to herd yaks.

“It’s very traditional,” Cleary says. “It could be a thousand years old. It’s just one of those old, old folk songs appreciating nature. Dorje came into the studio and guided the producer on how she wanted it to be a combination of the new and old world.”

Dolma says the song marks the second time she’s collaborated with her mother on a song, the first being “Families of all Kinds” on “All Together Now.” It was her first songwriting experience, and she jumped at the opportunity to follow up. Yaks are an important animal in Nepal, and people use them for transportation and food.

“I always wanted to do something about yaks,” she says. “I talk about growing up in Dolpol at 13,000 feet and no electricity. I was a herder and I was taking care of the yaks every spring, summer and fall. Yaks have been and still are an important part of life to people in the Himalayas.”
Dolma says the animals also represent a sense of peace, and she considers them to be one of her spirit animals. She sees the song as a way to give thanks to yaks and educate people about them.

“We just did a CD release for ‘Happy Day’ and I had all these pictures and drawings of yaks,” she says. “All the kids asked, ‘What is that?’ That’s an animal that’s not always in schools. Not every kid knows about them.”

She adds that she considers the song “Asian fusion” because it stylistically merges eastern and western music. Music has always been a big part of her life. She likes world music – specifically Tibetan, Nepali and Bollywood – and especially when musicians combine sounds from different cultures. New age meditation music and classical also hold spots on her playlist, anything relaxing really.

“I listen to music all the time,” she says. “Music is the only way I can create art or write. It just helps me and I listen to it every day.
She adds that she taught school in Boulder for eight years and often struggled to find music for kids that was education.

“One thing I really love about both my mom’s CDs is all of her songs are very educational and inspiring,” she says. “It’s something both kids and parents can listen to. As you are listening, you’re learning something new.”

Cleary adds that she set out to make music that kids and parents could listen to that wouldn’t send parents looking for the nearest cliff. Anyone over the age of 23 who’s seen the Muppet Babies or an Alvin and the Chipmunks recently movie can relate.

“That was the kind of intention – to merge those two worlds, and not make it too little kid squeaky,” she says. “Parents can enjoy it, too, and want to put it on.”

“Happy Day” and “All Together Now” are available on all major streaming platforms. For more music and information, visit jenncleary.com.

VoyageDenver (2022)

Conversations with Jenn Cleary

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenn Cleary.

Hi Jenn, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I have always loved music—from singing along to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 back in my youth, to picking up the acoustic guitar in middle school, to going on to writing my own songs in my early 20’s. My original aspiration was no more than wanting to be good enough to sit around a campfire and have sing-a-longs with friends. However, when I moved to from Boston, MA to Boulder, CO back in 1988, I took my amateur skills to busking on the Pearl Street Mall and found that performing and engaging with the passersby was enlivening. I then dove into voice, guitar, songwriting lessons and even took a rock band class. I was hooked. Before long, I had my own rock band and started recording albums of my own. I have mostly been performing acoustic rock and blues, with family-focused tunes woven in. The children’s genre became a focus in 2020 when I finally had the time to develop this part of my musical expression.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The music business is hard. As musicians, we typically to start with open mics, tip gigs and/or late-night bar shows. It is great to have the opportunities to build from these types of venues, but it is also a grind. Many a time, when starting out, I played to nearly empty rooms or on the other end of the spectrum, bars packed with people talking loudly over my performance. It can be quite humiliating. I had to learn to still always put on the best show that I could, to enjoy it for myself and remember that you never know who might be listening. I have been surprised many times with people coming up to me after a show to say how much they truly enjoyed the music. And I didn’t even know they were listening.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a folk-rock singer-songwriter from Boulder, Colorado, with many years of performing on international stages. Highlight shows include Colorado Rockies games, E-Town, Sundance Film Festivals, blues and folks festivals and multiple European tours. I have a range of song styles and perform bluesy, acoustic solo shows and also rock out with my full electric band. I have released two albums of original songs (Breakin’ Loose, 2006; Back to the Wheel, 2010) and one of bluesy covers (Blues Full of Heart, 2018). My first children’s album, All Together Now, won prestigious recognition from the 2021 NAPPA awards for being the best in the music industry. I was the Back to School winner of the 2021 Fall Parent and Teacher Choice Awards and a 2021 International Songwriting Contest semi-finalist for her song “Our Wild Family.” I just released my current album of children’s songs, called Happy Day, in June.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
The favorite part of my childhood was being able to play outside in the woods. My brother and I and neighborhood friends spent hours every day exploring, climbing trees, picking berries, rolling over giant logs, and building forts. This was the inspiration for my latest song, “Take a Walk in the Woods”. It reminds me, as an adult, to get off my computer (which I am one of right now 😊), as well the variety of other screens that I tend to get glued to these days and get outside. Colorado is such an amazing place to live and I need to remember to enjoy it!

