Joanie Leeds is the award-winning singer-songwriter of nine children’s CDs. Joanie Leeds received a Gold Parents’ Choice Award for her music, and has been featured in People magazine, Parents, USA Today, The New York Times, and many more. Her latest CD, All The Ladies, serves up female empowerment folk tunes for the little ones in your life.
Thank you for doing this interview during such a crazy time, Joanie Leeds. How are you coping with the pandemic in New York City?
Live-streaming and talking about the new album helps take my mind off the reality. After 15 days of quarantine, I’m currently sitting in a parking lot with my four-year-old daughter in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We’re about an hour from my apartment. We are waiting for an Instacart delivery just to get the basics, and I keep getting updates that everything is sold out. It’s the first time I’ve left my apartment in days. This is our new normal.
Yes, we’re trying to adapt to our new normal, and we all seem to turn to the artists to help us cope. Why do you think that is?
I think by nature, artists and musicians understand emotions and the human spirit on a deep level. Compassion, empathy and an understanding of the world around us. People find joy in the music and the connection music brings. People need lifting up right now more than ever, and we are thankfully able to offer that virtually during this pandemic.
I’m excited about your album release for All the Ladies and your Facebook Music Festival on April 3, 2020. You also offer kids’ concerts online, both Jewish and secular sessions, to help families dance and sing and be connected. What has the response been like from your fans?
It’s been wonderful. The first day I set up the Quarantine Kids’ Concerts, a family from Canada told me, “You are our Quarantine Savior.” It made me really happy to be able to share musical love during this time. Families have enjoyed Shalom during my Quarantine Kids’ Concerts and in my free Facebook singalongs. It’s a fun movement song that teaches some basic Hebrew words such as Chaverim (friends) and yeladim (kids).
Yesterday, I performed my first virtual birthday party. Alana, the birthday girl, turned six years old, and thirty families joined the party on Zoom. I led a sing along for thirty minutes, and then we sang “Happy birthday” and they served birthday cake. It was a total blast.
How has the coronavirus impacted the music industry and your livelihood?
My brother is an environmentalist and told me well over a month ago what the economic impact would be before I even heard of COVID-19. He said I needed to find a way to create income immediately. I didn’t believe him, but on March 11th I had the idea to start the subscription service Quarantine Kids’ Concerts on Facebook as a way to hopefully keep my musical income going since my upcoming tour was canceled. I also offer music classes for the schools where I teach during the week which are open to the public on Facebook. Last week, I did an hour-long free concert for adults on Facebook live and hope to do more of that, too.
Artists are in the midst of finding the balance between creating paid content so we can pay our rent and feed our kids while also offering music to our community to lift spirits and create connection. I’m a single mom, so I don’t have the luxury to rely on a 9-5 significant other. It’s not easy, but I’ll make it through.
Congratulations on your latest album, All the Ladies. Tell me what inspired you to write a female empowerment album and a song about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Thank you! I sat in the audience at the 2018 Grammys in NYC and I felt an overwhelming response to the underrepresentation of women in the music industry. I took out my phone and wrote myself a note, “Create an all-female album with only women instrumentalists and singers”. This idea swirled around in my head for months.
I finally started writing the music about a year later after talking to my friend, Lucy Kalantari. Once Lucy said she wanted to produce the album, I knew the idea would be in good hands. As for writing a song about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I can’t think of another female who has fought for women’s rights and gender equality as much as RBG. I wanted to teach young girls about her life and what she has done for us all.
Joanie Leeds, what was it like working with an all-female group to produce your music?
Lucy Kalantari is a dream producer. She is talented, detail-oriented, kind and caring. I felt protected through the process. I was in the middle of a divorce trial while recording. So, I would leave the court house and drive to Lucy’s place to lay down tracks. It was a crazy time flooded with emotion, but it all went into the album and Lucy knew how to bring the emotion out of me. We created a list of women we wanted to sing on the album, and the women went to Lucy’s home studio to lay down their instrumentals. Not every singer we wanted made it onto the album because of logistical reasons being spread out across the country. However, the 20+ talented women who shine on All the Ladies are a real dream team.
What do you hope your daughter will learn from your latest album?
Thankfully, my four-year-old daughter is confident and sassy to the max. I hope this continues through her adolescent years. This album is a reminder to her and all young girls to look out for each other, lift each other up, speak out and know they can be anything. For my daughter specifically and many families out there living in two homes, I wrote a special love song to her, “Rosie Darling”, which explains life as a single mother raising a young daughter.
Where can readers find you and how can we listen to your music?
My website JoanieLeeds.com is in the middle of a face lift as I rebrand, but you can visit my website and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram and my YouTube channel for dozens of videos. You can also listen to my music on Spotify @joanieleeds.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Joanie Leeds. My family has loved your music since your first album, City Kid, and we cannot wait to sing along to All the Ladies.
Thanks for having me, Ali.