"I'm diggin' the lo-fi movement goin' on in Kids' Music right now:
Kimya Dawson's Alphabutt, String Bean
Jones' Live from the Bathtub, Mr.
David's Jump in the Jumpy House, and now Mo Phillips' Train Beard. Now, lo-fi doesn't mean low
quality, as evidenced by the great material and performances on all the above
CDs. It just means presenting songs from a different angle, thinking outside
the musical box, so to speak. ... Great kids' debut from a unique talent."
Truitt, Kids Music That
Rocks review of Mo Phillips' Train
"We've spent the last few years following Kindie
musicians around the city. Our goal has been to find artists that our kids can
cut a rug to, and that we like, too. One of our favorites is Mo Phillips. The kids
love Mo because he's fun and makes them feel like dancing, catching air, and
laughing all at once. His songs are original, not syrupy sweet, and he's
usually good for a toe tapping rendition of a song from our youth." - NW Kids Magazine
Beloved by families
in Portland, Oregon, independent musician Mo Phillips is ready to burst onto the national scene with the April release
of his third kids'/family CD, Monster
The uncomplicated charm of Monster Suit stems from its
refreshing connection to what was happening in the late '50s, when rock 'n'
roll was evolving from a cultural mix of country, folk, and African-American
influence. With a style and delivery sometimes
reminiscent of Woody and Arlo, Mo Phillips offers classic acoustic rock 'n'
roll with a minimum of electric effects in a finely
tuned but fiery blend of Americana, soul and blues.
Enhanced by contributions from a gaggle of
gifted Portland musicians, Monster Suit's
variety is beyond impressive. With music
ranging from "Rollerskate Banana Peels" (a super jam of crazy energy) to "All
Okay" (the album's "lullaby" ballad), each song has its own sound, beat, and
artistic space that does not impinge on the other tracks. Monster Suit is exceptionally well balanced, the fidelity is first
class, the players all have their acts together, the back-up singers are
delightfully hip, and (the best part for many parents) the lyrics are never
obscured by the energy of their setting.
Mo Phillips feels strongly about not dumbing
down lyrics or melodies for kids, and he sings about topics whole families can
appreciate. On Monster Suit, these include being exactly who you want to be ("The
Princess and The Cowboy"), a party gone awry ("The Worst Party Ever Thrown"),
bad hair days ("Bed Head"), a surprising fact about ducks ("Ducks Don't Get
Wet"), and more.
Says Mo, "Sanity can be hard to
come by in the parental world, and I'm just trying to offer a small dose with
my music. Monster Suit is my third album for families
and the first done in a proper studio (and not in my basement)! This CD covers
a lot of sonic ground and contrasting subject matter but still hangs together. I wanted to create an album for parents to
jam to with their kids."
recognizes this: "Don't be ashamed if you find yourself humming Mo
Phillips songs even after the kids are in bed. This Portland dad has kids and
parents in mind when writing his songs. Fans of indie rock will like his quirky
melodies and both generations can relate to topics like bad dreams and the joy
of riding a bike."
Mo continues, "My main influences include Neil Young and The
Rolling Stones, although many of my compositional ideas stem from my
undergraduate years studying with jazz wizard Dan Balmer at Lewis & Clark
College. Part of the reason I write kids' music the way I do is because I'm
tapping into whatever I was doing in my earlier life as a songwriter and performer
for adults. I haven't really changed my melodic approach, just the lyrics. One song on Monster Suit, "To The Zoo," is actually a re-working of one of my
old band charts. All that I changed were the lyrics. Literally. Form, chords,
melody, harmonies, all are exactly as they were done 10 years ago, just different
An early childhood educator as well as a musician, Mo
Phillips doesn't hesitate to credit his initial inspiration to the kids he's
taught. He explains, "When I was teaching a class of
three-year-olds in 2005, some of the curriculum ideas for what later became my
"Rock 'N' Roll Kindy" program were born.
The kids had been doing a lot of role-play as musicians, so we made a
project out of it. They named their band
Fire Guitars. We wrote songs, recorded a
CD, and put on a show for the parents.
By 2008 - after an expatriate experience soaking up the sounds of my
wife's native Australia -- I was again teaching preschool in Portland. This was
when I really began playing around with my own songs for kids. One day, while sitting in the sandbox with
some little friends, I wrote the song "Pizza In A Cup" after being offered the
umpteenth cup of sand advertised as pizza.
All of a sudden these afternoon playground sessions started producing
some serious songwriting opportunities. The influence of the kids and whatever
games they were playing at the time had an undeniable effect on my lyrical
content and song direction."
When not creating bands populated by young
rockers in settings ranging from schools and libraries to community centers and
children's museums, Mo performs - with insouciant wit and breezy style -
interactive shows that respect the intelligence of young people. As an artist affiliated with Young Audiences,
Inc., he gives performances and residencies in schools throughout the greater
Portland area. Mo was recently selected
to pilot a songwriting residency program for the Beaverton, Oregon school
Mo Phillips has released two previous kids'/family albums albums,
Train Beard (2009), and Robot Rodeo (2010). He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife,
Kate, and sons, Henry and Owen.
Monster Suit will be available online at
www.mophillips.com, cdbaby.com, and itunes.
MONSTER SUIT TRACK LIST:
Party Ever Thrown
Princess and The Cowboy
Don't Get Wet