Interview with Mista Cookie Jar + New Album: Music is Everywhere
My daughter and I became fans of Mista Cookie Jar and The Chocolate Chips after seeing Mista Cookie Jar perform at The Cow’s End last year. We’ve memorized almost every song from his previous CD, Ultramagnetic Universal Love Revolution, so we were super excited to hear the latest album – Music Is Everywhere. I reached out to Mista Cookie Jar to chat about the new songs (which are all awesome, BTW), and the FIVE videos, he recently released (one per day, for five days) to celebrate and promote the record.
Below is my interview with Mista Cookie Jar!
(Westside Mommy): We really enjoy your latest CD, Music is Everywhere. I read on your website it took three years to complete. What are the first and last songs you wrote for the album, and when did you write and record them?
(Mista Cookie Jar): Looking back at my records again now, I just realized the first song for this record was actually conceived in 2009. That was Prairie Boy. I used to work at a convalescent hospital as kind of a music therapist. I wrote the lyrics with one of the residents there, a man with a tracheal tube named Lester. He once could sing — but presently having no voice didn’t stop the songs from coming out from his soul. The song is based on Lester’s childhood memories growing up on the prairies in the midwest over 70 years ago. So in a sense, I guess you could say the record has been seven-plus years in the making! I couldn’t have written a song like that myself. It’s amazing what endures after a lifetime of memories.
It’s amazing what endures after a lifetime of memories.
The recording process started about three years ago, but before I get to the studio (which is my laptop, LOL), many songs begin as little notes and ideas in my journal and iPhone (Blackberry back then!). My My My was one of those scraps of ideas that grew over a long period of time. I started creating music with and for my step-kids, Ava and Lucas, back when they were 8 and 5, respectfully. That song came to fruition four years into our musical adventures. And now it’s been a solid seven years — they’ve grown so much.
I had to really take my time with it to make sure it was coming from a genuine place
The last song I wrote for the record was Young At Heart. It took about a year and a half from conception to completion. I wrote and recorded many songs since the conception process of this song, but there was something special about this one that needed a little more time to gel. It’s all about getting the lyrics and concept of the sound just right in my head and finding a window of time to record it. Young at Heart, I believe, is a sister song conceptually to My My My. It’s a similar kind of sentimentality. I wanted to make sure the execution came from an honest place. These kinds of songs can head in a sappy direction real fast if your not careful! Something about the fragility of the subject matter I think. It’s the territory of many a cliche — like a love song or something. So I had to really take my time with it to make sure it was coming from a genuine place.
This CD is eclectic and fun. I love the various styles that blend together nicely with your signature style. The songs that are currently stuck in my head are: Jelly Beans, and The Melody of Misfit Souls & the Open-Hearted. I think it’s the early rock-n-roll flavor of those songs that make them hard to forget. What are some things that inspire your songs?
For Jelly Beans, Little Richard and Andre 3000 were definitely inspirations. I have a fondness for 50’s diners (there are many in LA!) and the music that’s played on their jukeboxes. The Stand By Me soundtrack is a huge influence with this one, My My My, Gratitude and Be A Little Angel as well. Also, with Jelly Beans, I was moved by this documentary, Candy Man: The David Klein Story, about the Jelly Belly creator. The Jelly Bean is a perfect candy. It’s classic. I’m pretty blown away by how the list of flavors can potentially just go on and on and on.
The Melody of Misfit Souls & the Open-Hearted was inspired by those stories of innovators and geniuses you hear about — Einstein, Lennon — they supposedly were poor students and misfits in school. Comedians seem to go through this as well. The song is about kids with big hearts that are somehow always getting into trouble. My son Lucas wants to be a comedian. You could say he’s definitely a class clown and there’s a struggle that comes with that. But I think he’s on to something bigger. I’m not sure what, but he’s got something special going on. I wanted to write a song that encouraged him to keep going and to follow his heart. In general, there’s probably a lot of stuff lyrically that goes over kids’ heads I think — at least at first. I try to create a pathway to the lyrical good stuff. It’s there when you’re ready. So in a sense I’m talking to them now with the music and catchy lines. And I’m talking to their future selves in the bigger picture stuff and in all the lyrical details.
I wanted to write a song that encouraged him to keep going and to follow his heart.
Lastly, I have to give a shout out to the independent kids music scene aka the Kindie community. Made up of a wide and eclectic group of underground family music artists across the nation as well as DJ’s, bloggers and community organizers — Kindie is a thriving, ever-evolving culture. There is so much innovation and a healthy sense of competition that drives and inspires artists to produce the highest quality products possible for families. Although much of our record comes from a very personal place, the album would not be what it is if there was not a community to respond to and to give back to. Brilliant music truly is everywhere and it’s overwhelmingly inspiring when you take it all in.
Do you have a funny story (or two) behind any of the songs (and/or videos) from this album?
Here’s something interesting. Young at Heart was initially inspired by my cousin’s identical twin daughters, Camilla and Juliet. I see them a couple times a year during Christmas or at weddings and such. They are incredibly adorable, outgoing, and have an insane amount of energy. When you see them, they are beaming with smiles, ready to give you a giant hug. It’s an almost devilish look they have like, “Things about to get crraaayy!” In the back of our minds, you know and they know you can just let all this “let’s be civilized” stuff go and just act the fool. And it’s just so funny to me because I have a hard time telling them apart. I’m habitually calling them by the other’s name and they habitually correct me. “I’m JULIET! She’s Camilla!” “I’m CAMILLA! She’s Juliet!” But it doesn’t seem to matter cuz we all have such fun being insanely silly.
I love how your music is a family affair. “My My My” is such a sweet song and most parents (such as myself) have a hard time keeping it together listening to the song watching the video, which features photos of your own kids growing up. Did your kids always show an interest in music, and do you see your “Chocolate Chips” branching off on their own solo, music careers in the future?
My kids love music. Songs have always been part of our lives. Something about a song really can capture the intangible, that spirit, that feeling, whatever it may be. Lucas wants to be a standup comedian and Ava wants to be a psychologist. But they are still young. Who knows what the future holds for these two? Music, I know, is important in their lives. They have a ton of music on their phones and they’re always sneaking off in their headphone worlds. Ava loves going to concerts. And Lucas has a big fascination with dubstep and EDM.
It’s all good and it’s all love.
Music seems to be a way to relate with friends and other peers as well. Social media is a way for them to interact and feel part of something bigger. Music always seems to have some sort of role. It’s the spirit of it all, a feeling and passion or even sense of humor that the music embodies which counts above all really. And if this musical Chocolate Chip experience has given them anything, it’s this appreciation of this spirit — love and hope through creativity and imagination. It’s the basic building block for evolution! So yeah, to answer your question, are they looking to go “solo” as a music career choice? Probably not lol. They’re definitely going solo in so many other ways. You never know what will happen. The world is their oyster. It’s really up to them. It’s all good and it’s all love.
Thank you for the interview, Mista Cookie Jar!
Mista Cookie Jar and The Chocolate Chips
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