Fresh, Fun Music for the Whole Family
Music Spotlight Interview with Chip Richter
By Lisa M. Hendey
The gift of music is a wonderful thing to share with our children and musician Chip Richter makes it even better. I was so happy to discover Chip’s music, which I’ve been sharing lately with my own family. Chip Richter and his family live in Ohio, and for the past ten years he’s spent his summers at a family resort called Lakeside, creating and sharing the type of music you’d be pleased to share with your children. A far cry from Barney or even those Disney sing-along type things you may have at home, Chip’s music is great in that it appeals to both kids and grown ups! Recently, Chip has been at work recording his new CD, Lost in Lakeside. Additionally, this summer he will be promoting literacy and music with several library tours, as well as an appearance at the Annual Conference of the California Reading Association.
I had a chance to catch up with Chip and am pleased to share his comments on his music and sharing music with our families.
Q: Chip, could you please start off by telling our readers a bit about yourself and your music?
A: Well, I’m a husband and father of three… I’ve always said that being a dad is the best thing I’ll ever do. I’m also a singer-songwriter and musician. I was born and raised in Ohio, lived a few years in New York and then southern California and now I’m back in Ohio where we’re raising our family. I started playing guitar when I was 13 years old and started writing songs in college.
Q: How did you get started in music and how have you headed towards a focus on recording "family" music?
A: My music career really begins as a church musician and worship leader. I really never have played the clubs and bars like you read about others doing. As a teenager I became a committed Christian and began leading others in worship and playing special music in church. I never started out thinking I would be writing and performing music for kids and families. When I released my first album, People of Destiny, an album I recorded for adults… I started hearing from parents telling me how much their kids enjoyed some of the songs, which surprised me but I was glad to hear it. At about the same time I was offered a summer gig at a Christian family resort singing and playing music for a weekly kids program. Out of necessity I needed to write some songs for that first summer and I discovered a brand new audience. I’m still just writing what’s in my heart to write but I have to confess kids and families have captured my heart and I love sharing my music with them.
Q: How has your own faith journey impacted on your music?
A: I continue to grow in my faith and in my musicianship and songwriting almost simultaneously… for me the two have always been intertwined. I’m not really interested in being labeled as a “Christian artist” but it’s pretty hard to separate my faith from my music so I don’t try. I write about stuff that moves me and inspires me. I can’t think of anything or anyone who moves and inspires me more than God… the creator of all things! I believe God is sovereign and over all things so I see Him in all of my songs and in every aspect of life, especially family life.
Q: Can you give us some suggestions on how parents can share the gift of music with their children while helping them to make appropriate listening decisions.
A: One of the things I would encouraged parents to do is listen to music “with” their children. Introduce your kids to the classics as well as lots of different styles of music including some of the music that you like… it doesn’t have to be Barney and Romper Room for kids to enjoy it and get something from it. I think we sell kids short sometimes. I’ve discovered children to have a depth and capacity that has surprised me. Here’s a real life example. Over the Christmas holiday my son and I were in the car with the radio on. Karen Carpenter was singing White Christmas and my son Austin commented that he really liked her voice… “Me too,” I said. So I looked around and found a “Best of the Carpenters” album and gave it to him for Christmas… he’s eleven and he’s becoming a Carpenters fan… go figure!
I think the most important thing for parents is to not just assume that because the music is being marketed to children that it’s really good for your kids. I’ve seen and heard some pretty awful stuff made for kids. Some of it’s awful because of the production values and some of it’s awful because of the message in the music! So that means parents need to listen for themselves, which can be a harrowing experience at times. I know there’s some pretty cheesy, shallow stuff out there that passes for kids’ music that most parents would want to toss out the car window after just one listening, but there’s also some great stuff out there too. One of my goals has been to write and produce music that parents will enjoy as much as their kids. I’m trying to write songs that will encourage, build up and reinforce those values and dynamics that are important to families. I’m not the only one writing music with that goal in mind. There’s so much out there that parents can take advantage of when it comes to music for their kids but it requires some looking. Several artists and bands that I would recommend (both Christian and secular) Zak Morgan, Alan Root, Mary Rice Hopkins, Dan Zanes, Trout Fishing in America, Dean-O and the Dynamos, Tom Chapin and Glenn Colton. You may not find our music in the record stores or Christian bookstores because we are considered such a small niche but the internet has made it possible for us to distribute our music all over the world and that’s been very exciting for all of us. You’ll find all of these artists online.
