My Earth Songs: Interview with Musical Artist Lonnie Park

My Earth Songs

“My Earth Songs” is a new release by musical artist Lonnie Park who recently performed with the Earth Band via a virtual live concert that reached over 25 million viewers in 75 countries. The concert was part of a global initiative in collaboration with Vivendi in support of UNICEF COVID-19 relief for children. Music from this remarkable family concert, spearheaded by Lonnie Park and the Earth Band and Grammy winner Ricky Kej, features an all-star cast of Grammy winners and will be released as an album titled “My Earth Songs” on August 28, 2020, with all proceeds going to UNICEF.

According to the official press release, artists represented on “My Earth Songs” include six Grammy winners from around the world: United Nations Global Humanitarian Artist Ricky Kej from India, legendary Senegalese singer Baaba Maal(voice of the Wakandan soundtrack for the Black Panther movie), U.S. family musicians Lucy Kalantari and Jon Samson, South African flutist Wouter Kellerman, and two-time Grammy winner Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea. Also featured are the Earth Band’s primary artist/frontman, Grammy-nominated American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lonnie Park; Grammy-nominated Canadian flutist Ron Korb; and Global Music Award winning Indian bassist and composer Dominic D’Cruz.
“My Earth Songs” delivers complex topics in bite-sized chunks packed with meaning that children can effortlessly assimilate. Every one of these fun, positive, and super singalong-able songs has a catchy tune with simple, memorable lyrics. Focusing on what’s needed to ensure a clean, green world for generations to come, each track was inspired by one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Lonnie recently discussed the songs and the concert via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in music?

Lonnie Park (LP): I grew up in a musical household where my mother played piano, Dad played guitar, and sister played piano. Everyone in the house sang all the time. We were also constantly in church and attended a Christian school where music was a huge part. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t love music, but I do remember the very moment at about age 15 that I realized that music could be a career, and from that moment I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

MM: and how did you break into the industry?

LP: Early in my career I worked with a hard rock singer named John West who moved from our small town to California and got a break. I had little kids and a family to support, so moving out of our small town was not an option. I had a recording studio though, and we continued to write together, and he would fly home to make records at my studio. These were the first record deals that I signed, and we have worked together on more albums than I can count since. He joins us in the My Earth Songs concert on the song “Thinking Cap.” Anyway, that was my first break many years ago, and then I was off and running

MM: How did you get involved with the Earth Band?

Lonnie Park

LP: Ricky and I have worked together on a lot of music over the past 5+ years. He had dedicated his career to making music about sustainability and the environment, and so together we have written a large catalog of works on this and for various organizations. We performed this music around the world to amazing audiences at multiple United Nations headquarters, WHO events, and of course huge festivals. Through the process, it became quite clear to us that for the greatest impact, these principles need to be learned by children at a young age. If we could do this, they will carry these values and habits throughout their lives. At a Sustainable Development event at the UN in NYC, we had our first discussion about My Earth Songs. From there, Ricky invited a friend of his who was a schoolteacher and children’s choir director to help us make sure these songs were perfect for kids. The three of us wrote and recorded 27 songs for the education system. The recordings featured simple instrumentation and a single vocal so the kids could learn them. These songs were quickly adopted into the education system in India and have expanded to well over 4 million textbooks worldwide and growing. When the pandemic hit, our partners at UNICEF were finding ways to raise money for children’s COVID relief. We quickly assembled a team to form the Earth Band and did this virtual concert in association with UNICEF. The special guests and the band all jumped in to help and worked very hard to make this happen. I am so thankful to be surrounded by a great group of such big-hearted musicians and partners who aren’t afraid to give of themselves to help those in need.

MM: What was it like to conduct a virtual concert that went global?

LP: Since we all appeared from our homes around the world, we could not see our audience. This is a very different experience for performers who are used to direct interactions and energy from a crowd. The shows we were playing before the pandemic had as many as 88,000 people right in front of us; now we were all alone in a room with a camera lens as the audience. We didn’t have the immediate feedback that a crowd gives, and, at the time, we were out there in a leap of faith that this would find the audience. We hoped that it could get some help to kids in immediate need, so many of whom were displaced from any education. At the same time, we knew the songs themselves could have actual lasting impact for the listeners. To find out later that it was so successful was truly awesome!

MM: What made you decide to create this initiative?

LP: I have always said that when problems and challenges arise, I need to ask myself “What is my part of the solution?” Ricky and I discussed this question and we quickly knew that in these unprecedented times, this concert was one thing we could do right away.

MM: Which songs are most memorable and why?

LP: They are all super easy to remember. That was one of our very first criteria during the writing process because this is for kids. We wanted them all to be, ya know……earworms, as we call them here. Songs you just can’t get out of your head. That said, the songs where our guests appear stand out to me. Every song is unique stylistically with influences from rock, world, pop, country, to blues. If I had to pick one song for which I have the greatest emotional attachment, it would be “Something To Live Up To.” That message rings powerfully with me since losing my father last year.
MM: What are the biggest concerns about climate change that you wish more people knew about?

LP: As musicians, we are fortunate to travel outside of our home area and see real world issues — like the impacts of climate change on our fellow humans, and the Earth. It is powerful to experience, and with it comes a realization that we need to be a part of the solution. If people have that level of awareness, they will naturally be inspired to be a part of the solution. Challenges should unite us, not divide us.

MM: How have you been keeping yourself and other people entertained during the coronavirus lockdown?

LP: My wife and I live in a rural area in the middle of New York state where we are surrounded by forests and nature. For this we are tremendously fortunate during this lockdown. We can move around, take hikes, and work outside, and be socially distanced. And to be quite honest, I have been working long hours, every single day since this began, so there has been no time for boredom.

Ricky Kej

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

LP: Professionally my ultimate goal has always been to simply realize my greatest potential, whatever that might be. This has led to a work ethic that many might call being a workaholic, but this creates momentum and takes you places you never dreamed you would be. Now I want the exact same thing for this initiative. I want it to realize its greatest potential, do the most good it possibly can, and create its own momentum. This project has never been about any one of us, it is about offering our resources as part of a solution. In the end, our dream is that it helps the world to be full of humans with greater empathy, kindness, and sense of purpose.

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“My Earth Songs” will be available at all major online outlets. To learn more, visit the My Earth Songs website HERE, My Earth Songs on Facebook, Ricky Kej on Facebook and Lonnie Park on Facebook. To donate to UNICEF’s Coronavirus Children’s Crisis Appeal, please visit this page. A trailer of My Earth Songs is here and a playlist of the album is here.

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author of novels, short stories, and poems. She is also a produced playwright and an award-winning modern artist.