What was the first concert you attended?The first house concert I ever attended was my big sister performing Burl Ives’ “Pearly Shells” in our living room, playing a tennis racket as a guitar and using a jump rope for a mic. It. Was. Awesome. And the first of many just like it.
Where and when was the first show you played? Well, my first solo show was in first grade at the First Grade Talent Show. I sang “Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow. I sang along to a record. I did not know the words. I did not smile. And I did not win. First prize went to a girl named Renee Sylvester who dressed in a penguin suit and did back handsprings. I was devastated. Curse you, Penguin.
But the first JITTERBUGS show was at the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn, NY in 2011 for the CD release of my first album, “Pancakes for Dinner.” My daughter, Love Bug, (the original Jitterbug) was only 3 years old, and she came up and sang a song I had written for her and my husband. We played there again a few weeks ago and it was so special to be back – and so wonderful to have some of the same families in the audience, this time with older (and more) children.
What is your most memorable or off-the-wall touring experience? We went to North Carolina this summer, where I was born, went to college, and have many family members. Little known fact: High Point, NC is The Furniture Capital of the World. While in High Point, we went to visit a special destination sought by 10s of people each year: THE BIGGEST CHEST OF DRAWERS IN THE WORLD.
After that we went shopping for REALLY BIG socks.
Which of your songs is your favorite and why? All of my songs have a place in my heart because so many of them are a reflection of my life as a mom and the lives of children I love – my daughter, my students, nieces and nephews. So every album is indicative of that time in my life, like a journal.
But my most recent favorite is called “Rainbow.” I wrote it with Mista Cookie Jar, a fellow kindie artist who lives in Los Angeles. It’s a pro-LGBTQ anthem. We wrote it to encourage families of all backgrounds to engage in honest and meaningful dialogue about what it means to identify as LGBTQ in our country, and the growing pains of civil progress. I wrote the hook (or the chorus) first, and then Mista Cookie and I engaged in a weeks-long email exchange fleshing out the many things we felt we had to say and wanted to say. It really challenged me to think and take risks and stand firmly for what I believe in. This is not a new concept to me, but I’d never stood for something so strongly through music before.
It was a beautiful experience, and we hope the song itself will make a difference or move the needle towards social justice in some small way.
The video is here: http://iwillbearainbow.org
What did you want to be when you were growing up? I wanted to be a singer and a teacher. And look what happened! I am both.
What is your most embarrassing moment? In 10th grade I worked at Chuck E Cheese in Burke, VA, right here in Fairfax County, where I grew up. I started out as Chuck E himself and had to wear a mouse costume and greet kids and their grown-ups at birthday parties, and throughout the restaurant. One day, a kid came running up to me from across the room – he was so excited to see Chuck E! – and he pushed me so hard that I fell over. The feet on the costume were so big I couldn’t get up. I had literally fallen and could not get up.
In the chaos and my own frustration, I made some poor language choices. Kids were confused, grown-ups horrifed, and my manager, um, let’s just say he was very disappointed.
The next day I was demoted to Birthday Bear. It was devastating. I mean, from then on I had to sit in a dark booth and sing into a microphone. Like a bear. But I’m okay now. Really. I’m okay.
What is your favorite phrase? I had a pretty long day today, so I’m going to go with “Good night.”
Books or movies? Yes. But books first. Always books first.
What would most people be surprised to learn about you? I've visited 48 of the 50 states and lived in 6 different places (including Europe) before I was 7.
What is your favorite noise, and what is your least favorite noise? (Wait, is that two questions?) Favorite: The sound of kids singing (including my own). Least favorite: The sound of candy wrappers being opened in a theater (unless it’s my own).
Check out Karen K & the Jitterbugs at Jammin' Java January 24th!