Q: I loved watching the DVD and listening to the CD of "Live at Lakeside" with my boys. How did this project come about? Tell us about your family concerts.
A: Lakeside is the “family resort” I mentioned that first invited me to play for kids during the summer. That was ten years ago and I’ve played there every summer since… it’s been a great place to do what I do. The DVD was shot when I did a family concert with my band The Munks… (Chip and The Munks, get it?) Anyway… we had this concert booked and thought let’s capture it on DVD and record a “live” album as well. So did that and it really all came together so well. In addition to the concert we also included some special features on the DVD like a tour of Lakeside and a look at what goes on at a sound check before a concert as well as some music videos.
We think our family concerts are truly unique because it's not a "kids show" and it's not an "adult show"... it's exactly what it's billed to be... an all age event... FAMILY CONCERT! I include songs that have been described as “rollicking, fun, bash around tunes, to songs that are very spiritual, but not at all preachy”. I try to keep everyone involved from toddlers to teens to senior citizens with lots of audience participation. Lately I’ve been covering Harry Chapin’s song “Cat’s in the Cradle” and James Taylor’s song “Shower the People”. These are for sure not kids songs but they are for sure songs for the family and fit well in my concert.
Q: Who are some of your favorite musicians and musical influences? Who do you recommend to friends and family?
A: I’ve always been drawn to acoustic music and singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. I think my music has also been influenced by bands like The Beatles, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, The Eagles and America. Phil Keaggy has played a huge part in shaping and influencing me too. Phil and his wife Bernadette are actually old family friends; they’re both Ohio natives as well. Over the years Phil has given me some good advice as well as played and sang on some of my albums. Other artists and bands I listen to and would recommend are David Wilcox, Michael Card, Fernando Ortega, John Michael Talbot, Nickel Creek, Shawn Colvin, Michael Hedges, Chris Rice, Allison Krauss and Union Station and Wes King. All of those artists are making acoustic music and most are wonderful finger style guitar players and songwriters which is what I tend to gravitate to.
Q: Are any of your songs particular favorites? Why?
A: That’s a hard question for me to answer because I like different things about all of my songs. But a couple songs stand out for me because of what they remind me of at the time I wrote them. Ladybugs Living Room is one of those… a song about pretending that was inspired by a time of pretending with my daughter Megan. Designed to Shine is a favorite because it came from a time of me playing my guitar while my son Austin, then about three years old, danced around room laughing and singing while I played. Wonderful Thing is a song all about hugs that my daughter Brittany inspired… she’s the “hugger” in our family, you know the person in your family who loves to give and get hugs. There are others… every song has story behind it but those are just a few.
Q: Tell us a bit about your "Roots and Wings" workshops.
A: That’s a workshop that really had it’s beginnings in another song I wrote called My Dad’s Coat. I had a memory of being a little boy and finding my dad’s overcoat and walking around with it on. That’s something that is funny and even appropriate for a child to do… but as I grew up it was important for me to wear my own coat, find my own way. It occurred to me that my faith as a child was a lot like wearing my dad’s coat. Children naturally and appropriately come under the covering of their parents’ faith… but as kids grow up it’s important that they make this faith their own. My parents helped me to do that… they passed their heritage, faith and values to me and helped me assimilate them into my life. Now I’m doing the same thing with my kids. The “Roots and Wings” workshop is designed to give parents some very practical was to pass their faith on to their kids and help them make it their own... passing on the roots and helping them find their wings.
Q: Do you have plans for any upcoming projects? Are there any closing thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?
A: Yes, I have a couple things I’m working on… one album of songs for summertime… another project that’s going to be more for parents than kids… love songs and mushy stuff like that… ugh! I appreciate the chance to share my music with your readers. Parenting is a difficult job but so important… I hope that my music will not only be entertaining for kids and families but also encouraging for parents and their kids. That’s my heart… too see kids built up, parents encouraged and families strengthened… making it all “more fun than a kid should be allowed to have”!
For more information about the music of Chip Richter visit www.chiprichter.com
Lisa M. Hendey is webmaster of www.CatholicMom.com , a wife and mother of two and a family music fan and supporter. Visit her at www.LisaHendey.com for more information.