On Thursday, June 6, award-winning Canadian songwriter and singer Marlowe Stone gave a performance for students at Fangcaodi International School. Stone, who spoke to students about starting as a songwriter at ten years old and her journey to professional performer, performed three of her songs and got the students dancing in their seats. After the performance, she met with beijingkids to talk about her experience at Fangcaodi and how she crafts Top-40 style pop hits while keeping things appropriate for kids between the ages of 3 and 10.
Stone’s performance at Fangcaodi was, according to one student there, “Awesome.” Her naturally effervescent style and her inclusiveness of the students there made for a special Thursday morning, in which students were moving to the music in their seats. Just like she does in her performances in Canada, she got students up and involved in the songs; as part of one song, she invited students from multiple nationalities up to the front of the room to share how they say “music” in their mother tongue.
Stone performs her songs with musicians under the name Marlowe and The Mix; the “Mix” part consists of various guest musicians, both professional musicians and talented young musicians. Because she works with so many talented young musicians and performers, she has become a magnet for talented kids across Canada. In her concerts, she features different performers and musicians every time, so concertgoers never know who they’ll be hearing.
Stone released her first album, Blue Satin Dress, in 2000; a few years later, when her sons, now 11 and 8 years old, were young, Stone realized that realized that the music she wanted to offer her children wasn’t available. “After the age of three, the kids started saying that the music that was out there for them was too baby-ish. A lot of parents I started to talk to told me their families were music-less, so they would pull out James Taylor, Billy Joel, and Carole King, singers who were my biggest inspirations,” Stone recalls. When she realized that the songs she wrote were structured similarly to the music parents were pulling out for their kids, she decided to get a few of her songs out there and give them to a few families to see what they thought.
They wanted more. Stone realized there was a market for her music, and with her background in media, she saw the opportunity to do what she loved and fill a gap in the market. She calls this gap “Post-Wiggles Pre-Britney,” for kids who were too old for some international kids’ superstars but too young for the mature content of the Top-40 hits on the radio.
Last October, Stone released her new album, entitled One Dancefloor. Stone’s songs address age-appropriate themes that are relevant. One song, “Life is a Rollercoaster,” addresses the ups and downs of life, and the titular song “One Dancefloor,” an upbeat metaphor for the world and a dance floor: the world is one dance floor and we are all dancing to the same beat and doing the dance together for a better world.
Stone finds that having children helps her know what kids of today’s generation actually want to hear. For “Whatever,” Stone felt that with the number of prominent bullying stories in Canada, she needed to make a statement about what was the biggest youth topic at the time. “I wrote it from the perspective of the bullied child calling the bully out on it. I hadn’t heard a lot of songs or seen a lot of media that had taken it from that position, so I think that was something I couldn’t avoid writing about.”
Stone started writing songs when she was ten years old. “I will never forget calling my parents into the living room for the first song I wrote. They had these humongous smiles on their faces and they went what I thought was overboard in their reaction. But what I played with them was a song called ‘Searching for a Man’ and I was ten! So I’m sure they were overwhelmed.” She says her parents have been her biggest cheerleaders ever since.
Stone began performing her songs as a way to get her work out there, though she had never taken singing lessons. Recently in Canada, she wrote a jingle for Kids Help Phone, a national hotline for children in distress, when she realized that “every kid knows the pizza number but they don’t know the number for Kids Help Phone.”
On her visit to China, she became inspired even before she touched down on the ground. As the plane descended into Hong Kong, she got the bolt of inspiration from Hong Kong’s blue sky, and in the future, there may be a song of hers called “Keep it Blue.” On her trip, she also bought some Chinese instruments, including the hulusi, which she hopes to incorporate in her future works.
During her interview with beijingkids, Stone gave us two copies of One Dancefloor. Members of beijingkids Club will have a chance to win a copy, so members, watch your email!
Visit Marlowe and the Mix’s site for information, music, and more.
Photos by J. Rubenstein