Midwest Record (2022)

JENN CLEARY/Happy Day: A white gal with the blues drops a kiddie album that hit it right out of the park right from the start. Here we find her enacting another pivot—this time moving kiddie pop in a new genre of her own making that I’m naming for her now—family pop. Family friendly without being pabulum, she tends the seeds Maria Muldaur planted a while back in her kiddie pop forays and realizes the vision mightily. Treating kids like real people as opposed to fashion accessories, who’da thunk it? Killer stuff and guaranteed fun for kids of all ages.

HVY (2022)

Happy Day: Interview with Singer and Songwriter Jenn Cleary

“Happy Day” is a new family album by singer and songwriter Jenn Cleary who is known for her folksy-rock style. Jenn’s music is family-friendly and this latest album, her second, is due to be released on June 17, 2022.

Jenn spent fourteen years running a nonprofit she founded called All Together Now International that promoted innovative, locally sustainable health and economic sufficiency programs in Nepal, India, and Tibet. Much of her work was with children in Nepal and music helped her break down language barriers. Every song on “Happy Days” is inspired by the human experience—and one is even an ode to yaks!

Jenn Cleary has performed internationally for over twenty years. Writing songs for children is her passion as both an educator, a parent, and the founder of a private school in Boulder, Colorado. Jenn recently discussed her music and work via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in music and songwriting and did you always gravitate towards the children’s genre?

Jenn Cleary (JC): 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 20s. 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 Boulder, Colorado 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, and songwriting lessons and even to 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.

MM: How did you break into the industry and how would you describe your style?

JC: The unfolding has been interesting, as I never had the desire to be rich or famous as a singer. For me, it has always been more about community, collaboration, and engagement with people. So, breaking into the industry has been a slow and steady process of following the opportunities that come with taking the risk of putting myself out there. My style is fun and engaging with a bit of deeper meaning mixed into many of my songs. Over the years, I have built up a large list of popular acoustic, classic, rockin’, bluesy cover songs that get the crowd engaged. Then I weave my original songs in and out of the sets. Many a time, people will say “Who wrote that?!” With a big smile, I get to say, “I did.” “Wow, that’s great,” they say, which has allowed me to build up fans over the years.

MM: You founded a nonprofit, so how did you establish that and what was its central mission?

JC: I co-created a non-profit organization called All Together Now International in 1996 that helped children with severe medical conditions in Nepal, India, Tibet, Africa, and the USA for over fourteen years. My new album, Happy Day, is full of joy and fun, with a bit of positive messaging thrown in. I see this as a continuation of one of the missions of my former non-profit: to inspire others to have a positive impact in the world. I want to uplift others through music. And while I’m not the executive director of this charity anymore, I do financially support other charities doing great work out there.

MM: You also founded a school, so how did that come about and what makes it special?

JC: When I started having children of my own, I found the public school system was limited, in that it didn’t fit every child’s individual needs. A group of us started “The Living School,” which was democratically run with a loose curriculum. The kids were able to follow their passions without being locked into academic expectations that did not personally interest them. As an example, I was able to teach voice, guitar, songwriting, music history, business, etc., based on a child’s interest. Not all were interested, of course, but those that were could do a deeper dive into music than they would have been able to at our local public school.

MM: What was it like to work through the pandemic, especially with children?

JC: Well, the good news is that I had the time to write two children’s albums over the last two years. The bad news is that I couldn’t perform live shows with them. I thought by now that I would be doing shows at schools, museums and libraries. But it hasn’t been meant to be, at least yet. I have been able to do outdoor shows though, including nature camps, and family festivals. On June 17th, I am collaborating with Boulder’s Junkyard Social Club to do an album release show. It is a super-cool venue with an outdoor stage and a dynamic playground, surrounded by fun art.

MM: Out of all songs on the album, do you have any personal favorites? If so, which ones and why?

JC: That is always a tough question, as each song had my full attention and energy put into it. I love them all. That said, I think that the most remarkable song on the album is “I’m a Yak.” It was a wonderful opportunity for me to create a song with my adopted daughter, who grew up as a yak herder until age ten, at 14,000’ in the remote Nepal Himalayan mountains. (Dorje Dolma is the author of the memoir Yak Girl.) You can hear this song in so many ways: as an educational song with yak facts, a journey back to a time and place of pre-modern nomadic life, a cautionary tale of climate change affecting wildlife, or simply a world music song with an irresistible groove. We also created a video to accompany it with rare footage of yaks that we gathered from nomads there on the Nepali border with Tibet.

MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten about your music?

JC: Hmmm, there have been many comments through the years that have meant a lot. This one just was sent to me recently from a friend who is a highly respected singer herself: “I think it is so great that you are putting another album out there. Your love of life and people shines through again! And your warm earthy voice and style has such a broad appeal.”

MM: How would you describe your live performances?

JC: Dynamic and fun with a bit of soulfulness to connect on a deeper level with the crowd. I never do the exact same show twice. I often have a set list prepared, but only use that as a guide and have my accompanying musicians prepared that I may go off in some completely different direction. I like to get a sense of the audience and what they might want to hear.

MM: How do you hope your career evolves over the next five years?

