Everyone is a music critic, and Lizza Connor creates music for the most honest critics of all — kids. Namely, her kids. “The difference in playing for kids or adults is that kids respond immediately. If they don’t like something, they’re not going to dance; they’re going to stand there and look at you,” she says, laughing. Connor, a recent Lakewood transplant from Nashville, released her first children’s album, “Commander Salamander,” in November. The whimsical CD, inspired by her own experiences with parenthood, is comprised of 13 original songs promoting healthy lifestyle, nutrition, physical activity and positive self-esteem.
So you’re new to the neighborhood.
Yeah, I’ve played in Dallas before but never really spent a lot of time here. You know how when you move somewhere and you’re worried about how it’s going to be? Dallas, to me, immediately I found people to be very open and welcoming, especially in the creative community, and that was huge for me to kind of find my people here. And it’s absolutely East Dallas. People always pointed us to East Dallas because they said East Dallas has a unique sense of community, and it’s got this sort of artsy element. We know we’re going to be here for a while, so I’m excited about actually putting down some roots.
How have you plugged into the arts community?
I’ve been focusing on getting the word out that I’m here, and I’m excited to play for both kids and grown-ups. Many of the songs of the CD encourage a healthy lifestyle for children, and I’ve been getting some gigs at schools, libraries, partnering with Whole Foods, things like that.
Tell us about the kids’ program you’ve been developing.
We have a lot of conversations in my house about health because my husband is a pediatrician. At a time when one in three kids are obese and we have a huge health care cost crisis, you see a lot of programs out there that encourage healthy lifestyles, but it’s mostly message. None of them have combined music and message, and I’ve seen in my own children how important music is to their learning and to their development. So I’m putting together this program called “Healthy Me” that I’m excited to take into schools and libraries and wherever people are interested. It should be ready around this summer, when school starts back in August. Basically it’s music with a message. You take a topic like health that’s otherwise mundane, and you put some catchy lyrics and fun music behind it, and suddenly you’re encouraging kids to brush their teeth while they’re singing and dancing and moving.
How did your own children inspire you?
I started writing songs for kids once I had my own, and the songs started coming so naturally just because, I think by nature being a parent, you want to entertain your kids but you also want to teach them. Not only have my kids been a great sounding board, but my husband as well. Because of his training, he’s been so good about helping me shape the content. I’ve been so excited by the response to the CD because I had no idea if it would just be my kids and their pals, but it recently sold out on Amazon. It shows me, hey, there’s a need out there for quality kids’ music with a message that won’t drive parents crazy. I know that firsthand because I’m a musical mom. I want my kids to be listening to all kinds of music, but there’s not a lot of music out there I want to have on repeat in my car.
Do you think your music will mature as your kids get older?
I do. The thing I’m excited about with this program is to develop content for each stage in a child’s development. So this CD is really geared towards ages 2 to 8, but as my kids grow up, I’m watching them go through each new stage and they’re inspiring new content.
What has working on kids’ stuff taught you about adult music?
I think what it’s taught me is that simple is best. The thing that’s the same when writing for children and adults is that you’ve got to boil it down to the most important information and say it with the least amount of words and wrap it in a melody that’s going to move somebody, and that’s the challenge.
Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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