By Mackenzie Walsh
Ottawa-based musician Jeremy Fisher, who performs for children as Jeremy Fisher Junior, is doing Saturday concerts on Facebook Live during the COVID-19 pandemic. His 30-minute Saturday Morning Specials will take place every Saturday at 11am ET until mid-June. On May 16, he had a special guest appearance from Vancouver indie-pop band Said The Whale to help raise money for Musicounts, a non-profit organization that promotes children’s music education in Canada. This Saturday, May 23, he’ll welcome guest Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies.
Fisher says the Saturday Morning Special is “like a combination of a TV show and live show. It’s a new format that we are experimenting with, [and] a great way for parents and children to share active screen time.”
Fisher launched his debut album Back Porch Spirituals for a general audience in 2001. He received two Juno nominations for his album Goodbye Blue Monday in 2008 and another for The Lemon Squeeze in 2015. He officially became a children’s musician in 2018, releasing his first children’s album, Highway to Spell, which included the hit song “Turtle & Guy.” His goal remains the same, despite the shift to children’s entertainment: He wants to make good music.
“When making kids’ music, you have to simply do what you do. Don’t age the music down for kids, but do aim the writing for a younger audience,” says Fisher. “You have to treat them with the same respect as an adult audience and keep in mind that you are entertaining a family audience, which means entertaining parents as well. The stuff that is great, like Sharon, Lois, & Bram and Raffi, is all just simply good music.”
One of the goals of the Saturday Morning Specials is to help kids acknowledge their feelings and how they can spark creativity. Fisher believes there is a connection between music and identifying feelings and thinks that can help children develop emotional intelligence at a young age.
“I start every show by saying feelings inspire my music, and I ask the audience how they are feeling. With music, you have an opportunity to open people up and help identify their feelings. It’s an important building block for kids. [It’s] important for adults too, so it’s good for kids to learn these skills when they are young,” he says.
Fisher’s biggest influences are his two daughters: a four-year-old and a three-month-old. He has noticed that his music is evolving as both of his daughters get older.
“The older kid is like a test audience. It’s an amazing experience when she sings along to my songs. I love it. I’ve even noticed her singing my songs by herself, ” says Fisher. “My youngest daughter is three months, and it’s wonderful to engage with her as well. It’s interesting to have two perspectives on my music from two age groups.”
The Saturday Morning Specials are accompanied by curriculum-ready activities and sing-to-read lyric sheets aimed at children in junior kindergarten up to grade three. The activities include identifying musical instruments, naming animals, counting, reading, rhyming, and more. Fisher noticed that rhyming helped teach his own daughter how to read.
“The biggest surprise to me is the influence of music and rhyming in literacy and how it helps kids learn to read. I do the ‘leave out the rhyme’ when I read with my daughter. I read a word, and she then says the word that rhymes with it. A good rhyme shows kids that they can do it – they learn quickly that dog rhymes with frog. That really helps them learn how to read. Learning experiences with kids really help if they are little games.”
Outside of the Saturday Morning Specials, Fisher is currently working on a second children’s album and a children’s cartoon for his music. Since the future is uncertain, he is also working to find new ways to continue engaging families through livestream shows.
Jeremy Fisher Junior’s Saturday Morning Specials go live on Facebook at 11am ET on Saturdays until mid-June.