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Northern Star November 2010 Review

By Cassandra Tobin

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU’

Children’s album and book was child’s Play

Let’s face it none of us really wants to grow up. Some, though, make a living out of it, like Byron Bay musician Michael Turner.
Turner has recently released his latest children’s album and book, “In My Backyard”, as part of Spikey & Friends, attributing his child-like persona as the key to his success.


“I find that if I really like it, I’m on the right track and the kids will like it too,” Turner said. “I had someone say to me the other day, “you’re just a big kid” and I guess that’s probably why what I like, children tend to like it too.”


Teaching at the Byron Community School, Turner made use of his audience, not only as a testing ground for material, but also as artists on the album. Turner’s goal was to make an album that appealed to all primary school-aged children. Working with children at the Indigenous Healing Centre in Byron Bay means he has also kept their needs in mind.


“In My Backyard was a fun way for children to learn”, Turner said. “Kids like up and bright”, he said. “They like things that are a little bit quirky too. They also have a huge thirst for knowledge because they love the opportunity to learn”. Turner has children from various age ranges and abilities singing on the album, using what he described as a mobile recording studio.


“Some kids are good to take into the studio but for others it’s best to do it somewhere comfortable”, h said. Turner is originally from Melbourne, where he became interested in music through his older brothers and sisters. He later moved to Hobart in Tasmania where he formed Wild Pumpkins At Midnight as a 17-yr-old. The Indie-folk band went on to tour and released 11 albums, including one, This Machine Is Made Of People, which earned them an ARIA Award for the Best Independent release in 1989. The band, Turner says, had a natural life and death.


After touring Europe, the band moved to London in 1990 and then on The Netherlands. Several band members found partners overseas, so when half the band moved back to Australia in 1995 things just petered out, Turner said.


Having a child, his daughter Lela, sent Turner’s music in a different direction. “Having children really changed everything for me”, he said. “It was very natural for me to sing songs for her and her friends”. But the real turning point came when he worked with indigenous singer-songwriter Mereki on the children’s album, The Kangaroo Club, in 2001.

 

“Mereki does a lot of work for indigenous Australians and that really made me think and made me want to write music for children”, he said. After a yoga sojourn in India, and finding himself writing songs for children over there, Turner returned to Australia with a lot of songs, but many that weren’t suitable for an Australian audience. “What was really important for me when I cam back here was to write music that came from an Australian place, because foe me, I think the most important place for a child is their backyard”, he said.


In My Backyard is the fruit of Turner’s labor, a children’s album with accompanying book, teaching children about where they live.
Turner is launching the album and book in two different concerts – at the Byron Bay Community Centre, as part of their Open Day on Saturday, November 20, and at The Mulllum Music Festival on Sunday, November 28.