JC: I would like to see my songs get out to a much larger audience. The good thing about the current streaming world of music is the ability to reach people all over the world. I have learned so much over the years and work with fantastic musicians to make quality music. It is hard to get heard with so many people putting out good music these days, but I am hoping that my songs will rise above and get the recognition that I think they deserve.

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

JC: I would like to emphasize that collaboration with others has been so important in my musical career. Not only with the fantastic musicians and producers that I have worked with over the years, but the co-writing opportunities that I have had. It can be challenging at times but moving through the difficulties as they arise allows songs to develop on a whole new level. So, more collaborations and building community through songs and gatherings. I hope to see you all at a show someday! In the meantime, check out my tunes on your favorite streaming platform and thank you for reading this article!

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.

Hot Diggity Awards (2021)

All Together Now! Rockin’ Songs for Kids of All Ages by Jenn Cleary is a children’s music album featuring positive messages of environmental stewardship and social consciousness. The catchy, jubilant, and compassionate songs are a treasure for children’s music collections.

What makes it Hot Diggity great: Uplifting music for little ones sending positive and encouraging messages.

“We’re a national seal-of-approval program that evaluates hundreds of family and pet products
each year, awarding only the best of the best with a Hot Diggity Award. Our seal signifies innovation, quality, entertainment and/or educational value and a commitment to excellence.

If you’re looking for the best toys, games, squeakers, treats or essentials for family fun, take a look at our award winners
and know that each has passed the test with our team of industry experts, consumer testers, children and our four-legged friends”.

National Parenting Product Awards (2021)

All Together Now! Rockin’ Songs for Kids of All Ages is a children’s music album featuring positive messages of environmental stewardship and social consciousness. The catchy, jubilant and compassionate songs are a treasure for children’s music collections.

Evaluation comments from our NAPPA Awards Music Judge:
“Cleary has it all together on her first album aimed for children. The Colorado-based singer/songwriter is a veteran of two prior (non-kids) records, and her experience clearly shines through on this offering. Cleary covers a lot of territory, lyrically and musically, across All Together Now’s ten tracks. She starts off addressing some earthly matters. “Clear Water” extols the importance to solving water pollution while the rousing “Our Wild Family” reminds us how animals, birds, and trees are part of our family and we need to take care of our family. The family in “My Sisters And Me” is the Apoidea super-family, which means this zydeco-lilted number is all about bees. Cleary takes a similarly merry yet education approach on “Scat’s The Word For That,” a jazzy ditty that looks at animal poop. The blues shuffle “Bubbles” shifts the album into its more whimsical second half. “Backyard Farm” is populated with many amusing animal sounds, providing an interactive opportunity for little kids. The twangy “Dinosaur Friend” is a touching ode to an imaginary friend, while the lighthearted “Less Gravity” is powered by a rollicking piano. “Love Right Now,” which anchors the middle of the album, and the closing tune “Families Of All Kinds” deliver lovely, inclusive messages about caring for each other and how everyone – no matter what type of family they have – needs “love, support and affection.” On All Together Now, Cleary does a great job of creating fun, thoughtful songs that connect with kids without talking down to them, while the record’s skillful musicianship is a plus for parents listening in. “

Eat The Marshmallow (2021)

Out of Boulder, Colorado comes a first kindie album from folk/ rock/ blues singer Jenn Cleary titled All Together Now! This album is to reach out to young audiences in a playful way with messages of environmental stewardship and social conciousness. The 11 tracks are educational, upbeat, and catchy; a way for young ones to dance their way into greater awareness and care for the world around them. “Writing a children’s album is another way to deliver a positive message and impact kids, while bringing a smile to their faces! When I worked with children in developing countries, we couldn’t communicate through words, so we used the universal language of music to help bring us ‘all together.’ All Together Now! takes me full-circle in my passion to make a positive difference in children’s lives, ” says Jenn Cleary of her intentions for the album. The final track All Kinds of Families was co-written with Jenn Cleary’s adopted daughter Dorje Dolma and ends the album with a beautiful message of inclusivity and honoring diversity. All Together Now! is available through Amazon music.

BookwormBev (2021)

Jenn Cleary performs ten songs on her upbeat album in rock, rockabilly, blues, zydeco, and pop musical styles. Accompanied by excellent performances on guitar, banjo, mandolin, cello, upright bass, organ, piano, accordion, harmonica, drums, and tambourine, Cleary also includes an enthusiastic children’s chorus on several songs. We need wild places to make us happy and feel free, so we need to take care of “Our Wild Family.” From the viewpoint of a honeybee, “My Sisters and Me” explains how they live in community together to accomplish their tasks. “Scat’s the Word for That” is the scientists’ word for animal poo. “Clean Water” encourages listeners to gather up all sorts of trash off the streets, so it doesn’t flow into storm drains. In order to “Love Right Now,” listeners should care, share, and love one another. It is fun to pop “Bubbles” and watch the wind blow them away. On the “Backyard Farm” ducks, goats, dogs, bees, horses, and birds make all sorts of sounds. One child’s imaginary best friend is her “Dinosaur Friend.” Life would be better with “Less Gravity” because one could move more easily. “Families of All Kinds” might consist of mommy and daddy, auntie, grandparents, siblings, single parents, or foster parents. This thoughtful album will encourage listeners to make their world a better place.