Call Answered: Conference Call: Steven "Blue's Clues" Burns & Steven "Flaming Lips" Drozd: Foreverywhere
Not long ago, I had read an article about Steve Burns, the original host of the children's hit show Blue's Clues. I remember thinking to myself, gosh I would love to have the opportunity to interview him. Fast forward to now when I get an e-mail asking me if I'd like to interview not only Steve Burns, but Steven Drozd from The Flaming Lips as well. I grew up with both these entities, so needless to say I was doubly excited by this opportunity.
After collaborating on Steven Burns' album Songs for Dustmites, Steven Burns and Steven Drozd are teaming up for their new album Foreverywhere, part concept album, part legend, all play, fun and filled to the brim with immediate music that will be enjoyed by kids, parents, fans of The Flaming Lips and grownup fans of Blue’s Clues alike.
1. This February you are releasing your debut album Foreverywhere. How did you come to join forces?
Steven Burns: I met Captain Drozd when we collaborated on Songs For Dustmites, a record I made just after leaving Blue's Clues. He and I got along instantly and have been great friends ever since. I still fan-girl out every now and then because he truly has written most of my favorite music and I can't believe I get to work with him.
Steven Drozd: Burns and I met in 2001 and worked together on his LP Songs For Dustmites- we became fast friends and were always kind of involved in each other’s projects. In 2006 he was contacted by Jack’s Big Music Show to write a song about groundhogs, haha. He called me up and asked if I wanted to help. Of course I did! We had a blast with that experience and I think it just stayed in our minds that we could make that kind of music together and it kind of unfolded from there.
Steven Burns: Drozd? You always know the timeline better than I do. It feels like 140 years. Basically, we had to do it in spare time - no small task as Steven lives in Oklahoma and I live in NYC. Drozd is raising kids and touring the world in a giant enormous rock band and I was busy out here so basically it took forever. I'd fly to Oklahoma when there was time and we'd hole up in Trent Bell's studio (Bell Labs) and just bang it out. It was so much fun.
Steven Drozd: Honestly, the LP has been finished since 2009 - It’s just been a long process for both of us, having the time to commit to its release and us giving it our full attention.
3. You are celebrating the album's premiere with a concert at Brooklyn Bowl on February 26. What are you looking forward to most about this concert?
Steven Burns: I’m excited to perform for kids again!
Steven Drozd: I do look forward to the challenge of performing for children - that is as potentially nerve wracking as playing Carnegie Hall; but, also I just look forward to playing music with Steve Burns. We naturally have fun together.
4. Though it's targeted for children, the album is described as music that will be enjoyed by kids, parents, fans of The Flaming Lips and grownup fans of Blue’s Clues alike, with the hopes of it having the life/longevity of "Puff The Magic Dragon." What do you think kids will enjoy about this album? What will adults like? How do you feel it could have the greatness of "Puff The Magic Dragon"?
Steven Burns: My hope is that the things kids enjoy about the album are the SAME things that adults enjoy about the album. I truly believe there's tons of overlap in what makes music great for kids and what makes music great for adults. There are sad moments on the record, hopeful moments, funny moments, face melting rock moments. I hope kids and parents enjoy them all equally. As for "Puff the Magic Dragon," I have no idea if we'd ever reach such great heights as that, but we did try to incorporate some strong story elements, especially in "The Unicorn And Princess Rainbow" which takes what almost feels like standard kid- themed cliches and tries to re-cast them in a more Ziggy Stardust sort of light.
Steven Drozd: There are some classic songs like "Puff The Magic Dragon" to aspire to. I think we’ve done a pretty good job on some of them! I have two kids, now ages 11 and 9, so we were able to try them out on a target audience. My own kids regard Foreverywhere in the same way they regard the Peanuts Christmas LP; it’s just music they love and grew up with. I think some adults will hear things from their own childhood, which is what I was hoping to do with a lot of the music, sounds and melodies. "OK, Toilet Bowl" reminds me of an orange juice commercial from the 1970’s, "Space Rock Rock" reminds me of an Electric Company segment, "The Unicorn and Princess Rainbow" reminds me of so many things from my childhood….So, we are hoping that the adults will make that connection that we tried to create, if that makes sense.
5. The album's first song "Unicorn and Princess Rainbow," is described as a three song narrative detailing the story of a unicorn who falls in love with a Rainbow Princess with incredible guitar chops, joins her band, and then loses her to cosmic forces beyond his control. What is something each of you have lost to "cosmic forces beyond your control"?
Steven Burns: My hair. I lost my hair to cosmic forces beyond my control. We all experience loss in our lives. Loved ones, failed hopes, etc. Children experience those feelings too.
Steven Drozd: Well, loss of loved ones, moving away from friends…those are the things I think of.
6. There's another great line in "Unicorn and Princess Rainbow" that goes "He just read the news and he doesn't know what to feel." Was that line written as a political statement to the world we are living in? If not, let's go there for a moment. Since the album is marketed towards kids, how do you feel it's best to explain these troubling times to children?