National Parenting Product Awards (2022)

Happy Day has family-friendly, rocking kids’ tunes for all to enjoy! Super-duper fun and educational songs with lots of positive messages about appreciating our environment, using our imaginations, and validating the one and only you, plus a wonderfully relaxing sleep song and even a tune with a yak’s perspective, co-written with the author of Yak Girl.

Evaluation comments from our NAPPA Awards Music Judge:

“By leading off her second album of children’s music with the cheery title tune, Jenn Cleary clearly establishes the upbeat, joyous mood that fills Happy Day. After getting kids excited about their day on the highly danceable “Happy Day,” Cleary invites youngsters to use their imaginations on “Magical Music Train,” which is a running theme throughout the album. The Colorado-based musician suggests putting down your devices and explore nature on “Take A Walk In the Woods” and plants the idea of growing your own food on “Plant A Garden.” Cleary cleverly flips the moral of “I Like Candy” from being a pro-sweets ditty to one supporting healthy oral hygiene. She also is inventive with her use of animals. “Turtle Time” is a tune (and concept) about the benefits of taking a rest during a busy day, while “I’m A Yak” is creatively packed with all sorts of yak facts. On “Fly Seagull Fly,” Cleary nicely utilizes a conversation with the gull to convey the idea about enjoying your life. A similar “be who you are” sentiment is the kindly, simply expressed in “Only One You.” The album ends with the gentle, low-key “It’s Time To Go To Sleep,” and I always give musicians extra points when they put sleep songs at the end of the album (isn’t that the natural place for them?). Additionally, Cleary grounds her down-to-earth songs with a complementary, and engaging, folk-rock style that is fleshed out with touches of a harmonica, organ, accordion, woodwinds, and horns. With Happy Day, Cleary has succeeded in creating a set of music that will be bring more sunshine into your day.”

Geekdad (2022)

My brother used to scream “Freebird” at every concert he attended. Not because he actually needed to hear the classic southern rock song. Most likely, he wanted to see how the performer or band would react. And sometimes, they would respond by singing a verse or chorus. The kids on “Magical Music Train,” a track on Happy Day, Jenn Cleary‘s second collection for children, also want to hear “Freebird.” Which shows that kids today are not much different from kids decades ago – they crave the good stuff.

Colorado’s Cleary has performed music for more than two decades. She officially entered the children’s music space with last year’s All Together Now! and follows it with Happy Day, engaging her younger listeners with bluesy folk rock filled with genial, life-affirming content.

Sustainability is the theme of “Plant a Garden,” but Cleary dives right back into the sweet stuff with the subsequent track, “I Like Candy” – more about acknowledging the value of fruits and vegetables than hiding a secret stash of Tootsie Rolls. “Turtle Time” urges children to slow down (to a snail’s pace) and enjoy the natural world around them, as nothing lasts forever and we need to enjoy activities in the moment. On “Only One You,” Cleary sings about self-reliance and confidence:

There’s only one you, no one else is the same
With a wisdom inside you can’t even name
You have the key to be who you want to be

If you doubted Jenn Cleary’s good intentions, look no further than the non-profit she founded 14 years ago, which promotes innovative, locally sustainable health and economic sufficiency programs in Nepal, India, and Tibet. During this time, Cleary adopted Dorje Dolma, raised until age 10 by her nomadic yak-herder aunties, parents, and grandparents in the remote Himalayan mountains of Nepal. Her experiences are addressed on “I’m a Yak,” which uses yak whistles and herding calls to recount how the lifestyle hasn’t changed for hundreds of years – except by climate change. You can also read about Dolma’s experiences in her book, “Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal.”

