What do they do with all the poo from all the animals at the zoo? Good question, right? Local songwriter Simon Mellor had dedicated his life to the love of music, singing and storytelling … However, not as you would expect. Simon has co-written a new children’s book/CD with famous comedian Anh Do. We speak with Simon about his journey to create such an interesting career path…
Simon, tell us how you got into performing for and writing books aimed at children?
I was working with the very lovely and talented Merri-May Gill, touring the festival circuit and parts of regional Australia with our musical comedy show.
One day, in Bourke if I recall correctly, she suggested that we write some kids’ songs and put on a show during the day as a prelude to our grownups’ show in the evening. Shortly thereafter, I was in Brisbane for a big family Christmas, and I sat all the kids around the kitchen table, bribed them with lollies, and asked them what is was that made them laugh.
Armed with this research, I went away and wrote a brace of songs that became the basis for our kids’ show, The Funny Green Smelly Things.
Some other ideas for songs came from trips to the zoo with my own kids and from my own personal childhood experiences growing up in Collarenebri. Our kids’ show quickly eclipsed our adults’ show in popularity, and we shifted our focus accordingly, touring and promoting it through the eastern states of Australia.
So, is it a book, a CD or both?
Both. The lyrics of the song make up the text of the book, which I must say has been wonderfully illustrated by Laura Wood. You’ll find the CD on the inside cover, and perhaps at some stage it will available as a digital download.
Do you listen to the CD at the same time to read along with the book? (Or is it for long journeys to be played in the car on repeat?)
I cannot foresee any occasion or environment where it would be inappropriate to put this song on high rotation. In all seriousness, the publishers have catered beautifully for all families, whether read along, read to, or as a dance party anthem. As a standalone book or CD, it works very well. I look forward to the day when parents everywhere approach me in the street to tell me that if they hear the song one more time, they will flip their lid. It’s happened before.
Do you find it hard to connect with kids these days?
No. I find that if you listen to them, get down on the ground and get your hands dirty and treat them without condescension or judgement, you’re almost all the way there. I ask a lot of questions, and the kids respond positively to your interest. It is not all plain sailing though. I have been working on a project with a preschool in Moree, translating children’s songs into Gamilaraay, and whenever I get out my guitar and sing some songs, one particular child puts her fingers in her ears and covers her face. So there is a bit of work to do there.
We’re sure this is not a simple process. Tell us: how long has it taken from start to finish, and what’s the process involved to create such a publication/media?
From the very first conversation I had with Anh’s management to holding the finished product in my hand seemed like an eternity – to me, anyway. The background processes involved are highly detailed, extensive and complicated, and that’s even before you start working on the project.
Then followed a period of development where Anh and I reworked and honed the material, not only to our own artistic satisfaction, but to the publishers’ as well. The song was recorded in Armidale at Beechwood Studios and in Sydney at Zen Studios in St Peters. Once we and the publishers were happy with the song, it was time to start reviewing draft illustrations for the book. So the entire process took about eighteen months, with lots and lots of emails. I must take an opportunity to thank my partner, Irene Lemon, without whose artist management skills, this project would not have gotten off the ground.