I was very excited to read several months back that Trout Fishing in America would be the Halloween performance for UM's Festival Miami 2010. Each year Festival Miami hosts a family act (along with the organization Sunday Musicals for Children). Having reviewed their album Big Round World, and their picture book I Am Chicken Joe, I was very excited to see this duo in person.
I worked my UM alumnus status to sneak in a brief interview with Keith and Ezra after the show. For those who have never heard or seen Trout Fishing in America, they are a study in polar opposites. Keith stands 5'5" tall and has a high, sharp voice. Ezra is a staggering 6'9" and has a deep, low voice. As Keith said, "I was the good kid in school," fixing his collar and lifting his chin, "I was the one who always got straight A's. Ezra," he whispered, covering his mouth with his hand, "he was the bad kid in school!" Their stage act plays on this opposition, and my favorite part of their show was the witty banter.
I asked Keith about how Trout Fishing first got it's start with kids' music. "A teacher," he said. "Were you and Ezra teachers?" I asked. "No, I knew a teacher who wanted to show her students that music comes from people. So, I brought my string bass, Ezra brought his acoustic guitar. We didn't know a single kids' song, so we did a lot of Beatles. We did the blues, some folk, but we didn't know what we were doing." In the decades since this modest beginning the two have developed a fabulous collection of CD's and a great, age appropriate stage show.
I was also curious about their song writing, being that the are a duo where both sing and write. "It's a total partnership. Ezra is more of the music guy. I start with lyrics." "Do you write the lyrics without a melody?" I asked. "Most of the time, If I do have a melody in mind I won't tell him [Ezra] because he'll come up with something better." I also asked them about writing specifically for kids. "You can't play down to them," Keith asserts. "They're really smart. Kids these days are really smart. If you're not being honest. If you lie to them, they know it" (he snaps his fingers). "That's why the educational side of our music isn't overt. It's just around the corner. Like when we were singing in roman numerals [during the song 18 Wheels on a Big Rig]. You can't stand up there and say, 'Listen kids now we're going to count in roman numerals.' You've gotta use humor."
Finally I asked them about working and playing as a duet. "I can't imagine playing as a solo act," Ezra said. "If I'm ever having a tough gig, I can always look over at Keith and it's all good." Keith agreed, "Just to have someone smiling back at you helps keep you going." All in all it was a fabulous show, a wonderful chance to chat with some veteran kids' musicians and hopefully the start of a good friendship with two of the nicest and most talented performers in the industry.
Kids' Musician Quote of the Day:
Funny side note: notice that Keith is on the stage, and Ezra is standing on the ground.