If your only experience with harmonica is Blues Traveler’s John Popper, meet Cleary’s sideman, Mad Dog Friedman, who keeps the tempo flowing on the title track and other tunes. Happy Day winds down with the contemplative “Fly Seagull Fly” and bedtime lullaby, “It’s Time to Go to Sleep.” But with Jenn Cleary, the blues don’t need to be sad. It’s just another shade in a child’s palette and tomorrow will be another day to color outside the lines.

Motherhood Moment (2022)

Music Minute: Happy Day

Happy Day, the second family album from Boulder’s award-winning folk-rock singer-songwriter Jenn Cleary, offers an infectious array of tunes with positive messages of happiness and appreciation for the environment. Happy Day will be released on June 17, 2022.
For 14 years Jenn Cleary ran a non-profit that she founded, which promoted innovative, locally sustainable health and economic sufficiency programs in Nepal, India, and Tibet. Much of her work was with children in Nepal, and, initially, communication was limited. However, calling upon her performing talents, Jenn was able to employ the universal language of music. In this way, she connected heart-to-heart with the people she served, while also developing her own abilities as a storyteller in song and a creator of evocative musical portraits.

Each song on Happy Day can trace its lineage to this profoundly human experience. In a most natural way, the music on this album owes its existence to the efforts of this generous, large-hearted, and gifted musician to establish a connection more universal and more powerful than language.

About Jenn Cleary

Jenn Cleary has over twenty years’ experience performing on international stages. Highlights include Sundance Film Festivals, Colorado Rockies games, opening for Shemekia Copeland at Etown, and several European tours. Jenn was honored as a Telluride Blues Festival acoustic competition finalist and a Colorado Blues Society finalist for best self-produced album. She has studied with Livingston Taylor, Dr. Ysaye Barneswell (Sweet Honey in the Rock), Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul and Mary), David Wilcox, and many others. Noted for her range of song styles, Jenn performs bluesy acoustic solo shows as well as rockin’ shows with her full electric band.

Jenn’s songwriting for children is informed by a lifetime of assisting, educating, and raising them. In addition to founding a private school in Boulder, Colorado, she is the founder of All Together Now International, a non-profit that, for 14 years, provided housing, schooling, and medical care for Nepali children. She has also been a foster parent, a sponsor, and has raised her own three children.

Previous albums include All Together Now! (2021, NAPPA Award, Parent and Teacher Choice Award, Hot Diggity Award, International Songwriting Contest semi-finalist for the song “Our Wild Family”), Blues from the Heart (2018), Back to the Wheel (2010), and Breakin’ Loose (2006).

Happy Day will be available on Amazon. CDs will also be available at Jenn Cleary’s live shows, through her website: www.jenncleary.com, and at brick-and-mortar stores through Super D distribution.

Philspicks (2022)

Jenn Cleary’s Sophomore LP Will Make Audiences Of All Ages Happy Every Day

Family music entertainer Jenn Cleary is scheduled to release her sophomore album, Happy Day June 17 independently. Set for release a little more than a year after the release of her debut album, All Together Now, the 10-song record is a presentation that will make audiences happy every day. That is due in part to the album’s musical body, which will be discussed shortly. The record’s lyrical themes add their own interest to the record’s presentation and will be examined a little later. The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered they make the album a successful second offering from Jenn Cleary.

