Interview with Lucy Kalantari
Lucy Kalantari is a 2x GRAMMY® Award winning artist, composer and producer passionate about creating children’s media that brings joy, inspires community and highlights the power of resilience. She's the frontwoman and bandleader for Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats, making bilingual, jazz age-inspired music for families. Her album All the Sounds, won the GRAMMY® Award for Best Children’s Album, bringing joy and pride to the Dominican Republic, where she grew up. In 2020, Kalantari produced, recorded and arranged the GRAMMY® Award winning album All the Ladies, by Joanie Leeds, an impactful collection of songs to empower young girls and shape future minds of the world. In her latest EP, What Kind of World?, the title track was named Biggest Songs of 2021 by SiriusXM Kids Place Live.
Born to Latin American parents (Dominican & Puerto Rican), she writes swingin’ tunes both in English and in Spanish. Kalantari’s songs have been featured on Universal Kids and can often be found topping the charts on SiriusXM Kids Place Live and on rotation on NBCUniversal's Snug's House, as well as other family programs around the country.
As a full-time music creator and a mother to a 9 year-old musician, she still makes time to mentor, teaching high school and college students to follow the sounds in their hearts and pursue their passion. She’s a soundBoard mentor for We Are Moving the Needle, a nonprofit organization supporting all women recording industry professionals, audio engineers and producers.
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I feel like I was born with melodies circling in my head! Music has been a constant presence in my life, I’m grateful for its company. I soon realized that if i ignored the song inside, then I’m ignoring life!
I think had I not done music full time, I would’ve wound up in the medical field somewhere.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I love playing games with my son, doing yoga and seeing live music. These little delights help keep that spark going!
How long has music been your career?
A couple of decades! I didn’t start off as an artist full-time. I’ve been an assistant to a musicologist, an operations manager in a post-production studio, a jingle writer, a booking agent at a dance music agency…it always pointed back to music. It was when I started making music for kids and families that the path became clearer.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I was based in Brooklyn, NY, and that NYC hustle and bustle will push you into it or out of it if you’re not open to it! I love the city and the constant art accessible everywhere. My family and I just recently moved to the Hudson Valley in NY. I’ll let you know about its influence in another couple of years!
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
In early October, we played the ZunZún Children’s Fest in Miami! It’s a beautiful theater with fantastic sound. My dad was in the audience and got to see me do a family show for the first time! He enjoyed himself so much it made him quite emotional. At this show, also for the first time, I played my ukulele wireless! I usually use a wireless headset, so that made me 100% wireless! I ran around that stage like I had ants in my pants. The audience sang and cheered LOUDLY for the whole show. It was a blast!
Worst show? If we look for problems, we’ll find them! So stop lookin’.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I love when we get invited to play the Summer Children’s Series at Levitt Pavilion in Westport, CT. We’ve played there 3 times! It’s outdoors and the energy is wonderful!
I’d love to play at Lincoln Center! They used to do a children’s series there and it looks like it’s been put on hold since COVID. Fingers crossed!
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
If I could play a show with Jon Batiste, SIGN ME UP ASAP! Haha
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Set your intention. Make your goals clear (the clearer the better!) Trust. And of course, keep going!
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Trust your gut!
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
The song “Art” from my album, What Kind of World? It holds a very special place in my heart as I sing about our state of impermanence and the evolution of our selves. We are only witnessing one particularly slice of our lives right now! Whenever I play this song, I feel like it puts me in a very special state of mind, as if I’m waking up a different part of my brain!
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
All of my Halloween songs! I love Halloween, and when I write for the occasion I like to pretend I have a whole orchestra in my head. I hope to re-record these with an orchestra some time. The one that gets requested the most is, “My Mommy Is A Mummy”.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
Life! The world is my muse. Everyone I interact with, all the things I see…they all have an effect. But I have to say, my greatest motivator has been my son. I wanted him to grow up not just hearing me say to ‘follow your dreams,’ but to see and witness what that looks like for himself!
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I sing about Joy, Community and Resilience. To me, these 3 pillars are very important to live this life fully.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
It’s rare when the road is a straight line! Conflicts happen, and the best tip stems from that advice I mentioned previously, “trust your gut,” AND check on the intention and spirit of what you’re trying to accomplish! It took me a while to learn this, but I realized that when you understand the WHY, solutions to any conflict become more apparent!
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I JUST released my newest Halloween song for the season, called “Hallo Hallo Halloween”. It’s a high-energy, Latin-fusion, bilingual track about dancing my way through trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. It was a bundle of fun to create, and I hope kids everywhere dance and sing it as they trick or treat!