Steven Burns: That particular lyric wasn't written with a political statement in mind, but I certainly don't mind if it's read that way. I think the most politically relevant song on the record is "A Fact Is A Gift That You Give Your Brain". We are seeing a perplexing erosion of Fact, and it would make me very proud indeed if we could get kids excited about...verity.
Steven Drozd: This is an example of the genius of Steven Michael Burns! Seriously, he knows how to communicate emotions and potentially complex concerns to children to make them feel okay with not being sure about something. In truth, the song was written and recorded in 2008, so it was a different time. But I agree with the analysis of the political statement.
7. Another song on the album that I think is great for children (and adults) to hear is "The Lonely Unicorn Is Never Giving Up." The song is all about "The Unicorn" who lost his love, but some how finds a ways to carry on, while holding on to the good memories. So many of us feel lonely at times and and wonder how to keep going. How do you keep moving forward during troubled times?
Steven Burns: Well...it's a struggle, isn't it? It's sort of THE struggle. I have lots of things I do when I'm down and feel like quitting but music is huge part of what keeps me moving forward! That and family. Friends. Gene Wilder films.
Steven Drozd: That is the question, yes? You have to find something in yourself to keep moving forward. There’s no way around it. Maybe it’s a combination of looking forward to the future while focusing on positive things from the past. I think most of us do that anyway, even when the current times are great; we don’t live in the moment, we think of the past and the future. Maybe that is what makes getting through tough times more tolerable??
8. One other song I love is "I Won't Let You Change Who I Am," a terrific song about being proud of you who are despite what other people think. When has there been a time in your life when someone tried to change you, but you stood your ground?
Steven Burns: As I child I was bullied. This song is about my experience being bullied on the school bus in first grade. I did stand my ground, eventually. My bully and I actually became friends.
Steven Drozd: I could say I was bullied at a certain age, and I always tried to deflect it with humor - but I was lucky enough to be encouraged to do what I wanted to do and be who I wanted to be from a pretty early age. I know that is not the case for everyone, unfortunately.
9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day?
Steven Burns: Wait, so if I did this for a year, I'd be 365% better than I am at the end! Or do you stop at 100%? I'd like to become 1% more compassionate every day. I actually do try to do that, in my way. That's a great practice you have there!
Steven Drozd: This sounds potentially hokey, but yoga changed my life. It really did. And when I stick with it and try to expand on it, it always rewards me. So, that is something I could say. My other thought is this: everyday I make at least one note of a thought into my notes on my cell phone. Whether it’s a fleeting thought, or a fake band name, or song title, or just an absurd joke, I try to have an original thought every day. I’ve got some doozies in my notes!
10. For Steven Burns: I can't do an interview with you and not ask about Blue's Clues. You were the host of the hit children's show from 1996 to 2002. What is something about your time on the show you have not talked about in a previous interview? Let's just play with the show's title for a moment. If you had to give a list of 5 clues to things that you love that are blue, what would those clue's be?
Okay. One thing most people don't know is that I didn't draw the clues. That's someone else's hand you see. There's no way I could draw that well.
Five blue things I love? That's hard! Do you have five blue things you love? I'll try:
- This thing contains the troposphere, mesosphere and thermosphere and is not ALWAYS blue it is mostly blue.
- This thing is from 1969 and it's completely adorable and it sits in my garage and there's no way you could know the answer, so I'll just tell you, it's my blue 69 VW fastback.
- This Off-Broadway show has been around forever and stars three aliens who play tubes like instruments.
- This character is sometimes near, sometimes far. He's been a waiter and has a super hero alter ego. He was my main influence when creating the character for "Steve" on Blue's Clues.
- This my favorite of Gershwin's music and is strongly associated with the city I live in.
11. For Steven Drozd: You have been in The Flaming Lips since 1991. What are some of the funniest moments to happen to you during either a recording session or on stage with The Flaming Lips? What question have you not been asked in an interview that you wish you had been (please provide the answer to that said question as well)?
Well, that is a tough question as there are so many stories over the years. I’ll give you one of my favorites that sounds like something from a movie: The Flaming Lips were in Milan, Italy in 1995, opening for The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The audience was interested in ONLY seeing The Chili Peppers. I was playing drums live back then. The audience disliked us so much that they were throwing stuff at us. My floor tom got hit with a tomato and my cymbal got pelted with a slice of pizza. True story!
I always wonder why no one ever asks if I like bananas. I love them!
StevenSteven is Steve Burns, former host of beloved children's televsion show Blue's Clues, and Steven Drozd, grammy award winning musical mastermind behind The Flaming Lips. They began writing music together in the early aughts when Burns was recording his first solo effort Songs for Dustmites in the upstate NY studio owned by The Flaming Lips’ producer -- where Drozd was staying. Drozd was impressed with what he heard and the two began their first collaboration within thirty minutes of meeting. The duo wrote "I Hog The Ground" for a Groundhog’s Day episode of Nickelodeon’s Jack’s Big Music Show.