Randy Kaplan is an award-winning singer and songwriter who is noted for creating music that blends a number of styles such as bluegrass, ragtime, folk, and more. His most recent release is a family-friendly album titled “Trippin' Round the Mitten” that also features sounds derived from doo-wop, hip-hop, and punk. Now living and working in Detroit, Michigan, Randy enjoys playing his music live, touring the nation, and hearing his songs on the radio. His lyrics are often fun and silly and focus on being a kid; they also frequently include humorous little skits which have made him a popular feature on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live channel.

Randy has won the ASCAP Plus Award three times and has released over a dozen albums to date. He has been lauded by NAPPA (National Parenting Product Awards), was voted a "Top Five CD" artist in the Nickelodeon Parents' Picks Awards, and has been praised by NPR, Time Out New York Kids, People Magazine, and more.

Randy recently discussed his musical career and more in an exclusive interview.

Playing music professionally

Meagan Meehan (MM): How and when did you decide to become a professional musical artist?

Randy Kaplan (RK): I was studying English at UCLA and trying to break into the acting business when I spontaneously started writing songs and singing them at open mics. My first paying gig was at a place called Natural Fudge Café. This was in the late 1980s, long before my not-JUST-for-kids music.

Back then I was making not-REALLY-for-kids music.

MM: What came first for you, singing or songwriting?

RK: Both at the same time. I’d always made up little ditties: not full songs, just novelty refrains as jokes. Then, in L.A., when I became obsessed with songwriting, I studied the songs and the singing styles of Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright III, Paul Simon, and a lot of old-time bluesmen like Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt.

I stopped acting, started a band, and became a songster.

MM: How many songs have you created, and which are your favorites and why?

RK: Hundreds! There are songs from my fourteen CDs (including six family ones), songs from the many cassette tapes I put out before that, and all of the unreleased and yet-to-be-released songs. My favorite ones to perform these days are “Honk Honk,” “Don’t Fill Up On Chips,” “Hockey Puck,” “Shampoo Me,” “No Nothing,” “Roaches,” and “Everybody Farts.” I like them because they’re strange tales about weird creatures and subjects.

Some of this music includes a lot of words, twists, and turns that are really satisfying to navigate live! I also like performing the songs I’ve adapted and adopted, songs like “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (by The Rolling Stones), “In a Timeout Now” (based on “In the Jailhouse Now” by Jimmie Rodgers), and “Beach Song” (by the Dead Milkmen)!

MM: What inspires your lyrics and why did you decide to include comedy skits and/or routines on your albums?

RK: I like language and wordplay and storytelling (being an English teacher, I’d better!). My lyrics usually develop from conversations I have with my students, wife, friends, or son. When I worked at a preschool, I tried to write songs emulating kids’ open-minded and creative thought processes.

I was inspired to do skits on my records by my favorite sketch, stand-up, and film comedians as well as my favorite hip-hop and rap albums.

Awards and experiences

MM: What has it been like to win so many awards?

RK: Well, it always feels good to have your work acknowledged as valuable, especially in a business like the music and entertainment business!

MM: You're very popular on Sirius XM, so how did you start working with them?

RK: My second not-JUST-for-kids CD, “Loquat Rooftop” found its way into the hands of the great Mindy Thomas. She started playing my songs on Kids Place Live and my song “No Nothing” became a hit. Mindy and Kenny and Robbie (and now Jack as well) have been very nice to me, spinning my songs, hosting me at XM Headquarters in D.C.

for live Rumpus Room concerts, and letting me sit in with them on their shows.

MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your career as a musician, and where do you want to go from here?

RK: I love the extemporaneous aspect of live performance—having bizarre conversations with kids (individually and as a collective) during and in between songs. Singing for fans who have asked me to visit them in the hospital has been rewarding. Releasing my CD “Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie” was very edifying. The record honors my pre-WWII country blues guitar heroes, and I was able to put out a twenty-page educational (yet comedic) booklet with it. This led to my blues songwriting workshops, which I’ve been leading at elementary schools for the past five years.

Next, I’d like to make a solo blues record, a kid-friendly calypso record, and a record of American Songbook Standards.

MM: What advice can you give to someone who is aspiring to become a family-friendly musician?

RK: Spend as much time with kids and families as you can. If you haven’t been a kid yourself in a long time and you haven’t hung around them that much, you’ll be amazed. They’re all geniuses!

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To learn more about Randy Kaplan, visit his official website, Facebook FORKs (Fans Of Randy Kaplan) fan page, Twitter page @randykaplan, and YouTube channel.

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