Having a child shouldn’t mean your musical taste should lose its flavor. You shouldn’t have to subject yourself and your baby to listening solely to Raffi, Barney and Disney tracks 24/7. That thought process came some six years ago for CMH Label Group Vice President Lisa Roth while shopping for a baby gift. “I was appalled by the selection of music,” she said during an interview last month. Taking action against the boring music geared toward newborns and infants, Roth moved quickly and her label followed. Along with Valerie Aiello, a colleague who shared her vision on cool tunes for the diaper generation, the pair helped fast track a “Rockaybe Baby!” line of albums with contemporary tunes performed in lullaby style.
Thankfully, and I say that being a brand new parent, the series has grown faster than a prepubescent boy. Rockabye Baby! now boasts an eclectic mix of artists from Kanye West to Pearl Jam to Coldplay to classics from the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. The label releases eight titles a year. In 2011, Madonna, The Police, Weezer, and Van Halen joined the kid-friendly rockin’ family. The latter is fitting considering Roth’s brother is the one and only “Diamond Dave.” In a recent interview, I spoke with the baby music making on the newest lullaby band, the growth of the music series, and how staffers at the label decide which artist gets the lullaby treatment next. Before we get to the Q&A — know this — last week, my baby was born and in his trip coming home, he listened to lullaby renditions of Bob Marley, Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire, and even the Beastie Boys. He’s already cooler than his dad.
As a new parent I must say thank you very much for making my kid too cool for school with his musical tastes already. How’d you come up with the idea for the music series in the first place?
I was shopping for baby shower gifts and was buying music for a friend and was appalled at what was available. We all want to give a gift that reflects our sentiments, our taste….our sense of humor, and I thought about how great it would be to have “baby’s firsts…” first punk album, first heavy metal, and rock… My coworker Valerie had a similar idea so we [pursued it]. It took a good year to get it off the ground. We really wanted a product that appealed to an aspect of parent that existed before the baby came along. Everything gets absorbed by the baby, but I thought why not kill two birds with one stone? Let’s appeal to the parent with music they like, and relax the baby at the same time.
How do you decide which artists get the lullaby treatment? I noticed on your website you encourage consumers to suggest artists they’d like to hear.
We have a whole process for choosing artists. We know a year ahead of time. Our consumers have a big say in what we do. On our website, we have a poll that we take into consideration — also on Facebook. But, we pull everyone in — in the company. We see what’s going on out there, and want to make sure whoever we choose complements the brand. There are many steps to this — it’s quite arduous. We take it very seriously.
How do you get the artists? Do they come to you or vice/versa?
Both. It’s all part of the process. We work with their publishers and we license each song. We have a handful of producers across the U.S. who we hire to produce each album. It varies.
Have there been any artists suggested that don’t quite fit?
Our reasoning is we have no lyrics in our lullabys so we can get away with much more. You can take anyone’s music including Nine Inch Nails, Tool, and Metallica and make lullaby music. Yes, a number of acts don’t fit in our brand. We’ve had bands approach us, and we have had to turn down a few — many of which are hot right now. But, we have a lot. We’re very rock and roll but with a little crossover. We have Kanye, who I love, and more pop stuff.
Once an artist is selected how do you figure out what tracks to use? The Beatles, for example, could’ve had a dozen cds with all their songs…
Yes, and the Beatles are a double album. We go through the body of work. We try to pick hits everyone wants to hear, deep cuts for the fans, and the few we like here. It’s a nice balance, and we have no problem doing a second album.
You waited a long time to release a Van Halen Rockabye Baby! album. Why was that since David Lee Roth is your brother?
I don’t mix family and business and I learned that the hard way. And I wanted to do the best job we could. The series has developed over the years, and i felt really confident and excited to do it now.
And what’s your brother think of it?
I think he gets a kick out of whole series. It’s always a challenge with all of our [albums] but we’ve figured out the perfect palette of instruments, little tricks, minor chords and making it cute. All of them have different fairy dust sprinkled — nothing is not doable.
Can you tell me some albums I can look forward to getting for my son in the near future? He’s too cool for school.
We like for it to be a surprise for people, but Depeche Mode will be out [soon] and Dave Matthews Band is coming.