Roger Day is an educator and musician who just released a new family-friendly album entitled “Invincible!” The songs on the album are cheerful and hopeful; they aim to inspire listeners both young and old during this difficult time of pandemic.
Roger typically tours in the Summer, but his live shows were canceled due to the pandemic. Working on this album and performing virtually via livestreamed shows has become Roger’s way to continue to connect with fans and share a message of hope.
Roger recently discussed his career via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in music and why did you decide to focus on family friendly music in particular?
Roger Day (RD): The cool answer is that I toured around more than 200 colleges for 10 years, from Maine to California. Along the way, I began doing pro bono children’s shows whenever they could be arranged at local Head Start programs. For this work, the National Association of Campus Activities awarded me their “Harry Chapin Award for Service to Humanity”, their highest service award.
The deeper, more formative answer is that I was a camp counselor at two different summer camps (one executive director) in the Birmingham, AL, area, my hometown. It’s where I met my wife of 33 years. Those summer camps taught me the power of music to encourage and inspire children whether transitioning from one activity area to another, waiting for food to be prepared, or calming every one down after a long, hot day in the Alabama summer. In addition, since these were racially and socioeconomically diverse camps, I also learned a lesson I’ve never forgotten — that music brings us together, no matter our background, particularly if it’s performed with joy and love.
Then finally, my own three children came along. We sang every day as they grew up. Each of them has continued the family tradition in their own ways. My oldest son Thomas is a 4th year medical student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, preparing for a career in pediatrics. In addition to his medical studies, he was a music composition major in college so yes…he’s a much better musician than me! Thomas co-wrote the song “I’ll Be Your Super Hero” on my new album.
My daughter Marjory’s claim to fame is that she’s the “Parachute Girl”, (a song I wrote featuring Grammy winner Nanci Griffith) about someone who is fearless as she takes on the world. And that she has! After graduating with a degree in math she took time to travel around the world. She is currently pursuing not just one but two STEM grad degrees from University of Tennessee as an MBA and a Masters in Industrial Science.
My youngest son Jacob is starting his senior year at Washington & Lee University in Virginia. He’s continuing the music tradition as well, performing in an a capella group as well as the nationally recognized classical group “The University Singers,” who have performed from Carnegie Hall to the Vatican. And naturally since he goes to a school in Shenandoah Valley, he gets college credit for being in the “The Bluegrass Ensemble”. Jacob has sung on all my albums, most notably as the lead “yak” on my #1 song on SiriusXM Kids “As A Matter of Fact, I like Yaks”.
MM: How does your interest in education influence your creative zeal?
RD: Without a doubt that influence is deep in my family roots. My mother is a PhD in English who translates 12th century stories about King Arthur into English from the original Latin. I may have been the only kid who was ever lulled to sleep to the dulcet tones of “Beowulf” and “The Hobbit”. She finished her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University in Chicago.
My father (who as an aside was my mother’s next-door neighbor in Birmingham) also wound up in Chicago where he earned a degree in optometry. He established a practice in Birmingham which my two brothers and a sister-in-law still run today.
Among my nieces and nephews (my original audience for my children’s songs) we have a PhD in Classics from Ohio State, two seminary degrees from Princeton University, a lawyer from Northwestern (and another from University of Virginia), a Masters in History from Wake Forest, a Dentist from UAB, a PhD from Cal Tech, a Vet from Mississippi State (and another at Auburn!), and TWO medical students at Vanderbilt University.
I’m proud to say they all grew up on my music!
MM: Do you typically write the lyrics or melodies of your songs first?
RD: Typically, they happen at the same time. I’m inspired by the feel of the chords and something new will just pop into my head. I’m almost always surprised by this. And I think that delight of discovery is one of the secrets to music’s enduring appeal.
MM: What inspired “Invincible” and which of the songs is your favorite and why?
RD: The summer reading theme for libraries a few years ago was how reading can make you a superhero. Just before I started my tour, I had a writing session scheduled with a very talented young songwriter in Nashville named Josh Castle. At songwriting sessions, you usually toss around ideas until something starts to gel. So, I told Josh it would be great to have a super hero “theme” for my shows that summer. Josh almost immediately began to play a cool, mysterious lick on the guitar in a minor key and after no more than a second I sang out, “I’m invincible! It’s undeniable!” Again, it’s words and music in a real-time burst of discovery. It’s always surprising and always fun.
My favorite song though is the one I wrote with my son Thomas “I’ll be Your Super Hero”, not only because I wrote it with my son, which was really special, but also because the song captures what a kid thinks about (at least what I thought about!!) when they get totally lost in their own imagination…literally saving the world…only to be reminded that they still have to do mundane things like clean their room. I like to think that keeps all of us a little humble and grounded!
MM: How have you been keeping people entertained during the coronavirus lockdown?
RD: Especially early on, I played a bunch of “All Request, No Shoes Required” livestream concerts (they’re archived on my Facebook page). Then, I partnered with my friends at the Birmingham Zoo for a series called “Virtual Zoo Camp” with their education department. (Also archived on my Facebook page as well as my YouTube channel). It was fun to get a great “behind the scenes” tour of the zoo. It was also a chance to raise awareness for how important the work is they do and how much financial support it takes to run a zoo and take care of those wonderful animals. In addition to these, I played for 10 different libraries around Louisiana. They were previously scheduled, but librarians being super creative people, they figured out a way for me to do it “live” even though they were still closed down. It was a blast! Now that “Invincible!” is out, I plan to play to even more livestream concerts to let everyone know it’s time to “Solve the Problem and Save the Day!
MM: What can people expect from your future concerts and music videos?
RD: My next music video will be “Me & My Jetpack.” It will inspire kids to take flight — not to mention be creative cardboard boxes and duct tape! We’re also excited to make a video for “Big Picture,” a song I co-wrote with the great, New York Times bestselling children’s author Susan Verde. It’s got such a positive message for kids that they can be “citizen scientists,” and take any problem and “break it down” by using their imagination and a little critical thinking. It’s quite empowering I believe and such an important message for kids to hear right now. I’m also looking forward to creating original songs in songwriting workshops with classrooms and schools via this amazing new technology we have. It’s one of my favorite things to do when I visit schools — and I think it will be one of easiest things to translate to new classroom challenges. More than anything though, I’m looking forward to playing LIVE and IN PERSON! Concerts may be the last thing to get back to normal…but when they do…we will all remember the communal power of making a joyful noise together!! It will be uplifting and healing at the same time. Plus, it will be fun!!
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
RD: My favorite line on the entire album is where I say “Life is full of problems. But it’s full of answers too.” That’s the message I want children to hear. That’s the message I want them to take to heart. Because the fact is, we WILL solve the problems we face right now. It might not seem like it at times. But there’s no doubt that we will. Who would have thought 20 years ago we’d be driving around in Teslas? Humans, especially little humans, are very curious and very clever. Give them the time and the tools and there’s no stopping what their imaginations will do. And oh yeah…one of the benefits of the pandemic is I already have another CD of music ready to go! But that’s another story for another time.
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To learn more about Roger Day, visit his official website.