In 2015, sisters Byll and Beth from folk-pop band The Little Stevies started playing around writing some children’s songs.
Inspired originally by the need to teach Byll’s three-year-old about the challenges of toilet training,
the side-hobby was so much fun and so effective, before they knew it, they’d written and recorded a full-length album.
They called it ‘Useful Songs for Little People’ and offered it to their fanbase through The Little Stevies’ website.
Playing and writing music for kids wasn’t a life-long dream for the sisters, but as Beth points out
“seeing the enthusiastic, smiling faces singing our words right back at us is not just adorable, it’s incredibly rewarding”.
For two sisters whose parents were touring musicians when they were kids, it turns out Byll and Beth were naturals.
It wasn’t long before the children’s music scene took notice.
They were asked to play at family festivals, such as The Lost Lands, Fun4Kids, One Fine Baby,
Music Play, and Summer Playground at the Sydney Opera House.
They began to get regular play on Kinderling Radio, were featured on Channel 10’s The Project,
were asked to perform alongside Peter Hellier at Carrie Bickmore’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer event,
and had a blog written about them by Zoe Foster-Blake titled ‘Kids Music That Doesn’t Suck’.
The Brisbane Times reported that Byll and Beth had
“achieved the impossible - they have made children's music that won't rob adults of their will to live”.
For Byll and Beth it’s always been about the grown-ups as much as the kids.
“There’s so much great kids entertainment out there made exclusively with kids in mind,
so instead of adding to that we wanted to consider the carers equally” says Byll
“after all, it’s us parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles and teachers who listen to kids music with the children we care for.”
This focus on the adults is evident in their live performances too.
Beth points out that “my favourite live shows are the ones where I can see parents enjoying themselves and laughing at the ‘in jokes’.
Kids will have fun if their parents are having fun and we want to create a space where music can be enjoyed by the whole family.”
Byll has the long-game in mind, declaring “when a kid in the back seat of the car is mucking around,
we want our music to be what the parents in the front seat are happy to put on”.
It's not just in Australia where things are taking off for Teeny Tiny Stevies.
Their animated music video for ‘Baby in Mum’s Tummy’ was noticed by the creative team at Sesame Street
who subsequently commissioned Byll and Beth to write music for their online kids video channel.
And the track ‘On the Toilet’ was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition, Children’s Music category.
So when ABC approached them to release a follow-up album through Australia’s premier kids music label,
they jumped at the opportunity.
Wanting to stick with the theme of writing songs that help parents as much as kids,
Byll and Beth sent a message out through their social media channels
asking parents what ‘challenges’ they needed help with. They were overwhelmed with the response.
Interestingly, they found the issues parents asked about the most weren’t the typical things you’d expect.
Parents requested songs covering important themes that were often more complex,
and thus more difficult to discuss with children, topics such as:
“She is declaring things as boy-things and girl-things, something to combat that would be helpful”
“Stop when your parents tell you to! Both for safety and just being a reasonable member of society”
“Food, my youngest refuses to eat dinner every night no matter what it is, and says it looks gross, it infuriates me”
“Ladies, as a teacher I am constantly baffled by kids who STILL cannot tie their shoelaces by grade three!!
“Something to help understand that some kids have food allergies at kinder & school”
So Byll & Beth got stuck into writing about important conversation starters that would reinforce a helpful message or skill
while being enjoyable to listen to for the whole family.
The result is album number two ‘Helpful Songs for Little People’ which is out now through ABC Kids.