Alison Faith Levy was part of the popular children’s group The Sippy Cups before beginning a path as a solo artist, releasing the album World of Wonder. She also teaches Big Time Tot Rock Music classes for children four and under.
In this interview, she discusses what and who has influenced her songwriting and why she loves playing music at libraries. Her responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.
What made you decide to write music for children and families?
I have been playing music my whole life, and had been in several indie bands before I had my son Henry, now 12. When he was born, I was taking a break from music for awhile, and then we started taking a Music Together class with Paul Godwin, who became my bandmate in the children's band The Sippy Cups. I found that writing for children really opened me up creatively and freed me in a way that "grown-up" music never had--I was able to really get colorful and fanciful and even a bit psychedelic. I was hooked! Now I couldn't imagine my musical life without all those little kids inspiring me every day.
Have libraries or librarians been an influence in your life or your music career?
Absolutely. My fondest childhood memories are of going to my local library and checking out giant stacks of books. It's a joy that I have been able to pass down to my son. In addition, performing at libraries has helped me refine and develop what I do, and has given me an incredible opportunity to reach a wide range of children who may not otherwise have access to live music and music education. I love playing libraries!
How did you hear about and get involved with Tricycle Music Fest West?
Christy Estrovitz (the organizer) contacted me a few years ago, asking if my Sippy Cups bandmate Rudy Trubitt and I would perform together. Since then, I have done some really wonderful Tricycle shows, including playing outdoors with my full band at Sunday Streets in the Mission last year, which was a total blast! I love the fact that our library system has a cool music festival; it really raises the bar and Christy continues to book incredible musicians and artists for the Fest. My hat's off to her for sure, and I am always thrilled and honored to be included.
Your song lyrics often deal with nature, animals, and seem to communicate some life lessons ("Detours," "Eye of the Tornado"). Where does your inspiration for songwriting come from?
Much of it comes from seeing the world around me from a child's perspective, while trying to sneakily infuse a small bit of adult wisdom in there. When I started, many of my song ideas came directly from things that my son Henry was interested in, or the funny things he would say. Now when I write for children, I keep my ears open to things my students say, or things that interested me when I was a child, like science and animals, and the bigger philosophical questions that all children ask in one form or another--why am I here? How big is the universe? How many cupcakes can I have? Things like that. ;-)
See the entrancing video for Alison’s song “World of Wonder” on YouTube:
Alison Faith Levy will be performing at Tricycle Fest on:
Jessica Chung is a MLIS student and an intern for the San Mateo County Library.