Happy Day, the second new album from Jenn Cleary, is a positive new presentation from the family music entertainer. The record’s success comes in part through its featured musical arrangements. Speaking more specifically, the diversity in the arrangements is what makes them so important. The album opens with a mid-tempo kindie rock composition in the album’s title track but then quickly changes things up immediately after in ‘Magical Music Train.’ The bluesy harmonica line and the guitar line give the arrangement in this case an identity totally separate from that of the album’s opener. The addition of what sounds like a Hammond B3 organ to the mix adds even more to the engaging and entertaining blues approach here and ensures even more, older audiences’ engagement and entertainment. ‘Plant A Garden’ changes things yet again, taking listeners on a zydeco ride. Cleary and her fellow musicians take another hard right yet again in the very next song, ‘I Like Candy,’ this time in a more country western direction. ‘Take A Walk in the Woods,’ which serves as the album’s midpoint, keeps the changes coming, this time offering audiences a semi-country rock approach. From there to the record’s end, the sounds and styles continue changing just as much all the way through. By the record’s end audiences will agree that the varied arrangements presented throughout the album’s body make for reason enough to hear this presentation.

As much as the album’s musical arrangements do to appeal to audiences, it is just part of what makes the record worth hearing. The lyrical themes that accompany the record’s musical arrangements add their own share of interest to the presentation. From the serious to the silly, Cleary presents themes that will resonate with audiences of all ages. What’s more she does this in a way that makes them accessible to just as many audiences. Case in point is the light, flowing ‘Turtle Time.’ The song is a reminder to audiences of all ages that we all need time to slow down after being so overly exposed to the now, now, now nature of the world today. That nonstop energy of the workday and school day. She even notes in her song that parents need that turtle time just as much as children.

On a separate note, a song, such as ‘I Like Candy’ promotes proper dental health and proper eating habits all in one. She sings from the vantage point of a child who loves all kinds of candy but ends up paying for it in the end at a dentist appointment. The dentist goes so far as to tell the child to cut back on sweets and try to eat healthier.

On yet another note, a song, such as ‘Fly, Seagull, Fly,’ which comes across as a sort of neo-folk style composition, is a celebration of the simple things in life. The song’s subject is out on the beach, watching a seagull flying casually up in the blue sky. The seagull is a representation of those simple things that we should all take into account daily and appreciate. It really is a unique way to approach such a deeper concept that will connect with a wide range of audiences. It is yet another example of what makes the album’s lyrical themes so important to its presentation. When it and the other themes pointed out here are considered along with the rest of the album’s themes, the whole leaves no doubt as to the noted importance. It is just one more part of what makes the album appealing. The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

Throughout the course of the album’s run, the sequencing creates a fully immersive and positive general effect. This is the case even as the sounds and styles of the songs change from one to the next. Other than the record’s finale, ‘It’s Time To Go To Sleep,’ the only other point at which the album’s energy pulls back (and fittingly so) is ‘Turtle Time.’ The relaxed sense of the arrangement does well to help translate the message of needing that time to slow down and just relax. To that end, the stability of the album’s musical content even amidst its constantly changing sounds and styles, the sequencing ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment in its own right. When the success thereof is considered along with the impact of the album’s overall content, the whole makes Happy Day a successful sophomore offering from Jenn Cleary.

Happy Day, the new album from Jenn Cleary, is a welcome addition to this year’s field of new family music albums. Its appeal comes in part through its featured musical arrangements. The record’s musical arrangements stand out because of their variety. From one to the next, Cleary offers audiences something different throughout the album. That in itself is reason enough for audiences to hear the album. The lyrical themes that accompany the album’s musical content are just as varied. They range from the serious to the silly. What’s more they are delivered in a fashion that makes them accessible to audiences of any age. The album’s sequencing puts the finishing touch to its presentation. It ensures the album’s energy remains stable throughout its run even as the sounds and styles change. The result is a positive general effect that is just as important as the album’s content. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered they make the album a presentation that will make the whole family happy every day.

Happy Day is scheduled for release June 17.